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Christmas cooking guide: top tips

It’s not just Santa who should be making a list and checking it twice.

Preparing dishes in advance can help take the stress out of cooking Christmas dinner
Preparing dishes in advance can help take the stress out of cooking Christmas dinner

If you want Christmas to be a relaxed, fun festive occasion it pays to plan ahead, so that when the 25th rolls around you can relax and enjoy the day.

Christmas is a time for celebration which should be spent with family and friends, but if you are the cook in the house and not careful, your quality time can easily be taken over by stress.

Time spent in the kitchen preparing food can be a great pleasure, but often by the time the festivities begin you are too worn out to enjoy it. Follow my top tips to make Christmas a more relaxing and enjoyable time for you, as well as everyone else!

Planning is key

Draw up menus for all the meals you plan to make over Christmas, well in advance, including breakfasts and snacks (especially if you are having overnight guests!). Starting this task early gives you time to look at new ideas, search for Christmas recipes and change your mind or amend if circumstances or guest numbers change.

Make a list and check it twice!

Found the recipes you want? Check the recipes, and then check them again! There's nothing worse than realising on Christmas Eve that you are missing a vital ingredient, pot/pan, or worse, you don't know how to do it at all!

Shopping is one of the biggest jobs at Christmas, so to simplify the task make a master-shopping list of everything you will need, and try to blitz the list in one foul swoop, ticking off everything as you go. Remember, you don’t need to wait until Christmas Eve to buy all of your fresh ingredients. Buy them a day or two before and store them in the refrigerator or a cool, dry frost-free place.

Know your limits

We all want to wow our guests with Christmas dinner, but please don't be overambitious! This is one area where it’s so easy to fail by taking on too much in too short a time. Christmas cooking and all it involves is not a time to start experimenting with new tricks and techniques. If you have never made bread, now is not the time to start! Stick with what you can do well, and you’ll be sure to impress.

The fridge is your friend

If you don’t want to spend the bulk of Christmas day in the kitchen, your focus should be on a menu that can be made largely in advance and simply assembled and cooked on the day. Many Christmas dishes can be made days in advance. The fridge is your friend here, so make sure to give it a good sort through and clean and make space for Christmas food. Write down everything you want to make and figure out what can be done in advance, making sure that on the day you will have time to relax.

Be the boss

If you want to be a Domestic God/dess that's fine but if you can delegate a few jobs - peeling the potatoes, setting the table, filling the drinks, whatever - it will help ease the pressure. Surprisingly many people do like to help and share the fun in the kitchen so don't be afraid to ask. Remember, this is your Christmas as well, so allow time during or at the end of cooking to chill out a little, get ready or have a wee tipple with your guests.

Merry Christmas!

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Food and drink

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