There are few occasions where time is more precious than on Christmas Day. While there’s so much fun packed into every festivity, the pressure to cook the Meal of the Year has just as much of a pull.
But you don’t have to choose between satisfied dinner guests and joining in on the present opening around the tree. By preparing parts of your roast the day before, you’ll save yourself tons of time - and make the much-anticipated feast even better. We’re talking more trimmings, more flavours, and much less hassle prior to the main event.
How to get ahead on Christmas eve
Press play on your favourite Christmas playlist and get stuck into some festive preparation. You’ll love yourself all the more for it. Getting started on Christmas Eve allows you to revel in the pleasure of cooking, without the pressure of the ticking timer. And, of course, you can get a lot of the tough, time-consuming prep out of the way early. Some sides can be made oven-ready a day in advance, while for others you can set yourself up for success with small bits of preparation that will make make a huge difference.
What Christmas food can you prepare in advance?
There’s knowing you could do some peeling and chopping in advance… then there’s mastering it. With carrots and parsnips, all it takes is some peeling and trimming, but make sure you submerge them in water overnight. Peel your onions too - this is a mess-saving exercise as much as it’s to do with saving time.
Then you have the potatoes - those precious, precious potatoes. Again, peel them first, then parboil them so they’re ready to roast. To get further ahead, fluff them up after parboiling and coat them in your chosen fat. Even consider half-roasting them for half an hour, then they’ll only need 20 minutes extra on the day. Freeing up more of that much-needed oven space can only be a good thing.
With only a handful of ingredients required, making your own cranberry sauce is a small task with huge pay-off. Try this recipe by gently simmering light muscovado sugar, orange juice and cranberries, then choosing add-ons based on your own preferences. For an added kick, try adding orange zest, or grate some ginger into the mixture with a touch of chilli. And make it in abundance! Then you’ll have plenty for the turkey sandwiches, pies and pastries in the days to follow.
Quick Yorkshire puddings don’t have to be bought frozen. Simply beat together flour, eggs and milk until lump-free, then season to perfection, then pour the mixture into a preheated and oiled Yorkshire pan till they’re gloriously crunchy on the outside and fluffy in the middle. Once they’ve cooled, pop them in the freezer, and you’ve got a better-tasting version ready for the oven.
Getting the first bake in a dry oven ensures your Yorkshires will have a better rise and more satisfying crunch. Often they get soggy fast due to all of the moisture in the oven from the potatoes and the roast itself.
In the event that the meat is a touch overcooked, the gravy is its saving grace. Even if the roast’s worthy of a Michelin star, it only takes it up a level. Gravy is a hugely important part of your Christmas meal and the fact that homemade reigns over shop-bought is an undisputed claim. Make your favourite recipe in advance then heat it up with the meat juices in the turkey tray on Christmas day. We recommend this classic recipe.
Spiced red cabbage
With hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, wine and clementine zest, festive red cabbage is a real crowd-pleaser. Rustle it together on Christmas Eve and leave it in the fridge to continue soaking up the flavours. Its appearance on the big day will be as effortless for you as it is delicious for everyone else.
These indulgent stuffing balls are made from parsley, sage, lemon and sausage meat for extra Christmas Day decadence - and they can be pre-baked the day before, so all you have to do is reheat them and they’ll still taste just as incredible. Most other stuffing recipes can be made in advance in a similar fashion.
What else can you prepare on Christmas eve?
That Christmas food shopping list can be notoriously lengthy, so forgetting a thing or two is easily done. When a last-minute dash to the shops is no longer an option, the last thing you want is to remember there are no pigs in blankets, or that you’ve run out of oil. Go through what you’ll need on the big day, then double and triple check you have everything ready in the cupboard.
Next on the checklist, equipment. Start with the essentials. Do you have all the right pans, trays and utensils needed to cook everything at once? Then there are the time-saving accessories that act as your own personal sous chef. To have all your dried herbs and spices organised and to-hand without rooting through the cupboards, invest in a tiered carousel. Or if you’re cutting up fresh herbs, make light work of chopping with a hachoir and board set.
Writing down the timings of how long everything takes and when they need to go in the oven will help you go from step to step seamlessly. With your schedule handy, you’ll be able to buy yourself more time relaxing with family, rather than constantly checking how each dish is getting on in the oven.
Other tips to keep your Christmas dinner stress-free
Wash as you go
Avoid the stressful sight of towering pans by cleaning up as you go wherever possible. Or better yet, recruit someone else to do it while you focus on the food. Then when you’ve finished cooking, you’re free to spend the rest of the day as you please. That takes us onto our next tip.
This goes beyond washing up - and it doesn’t have to feel like a chore. Give your family members fun jobs, like topping up people’s glasses. You always have a drink to hand, and you don’t have to run around serving everyone else. It’s a win-win situation.
It will all work out wonderfully - we promise! On behalf of everyone at Cole & Mason, we hope you have a fantastic Christmas.