Christmas food and drink: Changing the old routine
2:30pm Monday 23rd November 2009 in Food and Drink
DOES your family groan at the thought of 'turkey with all the trimmings' again this year? Are they tired of following the same old traditional formula?
Or would they cry 'Fowl!' if you tried to depart from the same old meal that's been served up in your household every December 25 for the past umpteen years?
It's always a fine balancing act, trying to satisfy the desires of everyone who's likely to find themselves sat at your table.
Most cooks operate on the KISS principle at Christmas - Keep It Simple, Stupid! - and who can argue with that sentiment. Christmas Day is the last day you would think about changing a routine that you know works well.
But within that framework there are many ways of ringing a few subtle changes without too much hassle and with minimum risk.
You can liven up the vegetables, dress the meat in some lovely ways, and even the humble spud can benefit from a little imagination.
Puddings, too, can draw an admiring 'wow' from the assembled throng.
What will your Christmas be like? Will you be kissing Santa under the mistletoe - or frantically mashing the turnip to get the hard bits out?
Relax - just follow our countdown to Christmas and it will all fall into place effortlessly. Particularly if your take a sherry or two as you go along...
The week before Christmas:
- Fill any space in the freezer with bread rolls and a vegetarian alternative to turkey, just in case.
- Check you have enough bedding for guests.
- Send last-minute Christmas cards and wrap your presents. Start panicking if you haven't bought any yet...
One or two days before:
- Start thawing the turkey and avoid the biggest Christmas nightmare of all - food poisoning.
- Buy your vegetables and make sure you have enough pans to cook them all in.
- Check your Delia Smith book for a cranberry recipe, or go to the supermarket for a jar.
- If you still haven't bought your gifts, start thinking of excuses.
- Get peeling - and leave the whole lot, prepared, in cold water overnight. You don't want to be chopping while the pressies are being unwrapped.
- Stuff the turkey at the neck end and put it in the fridge. Work out how long the cooking will take - see the guide below.
- Decide you'll never get that Christmas sweater finished now. Stick a tenner in an envelope instead.
- Put the turkey in. It will need basting every 45 minutes, unless you like shoe-leather on your plate.
- Take a break to watch the kids playing with their cardboard boxes (they'll be sick of the toys that were in them already).
40 minutes before:
- Cook the potatoes and parsnips. Chill the wine.
- Admire your new pinny.
- Cook any stuffing left over. Put cranberry sauce onto the dish and put starters on the plates.
20 minutes before:
- Heat the bread sauce. Pour yourself a glass of wine... or two.
- Wake up Grandad, who has fallen asleep in the armchair.
10 minutes before:
- Put the turkey on a warmed serving plate and leave it to stand before you carve it. Dish everything out.
- Sigh with relief and grab a cracker - and decide who's going to do all that washing up!
Frozen turkeys - the rules To defrost:
Defrost it in a bag in a cool room.
Remove the bag and giblets. Once it's thoroughly thawed, cover and store in the fridge, and cook as soon as possible. Do not re-freeze once thawed.
This is a rough guide, because different cookers vary: Weight: 5lb (2.25kg). Thawing time: 15 hours. Cooking time: 1 and three-quarter hours to 2hrs.
Weight: 10lb (4.5kg). Thawing time: 20 hours. Cooking: 3 and a quarter to 3 and three-quarter hours.
Weight: 15lb (6.75lb). Thawing: 20 hours. Cooking: 4 and a half to 5 hrs.
Weight: 20lb (9kg). Thawing: 30 hrs. Cooking: 5 and a half to 6 and a half hrs.
Cooking a turkey
Weigh the bird after stuffing the breast to calculate the cooking time, to be ready 30 minutes before carving.
Place in a roasting tin and cover with buttered foil.
Place in a pre-heated oven at 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5 for the calculated cooking time. Baste every 45 minutes and remove the foil for the last 40 minutes to brown.