Tips for coping with Christmas dinner


For me, Christmas Day is a weird combo of over-excited, hyped-up kids + post-festive admin euphoria high (no more spreadsheet, yay!) + feeling a bit hangdog after a late night of frantic last-minute wrapping and a few drinks.

Throw into the mix some lost Lego, the utter failure of the battery fairy, or a child banging on about watching a YouTube video about Minecraft in the middle of high emotions over the gravy – and frankly, all my peace and goodwill goes out of the window along with any intentions of staying calm for the turkey.

With three kids underfoot and family coming, I really don’t want to/ can’t stay in the kitchen all day. Yet I still want to eat a meal that’s as tasty and healthy as possible.

And that’s why my DH and I cook and freeze as much of the Christmas dinner as possible in December. This means:

  • cranberry sauce
  • bread sauce
  • gravy
  • mince pies
  • mincemeat tart
  • chestnut stuffing
  • braised red cabbage with apples

Knowing that some of these more complex bits of the meal are done but, where possible, made from scratch – making them better for you and tasty but also very very very convenient – definitely takes some of the stress out of Christmas Day.

I absolutely love making cranberry sauce. The scents of citrus fruit and spice fill the kitchen. It feels like the run-up to Christmas has truly started. And the sauce freezes perfectly too.

I make my own mince pies every year, and in the last few years, have also made my

own mincemeat, which is tastier and healthier than the jarred version as it’s free of preservatives. But this year, my hubby has jumped in and made it so I can’t claim that one.

So far, I’ve used it to make a large, super-fast mincemeat tart, which I’ve now popped into the freezer. If you’re not a big fan of pastry, a tart is a lovely way to get your mincemeat fix as the ratio of filling to pastry is so much higher.

While I would definitely prefer to make the pastry myself, when I run out of time – like this weekend – I don’t beat myself up about using a roll of readymade shortcrust pastry.

Just grease a tart tin, and blind-bake the pastry for about 10 minutes before loading it with the mincemeat. Once it’s cool, cover and freeze it.

When you need it, let it defrost to room temperature, brush the star with a bit of milk or beaten egg and then bake it at around 180°C for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

So thank you, freezer, for helping us stay in control of Christmas dinner. (Although sadly not the Lego.)

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