Christmas Fayre

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Christmas entertaining party foods. Picture: Waitrose Christmas entertaining party foods. Picture: Waitrose

PROVIDING A decent Christmas spread doesn’t have to be challenging any more. One of the few good things about the criminally fast pace at which we live modern life is that the time-poor cooks in our homes have discovered new ways to put gastronomic delights on our tables without having to spend hours locked in a kitchen.

Of course, the magnificence of a turkey dinner with all the trimmings won’t be just thrown together at a moment’s notice, but the fact is there are a lot of products available that make it just that little bit easier – but knowing where to look and how to combine them is key.

Take the local butcher, for instance. Get him or her on your side early on and you’ll not only secure a turkey that precisely meets your needs, but it can be prepared, dressed and suitably spiced up ready for the oven.

Specialist food shops and the revival of the delicatessen have also played their part in the presentation of exciting festive spreads, offering suggestions for ingredients, side dishes or even just pre-meal nibbles that would never have figured on your radar.

This is wonderful news if you’re throwing a party and want to wow guests with a vast array of goodies that they might never have come across.

And it’s reassuring that you could now hit Christmas Eve, receive an SOS from family or friends whose plans for the 25th are suddenly in disarray and still come to the rescue by hitting the shops and scooping up ‘ready-to-go’ meals – meaning that you can come to the rescue without sacrificing your own enjoyment of The Big Day.

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Christmas Countdown

A week to go

* Start defrosting turkey
* Write shopping lists and buy all non-perishables
* Put spare milk in freezer in case of emergency

Two days to go

Is cranberry sauce/apple sauce on your radar? It is often overlooked.

Cut and cube bread to dry out ready for stuffings and bread sauce. Lay it out on a baking tray in a single layer.

Napkins and tablecloths – all washed and ironed?

Cutlery, glasses, serving dishes and china – all clean?

Flowers for the table

Arrange flowers and water well

If possible, wait until Christmas Eve to buy vegetables, salads and fish. If not, buy them now.

Christmas Eve morning

Collect fresh turkey
Last-minute shopping
Prepare turkey gravy
Defrost mince pies
Prepare pudding and refrigerate. If you’re serving a traditional pudding, make brandy butter and refrigerate

Christmas Eve afternoon

Prepare stuffings. Leave covered in a cool place. The stuffings should not be too cold when you stuff the turkey.

Prepare vegetables. Peel potatoes and put in cold water in the fridge. Prepare other vegetables and store in plastic bags in the fridge.

Make bread sauce. Cover tightly with cling film and store in the fridge.

Set the table, leaving the flowers until the morning

Christmas Eve evening

Take the turkey out of the fridge, cover with foil and allow it to come to room temperature. Do the same with the stuffing and butter so that it softens for the morning. With all the newly-created space, fill up the fridge with wines, mineral water and fresh juice.

If in doubt ...delegate!!

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