We spend the whole year trying to be the best versions of ourselves. However for the festive period all bets are OFF. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying abandon ship and eat everything sugar laden within a 10 miles radius of you at all times from Dec 20th until the New Year rings in. Nor am I saying that you should attach yourself to the sofa with a remote control in your hand at all time, only getting up to refill your plate. No, no, no however what I am saying is that it’s ok to let go and do these things some of the time and just enjoy it!!
Stay up late, chat into the night, eat the cake, sip the wine, open another box of Hero’s, break the rules & do not give it a 2nd thought. There’s a reason it’s the most wonderful time of the year. We all have our own ways of surviving the Christmas season both in and out of the kitchen.
Personally, of course I eat more treats and allow the kids do the same – however I do stick to some sort of exercise routine. For my heart and my head! You may not work out with the same intensity or for the same length of time as during the rest of the year but it is still important to make time for yourself.
As someone who loves cooking I relish the thought of having time to cook up some festive food but not everyone feels the same. Even the accomplished or passionate of home cooks can get frazzled during the build up to the big day. I know I do!
Here are my top time & sanity saving tips for surviving Christmas in the kitchen:
Make a cold starter – let’s face it there is so much food on the table for Christmas dinner that we don’t really need a starter at all. If your house is like mine, breakfast will have run into mid-morning snack time (probably of the Cocoa bean variety) and then onto lunch/dinner with no clear definition or regard for any mealtime boundaries. This is why a cold starter works so well – a huge board of olives, hummus, paté, serrano ham, smoked salmon, bread sticks, sun-dried tomatoes, fruit, crackers, nuts, cheese – whatever takes your fancy.
Skin your potatoes in a second – Peeling Potatoes tip: Bring the potatoes to the boil in a pan. Then dip them in ice cold water. The skins will then peel off in your hands in a second. This works it if you have a load of potatoes to peel or if you just hate peeling more than life itself. I’m happy to peel away mad in the conventional way but wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same huh?!
Select dishes based on what you pre-prepare – I pour over my favourite cookery books for weeks in the run up to the festive season and confess to selecting dishes based on the fact that you can pre-prepare them to completion or almost completion in the few weeks prior to the 25th. Some of my favourites are Nigella’s Chestnut Chocolate pots which you can freeze up to a week ahead – this is my 3rd year running making these beauties!!
Whilst on the topic of deserts, it’s Ollie’s 5th birthday on Dec 26th. He has requested the exact same cake as last year – which was music to my ears as it’s so simple to prepare early. I spent some time on Sunday making Jamie’s Epic ice-cream cake. This year it’s chocolate, vanilla & cookie dough ice cream. For the amount of time you spend making this cake the return is, well, EPIC.
I’ve also frozen red cabbage dishes – it actually tastes much better if you make it a few days before, and leave it in the fridge for the flavours to deepen. This BBC one is really simple and freezes really well. Mary Berry is a fan of pre-roasting your potatoes the day before you plan to eat them – if it’s good enough for Mary then it’s surely good enough for me. Have a look at her tried & trusted method here.
Pimp your mincemeat – who has time to make mince pies not to mind the mince meat in the middle? If you are not lucky enough to have a Mum who supplies you with the raisin-y goods but still want some sort of homemade, freshly baked pie then just buy a jar & pimp it up. Add a freshly grated pink lady to the mix and a tablespoon or 2 of brandy. No one will suspect a thing!
Freeze whipped cream twirls on a lined tray on to pop into hot chocolates. Fancy pants clever huh?
Use a peeler to make chocolate peels for cake decor – you can make even those most basic of desserts look like they are fresh out of a pastry chefs kitchen if you decorate them cleverly. It’s the homecook’s version of faking it until you (bake…ahem) make it.
Slice some limes & lemons and freeze them to use in place of ice cubes.
So there you go. The list of mini-hacks is probably endless. I’m sure you have some for me so please feel free to share over on my Instagram here.
Other than that just remember to breathe. Take time out as it would be very easy to keep going with endless job and BAM 💥… suddenly it’s all over and you missed it as you were so busy. It doesn’t have to be perfect!!
Yours, reminding herself to exhale, step back and have another nice pie,