So how was your Christmas? I can’t believe how quickly it was all over and now we are already on to New Year’s Eve. We all had a fantastic Christmas together – my whole family were there apart from my daughter which was sad as we missed her. I really, really enjoyed mine. Mainly because I have my cooking schedule down to a fine art so that I can maximise my time with my guests and not feel resentful that I’m stuck in the kitchen. This, if you are a single parent, is crucial and makes it far more enjoyable to be surrounded by family and have such fun together. We played lots of silly games and drank too much Bailey’s – the usual stuff.

15+ years ago, when I started cooking for my family and friends (because for some reason my mother abdicated responsibility for hosting Christmas way back then) I made everything from scratch because that is what I thought you had to do. It took me days, ruined my actual day and was totally stressful. I followed Delia’s Christmas recipe book to a tee (what does that actually mean?). Made my own mince pies, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, peeled, cut, roasted – all the usual stuff that most people still continue to do. However, as time went on I began to resent all the effort and time it took me whilst everyone else was having fun so I started cutting a few corners here and there so that I could be involved in the sitting around and drinking and chatting bit which is the bit I love most.

NOW I have become a total professional at cutting corners. In fact there are no corners left to cut. Just cellophane to poke and packets to open. I have become a shameless and lazy cheat – but a happy cheat because no one cares – they’d rather you were a relaxed host than a mad, bright red in the face, apron wearing misery, shouting at your guests to sit down immediately – which was how I used to be. If you love cooking, stop reading now as you will be horrified, but if it’s not really your thing and you don’t want to do the cooking, then don’t feel guilty about handing on the mantle on to a shop. I don’t have a partner to help me and this year I had 11 to cook for. I didn’t want my children to have to do too much either as they had been at their father’s in the morning and were looking forward to a relaxing day.

My latest passport photo:-

Turkey hat

So this is how my suggestions for a stress free Christmas day goes, compared to Delia:-

THE LAST 36 HOURS

CHRISTMAS EVE EARLY AM

Last-minute shopping

Delia has suggested going to buy all the vegetables on Xmas eve – are you kidding me?? The queues??

Anyway, I still had some presents to buy so suggest you buy all your vegetables in advance, ready prepared and honeyed from either M & S or Cook (which means they’re frozen and you can buy them well in advance). Not a lot more expensive than doing them from scratch.

CHRISTMAS EVE MID MORNING

Collect turkey

Giblet Stock

You could do this or you could pull the little bag out of the turkey’s bottom, throw it in the bin as it looks disgusting and buy some ready made gravy.

CHRISTMAS EVE LATER AM

Preparing vegetables

You could do this, or you could read a magazine as all the vegetables already pre-prepared

Make the trifle

Delia says “Christmas simply isn’t Christmas without a trifle”.  I beg to differ.  Everyone hates trifle.  Don’t bother.

CHRISTMAS EVE 3PM

Carols and Baking

Nothing to bake, but enjoy the carols

Turkey Stuffing

No need to make – the bought stuff is great and no one can tell the difference

Accompaniments

Cranberry and Orange relish

Buy it – delicious

CHRISTMAS EVE BEFORE YOU GO TO BED

Delia must be on her knees by now.  I am at a friends house drinking Christmas alcohol and considering midnight mass.  Only thing to remember is to get the turkey out of the fridge so that it’s at room temperature when you cook it tomorrow.

THE BIG DAY

Turkey in the oven

Delia is up at 7am to put the turkey in at 7.45am – my turkey went in a 10am for a 4pm eat, but that’s probably too late for most.  Details on the bird, so not difficult to work out.  Does need butter and bacon though and maybe stuffing although I did that separately this year, with a view to stuffing it inside at the end, but no point.

Bread sauce

Delia makes hers – but it’s very nice bought from a shop and so easy – just heat it up at the last minute.

Pigs in blankets

Buy them! Unless you love making them

Rum Sauce

For the Christmas pudding which you are meant to have already made – BUY IT ALL

Anyway….you get the general idea – the next many hours are filled with peeling and sorting and heating and planning in Delia’s kitchen, but if you’d rather sit and drink champagne or Bucks Fizz with your family when they arrive then CHEAT – it’s the only way and as long as it still tastes good and you can get it all on to the table HOT then everyone is happy.  Mainly the chef…..

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