I’m working in the kitchen most days, and although I really love cooking, I like to have some time off too to be able to relax, so I’ve already been doing some extra work now filling the freezer so that hopefully I’ll have less to do over Christmas. Every year I try to think of different recipes and flavour combinations for our main Christmas dinner feature, and in the current issue (cover date 16th December) you’ll see my recipes for a traditional-style turkey dinner with an apricot and honey stuffing, or if you want something different, then there’s a recipe for Venison Steaks with Chestnut Stuffing which have a port and redcurrant sauce.
Although I always enjoy trying new flavour combinations for stuffings for turkey, we always stick to family tradition at home and I make the parsley and time stuffing which my mum made and which her mum made too. The last couple of years instead of turkey we’ve had chicken, boned and stuffed and I’ve decided to do the same again this year – the difference this year is that I’ve taken the very easy option of just making the stuffing and taking it to our local butcher and he boned the chicken and stuffed it for me and tied it up beautifully and it’s already in our freezer, so it just needs defrosting and baking. The stuffing is the Parsley and Thyme stuffing from this Roast Chicken recipe. Having the chicken boned makes it really easy to slice, both when serving it hot on Christmas day, and also cold the next day, when I think the large slices with the ring of stuffing in the middle look good when served on a plate. I’ve also got lots of sausages wrapped in bacon (Pigs in blankets) already prepared and in the freezer.
I usually like to prepare vegetables freshly on the day of serving, but I’ve decided to make some Glazed Carrots, which I’ve also frozen. I only cooked them for half the time in the recipe and I didn’t add any parsley. I’ve found these reheat really well in the oven in a covered dish (with either a lid or foil), and then I’ll sprinkle over parsley just before serving.
I don’t think that roast potatoes are as good if they are frozen, so I’ll get them ready the day before. I use a tip that I learnt from Mary Berry, to boil the potatoes, drain them well and shake in a colender to roughen the surface, then tip into hot fat (I use goose fat) and then roast the potatoes until they just start to turn colour. Then remove them from the oven and leave them to cool on the baking sheet. Once cold, transfer the potatoes to a freezer bag or container and keep them chilled overnight – at this time of year it’s usually very cold at night, so if I don’t have space in the fridge, then I keep them in a sealed container outside (to make sure animals can’t get to them). The next day (Christmas day), I spread them out on a baking tray and roast them until they are golden and tender. On the 2nd roasting they don’t need any extra fat adding. I find that roasting them on the first day means most of the mess and potato peelings can be cleared away to keep the kitchen clear on Christmas day.
Also, in this week’s issue is the recipe for Venison with Chestnut stuffing, which I’ve given as an alternative Christmas dinner. The recipe serves two, but it’s very easy to multiply the ingredients if you’re cooking for more people. Although I’m going to have an almost traditional dinner, I am going to make this recipe sometime over the festive season, maybe when I have some friends around for supper, as it’s a very easy dish to prepare.
So now is the time to start planning what you’re going to cook, but the important thing is not to get stressed. If you’re having turkey, it’s only a roast dinner, just a larger dinner than most of us would cook for a Sunday lunch. But with a little planning now you can avoid any stress on the big day.