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Quick Guide: cooking Christmas Dinner

Don’t flap about like a headless turkey as you cook Christmas Dinner.

We’re here to let you in on a little secret – cooking a Christmas Dinner can be an enjoyable and stress-free affair! Did you know, a great Christmas Dinner is more down to careful planning and great timing, than great cookery skills?

By the time it’s all over, you’ll have enough food in the house to last for several days, so you’ll be able to pour yourself a large drink, pick at the leftovers and forget all about it until December 2018!

Grab a cuppa and read our quick guide to cooking a delicious, plentiful and budget-friendly Christmas Dinner…

1. Budgeting

According to the Centre for Retail Research and Vouchercodes, the average family spends £821.25 on food, drink and gifts during the Christmas season, and plenty of people spend well in excess of £100.00 on Christmas Dinner alone!

This means it’s important to make savings where you can, as overspending will only contribute to your feeling stressed, which is not what the most wonderful time of year is all about!

  • Buy a larger turkey

This probably seems totally counter-intuitive, but hear us out! If you can be disciplined when it comes to using your leftovers then you could make your turkey stretch to several other meals, including curries, pies, sandwiches and casseroles.

Lots of meals can also be frozen, so even if you’ll be eating out a lot between Christmas and New Year, you can have several hearty meals on standby to beat the January blues.

  • Shop around

With everything else going on, it’s probably the last thing on your mind to be darting between several food shops to pick up the best value trimmings for Christmas Dinner. However, it can totally pay off!

Supermarkets all offer discounts on different things, and most of them have information online to plan ahead.

  • Decorate your own Christmas cake

This one isn’t even a chore! Decorating a cake is great fun, and the perfect way to keep little hands occupied as you add your own personal touch to the Christmas cake.

Plain Christmas cakes are generally really low-priced, and all you need then is some marzipan, ready-to-roll icing and a spoonful of jam to cover your own cake, and then you can be as creative as you like!

  • Check your cupboards

Just because you don’t think about the candied peel and chestnuts in your cupboard between January and November, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Take stock of festive ingredients in the cupboards – you’ll almost certainly be able to tick a few things off your shopping list.

2. Shopping List

The BBC have created the perfect Christmas shopping list so you have a starting point for cooking the meal. Click here to read it.

3. Prepare in advance . . .

Preparation is everything when it comes to Christmas Dinner – you can make all this ahead of time:

Freeze gravy in a container, and defrost on the day. For some added richness, add juices from your Christmas turkey to it before serving.

Any vegetables you can boil or steam (carrots, broccoli, sprouts etc.) can be par-cooked in advance. Using the “blanching and refreshing” method, you boil your vegetables and then drop them in cold water to stop the cooking process.

Remove them from the heat when they’re still a bit crunchy. The following day, you can just reheat them in a pan or in the microwave.

Yorkshire puddings are rapidly becoming part of a traditional Christmas Dinner, and there’s plenty of ways you can prepare them! You could make the batter a day in advance, or even completely cook and freeze them. They’ll only need five or ten minutes in the oven to warm them up then.

4. Starter for ten?

If you opt to have a starter, make it a no-cook option. You can assemble it in moments, or even have your guests do that themselves.

Bruschetta with a variety of toppings (for example diced tomato and oregano, prosciutto and mozzarella, minced garlic mushrooms) are a great idea, or consider a shop-bought platter of smoked salmon, cured meats, bread, olives and anything else you fancy.

5. The main event

The point of stuffing a large bird like a turkey is to help to counteract the drying-out process during cooking. Pork sausage meat is the best ingredient for this because the fatty pork juices keep the flesh of the turkey moist.

Lift the skin of the turkey and rub butter all underneath it. Feel free to add garlic or rosemary into the butter. Once the giblets are removed, halve a lemon and a clementine and insert these down the turkey neck – this will provide a fragrant festive taste.

Give the turkey plenty of space between the flesh and the foil, otherwise it’ll steam rather than roast. This method keeps all the juices intact.

Get your timings right – and don’t forget to leave time for your turkey to rest when it comes out of the oven. Turkeys between 4-6kg should be rested for 1½ hours, and ones from 6-10kg can rest for two hours.

Heat your oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and pre-heat the oven for at least twenty minutes before putting the turkey in. As a guide for how long to cook the bird:

  • 4-5kg – 2¼ to 2½ hours
  • 5-6kg – 2½ to 3 hours
  • 6-7kg – 3 hours to 3½ hours
  • 7-8kg – 3½ to 4 hours
  • 8-9kg – 4 to 4¼ hours
  • 9-10kg – 4¼ to 4½ hours

The meat should be 65°C at its thickest point before it is safe to eat. Allow the bird to relax for 30-45 minutes before carving to ensure that all the juices seep back into the meat so that it’s moist and succulent.

6. After dinner

Christmas Dinner is hard work so make sure your desserts are easy! A trifle prepared in advance is a great crowd-pleaser, but if you’re a little more traditional, forego steaming the Christmas Pud and pop it in the microwave instead.

Put all the desserts out on the table and let people help themselves and be sure to have cheese and biscuits on standby as an alternative!

Christmas Dinner can be an easy affair, if you get your turkeys in a row before setting to work. Good luck, and Merry Christmas!

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