I love Christmas day lunch (we have lunch rather than dinner). I’m one of those people who will happily eat Christmas dinner of roast turkey and all the accompaniments each time there’s a Christmas lunch or meal out with work or friends. I’ve been disappointed recently where with work the choice of Christmas lunches often don’t include roast turkey! How?! Growing up we didn’t have turkey because my mum wasn’t a fan and quite often there would only be 3 of us, so we would have beef or sometimes chicken or pork.
It’s not an issue now, because all of the OH’s family do turkey for Christmas, aided by the fact my brother in law usually fattens and sells a few turkeys each year. It certainly saves the hassle of choosing where to order a bird from or trying to push through the crowds at the supermarket.
Having such a small Christmas growing up – usually the 3 of us, and when younger sometimes one set of Grandparents – now I’m in a huge family you’d expect it to be a big family Christmas lunch. But there are horses involved with one part of the family so they stay at home, the in laws rotate round, and we either have a quiet one at home or go to the other sister in law’s. Tea time is always the time we all get together for leftovers with most of us going along to wherever has the most food left!
I have done Christmas lunch for 15 some years back. But for me, any Christmas day needs planning however many you’re cooking for, especially if there are traditions to uphold.
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De-stress your Christmas lunch
Preparation is Key
1, Start early and write lists
Buy non-perishables over time beforehand. Don’t forget the decorations – try candles, baubles and fairy lights in vases, foliage, pretty tablecloth and napkins, place settings, crackers. Look out for and store safely, recipes new and old that you want to use.
2, Write a plan
Start with the day before and on the day. Include the different meals, and make lists of what needs buying when
3, Do an online order
Christmas slots go early and are prioritised for those with delivery plans. You can put your order in early, but make sure you check and finalise before your deadline. And ensure any last minute shopping needs are planned in the diary. You don’t want to forget brandy butter or brussel sprouts.
4, Give everyone jobs to do
In the past I worked Christmas eve and we always go for a family meal to the pub in the evening, so prepping the veg was often done by the OH when I was at work. If you want other people to bring a dish – eg starter or pudding, make sure you get it booked in with them in advance. Here, my mother-in-law usually makes each of us a dish of sausagemeat ‘stuffing’, chestnut sauce and a Christmas pudding.
5, Work out storage and fridge space
If you’re preparing food beforehand, make sure you have enough fridge space. Fine if you live somewhere with guaranteed cold weather and can set up a cold store outside or in a garage, but for those of us with milder weather you will have a rammed fridge.
6, Prepare food beforehand where possible.
Some people parboil veg and make roast potatoes in advance and then freeze them. I prefer everything fresh but we do peel the veg and leave in saucepans and water from the afternoon before. Red cabbage is essential to cook ahead. It tastes so much better when it’s reheated, plus it needs cooking slowly so doing the long part the day before frees up the cooker for Christmas day. Puddings can also be prepared the day before. I like fruit salads, cheesecake and pavlova or meringue dishes (just add the cream and toppings just before serving) for a lighter alternative for those who don’t like Christmas puddings.
7, Set the table the night before if possible
It saves time the next day.
8, Defrost the meat if it’s frozen the day before.
9, Get or borrow a hostess trolley
Yes, they’re really 70s retro, but they’re great for keeping veg or meat warm while you’re waiting for gravy or other things to cook. Essential if you’re cooking for lots of people and you only have 1 oven. We have an Aga to keep things warm and an electric to cook in as well, but it’s still a juggling act.
On the day
9, Know your timings
Stick your checklist up and get everything out ready you need. Ensure crockery, serving dishes and cutlery are set out ready in the order they’re needed, and get the dishwasher on and then emptied before you need it for Christmas lunch.
10, Get other people helping
Guests offer to help usually, so let them if it’s workable. My OH goes out to feed the animals at 5am even on Christmas day, so he puts the turkey in.
11, Don’t drink too much that you forget what you’re doing
12, Enjoy it
Christmas is about fun and if you don’t enjoy hosting a big Christmas dinner, then either go abroad, book a restaurant or get an invite elsewhere for Christmas in future.
Here’s our traditional Christmas lunch menu ideas:
Roast potatoes and parsnips
Braised red cabbage
Selection of veg – peas, carrots or broccoli
Pigs in blankets
How do you cope with cooking a big Christmas dinner? What do you have for yours?