Okay, so we all know the short answer to the above is a) get someone else to do it all or b) order takeaway! But I’m going to make an assumption that whoever is reading this is going to be responsible for some or all of the cooking on Christmas Day, and hey, might even enjoy it! I’m certainly in the latter category – ideas for meals in the festive season are already bubbling up in my mind and it’s actually hard to concentrate on anything else! But I also want to be able to enjoy my day and spend some time relaxing and playing with my children.
My childhood memories are of lavish traditional Christmas meals hosted by family friends. We’d be at our friend’s house by lunchtime, but mum was responsible for the turkey, which she would cook in our oven – so over the course of the day she and Dad would make trips back home to ‘check on the bird’. Then things would culminate with a small army of people in the kitchen, sweating over hot ovens and making sure the meal was just perfect. Needless to say, my Mum barely sat down and was simply exhausted by the end of the day. And this was probably after staying up past midnight wrapping presents for me and my brother.
So how to avoid this? Whether you’re having a traditional meal or an Aussie seafood barbecue, here are a few tips to make the most of your Christmas holiday:
- Freeze-ahead Roast Potatoes: This is a real winner – parboil potatoes for around 6 minutes, then drain, shake to rough the edges, then leave to cool on a flat baking tray. Cover loosely with cling film and put the tray in the freezer. When the potatoes are frozen, store them in the freezer for up to a month in a sandwich bag. There’s no need to defrost them when you’re ready to roast, just throw them straight into the hot oven with some olive oil. They’ll take about an hour to cook from frozen.
- Overnight Christmas Turkey or Lamb: You heard me! Cook your turkey overnight. Not only will it result in succulent, juicy meat, but you’ll do all the work while you’re sleeping and then free up the oven for roasted vegetables. Cooking a turkey overnight loosely works by roasting it at a high temperature for 45 mins to brown the skin, then turning it down to 80 degrees Celsius for 7-8 hours, depending it on its weight. There’s a number of variations to this out there, so if you’re keen on this method, scout around on the internet to find out more. As for lamb, slow-roasting a shoulder is pretty much foolproof. For a bone-in shoulder weighing around 3 kgs, I roast at 140 degrees Celsius, covered in foil and with a glass of water in the bottom of the tin. When you’re ready to serve, put it back in the oven uncovered, and crank the heat up to crisp up the skin.
- Freeze extra meals and sauces: If you’ve got family visiting for Christmas, chances are you’re not just requiring food for Christmas Day but for the week before or after. Help yourself out by doing some extra prep in the lead-up to the festive season. For my part I’ll be making a batch of chicken stock to have handy in the freezer, perhaps some home-made meatball mix, and even a molè sauce for a Mexican-themed dinner. I’ll also invest in some good quality jars of pickles, harissa, preserved lemons and nut butter – ingredients I can use to quickly turn something basic into something really yummy!
- Get everyone involved: It seems obvious but I’m guilty of thinking I can take everything on myself and then realising it would have been better to delegate. While everyone’s standing around in the kitchen having a chat and a drink, put them to work – chopping vegetables, crushing garlic, or setting the dining table. Most people are happy to get involved and contribute to the day!
By Victoria Thaine,