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I mentioned my Christmas Day cooking schedule on Twitter last year and several people said I should write a post about it, but it was Christmas Eve so it felt like it was too late to be of any use to anyone else by that time! By the time you’ve finished reading this post, you’ll probably be asking yourself, how anal is this woman?! Well, when it comes to planning the all-important Christmas dinner, the answer is very; but spending a bit of time doing this honestly takes all of the stress out of Christmas morning, so we can enjoy time together as a family.
Since hubby and I bought our own home four years ago, we’ve had both set of parents to us for Christmas dinner. We’ve found that it makes things so much easier for us – we don’t need to worry about alternating where we spend Christmas Day each year. We don’t allow them into the house until 1pm though – I’m very strict about this! The reason for this is twofold – firstly, it means we get the morning to ourselves to open our presents to each other and have some time just us, and secondly, it means that no one else can interfere with the cooking!
We usually end up sitting down to eat at around 2pm by the time everything is dished up and everyone is served (although this is largely because I aim for us to eat at 1:30pm but my mother-in-law always suggests that the turkey isn’t quite cooked and needs a bit longer in the oven – I’ve resolved to ignore her this year – I think it’s the bacon that makes it look a smidgen pink near the skin).
Christmas Eve Preparations
Every Christmas Eve, I make Delia’s Famous Chocolate Truffle Torte, from Delia’s Happy Christmas*, my Christmas cooking Bible! My father in law says this is the sole reason he comes to our house every year! I adapt it to make it gluten free (I just switch the biscuits in the base for gluten free ones) but it’s so quick and easy, and can go in the fridge overnight to set, so there’s no worrying about how long to cook it for or whether it will rise. Once the torte is safely in the fridge, I sit down to write out my Christmas Day cooking schedule. While I’m doing this, hubby will often start peeling potatoes and other vegetables and popping them in water in the fridge so that’s one less thing to do on Christmas morning!
Planning How to Cook the Christmas Turkey
Firstly, I make sure that I ask my butcher the weight of my turkey when I go to collect it on Christmas Eve morning. In her book, Delia gives clear instructions on how to prepare the turkey, at what temperature and for how long to cook it. I always give this a quick read through as I’m paranoid the turkey won’t be cooked properly (hence the annual caving to the opinion of my mother-in-law!).
I aim for the turkey to come out of the oven at 1pm, so I work backwards from there, allowing for time to prepare the turkey by stuffing it and covering it in butter and streaky bacon. I used to prepare starters as well, but we’ve dispensed with that fuss since having Little M, and just go straight for the main event! In addition to the amazing torte, we also have a gluten free Christmas pudding and a ‘normal’ one (the non-gluten-free members of the family have yet to work out that there’s nothing wrong with eating something gluten free). No one is ever hungry at the end of the meal!
Planning the Christmas Trimmings
Once I’ve figured out the turkey timings, I then fill in the gaps based on when the roast potatoes, stuffing, chipolatas and vegetables need to go on the hob or in the oven to cook. I plan this down to which oven each item is going to be cooked in, as we inherited a double oven from the previous owner. It sounds amazing, but each oven is actually smaller than an average-sized oven, and the second one isn’t fan assisted, so I’m not sure I’m at much of an advantage to be honest! I even note down when I need to boil the kettle for various things, so that I don’t forget.
All of these timings are usually scattered around on a piece of paper, then I write them all up in a neatly ordered list on a piece of A4 and stick it to the fridge door, before setting the table ready for the best meal of the year and collapsing into bed!
How do you prepare for Christmas Day? Do you plan like me, or hope it will all come together on the day?
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