20 ways to make Christmas easier

We’ve asked a few of our favourite chefs and food experts to reveal their best tips for making Christmas easier, quicker, better – and a whole lot more delicious.

20 ways to make Christmas easier

We all love the meal itself, but the frantic prep for all that amazing food can take some of the joy out of Christmas Day. Unless, that is, you follow our time-saving tricks and get-ahead tips from the experts.

Shop and plan – you’ll save time and money

1. “Online food shopping is the key to a calm run-up to Christmas for me, but the delivery slots get snapped up. My tip is to get my all-important slot booked well ahead, along with the basic shopping list. I then fine-tune the list nearer to the date.” – Aggie MacKenzie

2. “Make a time plan and put it on the fridge door, then you can tick off jobs like an automaton, no matter how many glasses of fizz you’ve had. Everything from ‘order the turkey’ in November to ‘set the pud alight’. After that, it’s someone else’s job to wash.” – Prue Leith

3. “Have your meat and fish brought straight to your door. we’re fans of Cornwall-based Fish for Thought, which delivers super-fresh, locally caught oysters, crab, scallops and lobsters, whole or ready-prepared (which saves a lot of time). The crabs are some of the best we’ve tasted and there’s a variety of smoked fish available, too. For meat, we like Donald Russell, whose lamb, pork, poultry and beef are of excellent quality. You can order the meat to arrive chilled (fresh) or frozen. Donald Russell’s ready-made puds are a great stopgap, too, when time is tight.” – delicious. team

4.  “Shop online at Market Porter for artisan products such as meats and cheese.” – delicious. team

5. “Use your fridge only for things that really need it, such as dairy products and the turkey. Your Christmas veg will be just as happy kept in a cool dark place or outside in a shed or garage. Even the cooked Christmas ham can be kept this way, well covered, until you need to finish it off on Boxing Day.” – delicious. team

6.  “When working out your time plan for Christmas Day, remember that the 20-minutes-per-lb rule is now dismissed by experts, who say we Brits have been overcooking our favourite Yuletide meat for generations… Could explain why so many people think of turkey as dry and tasteless. Paul Kelly of KellyBronze Turkeys has this advice: ‘As people are worried about undercooking and safety, we supply a meat thermometer with every KellyBronze bird at Christmas. That’s the safest way of knowing your turkey is done to succulent perfection. Try it once and you’ll never look back.’”  – delicious. team

Simple foodie gifts

7. “Make ultra-quick truffles by carefully heating equal amounts of sweetened chestnut purée and dark chocolate until melted. Cool. Before it gets too cold, roll into balls, dust in cocoa powder and store in an airtight container.” – delicious. team

8. “Stuff some dried figs (the soft, ready-to-eat kind) with a mixture of chopped walnuts, marzipan and candied peel, then dip in dark chocolate. Leave to set, then wrap in purple tissue paper.” – Diana Henry

9. “Make dried orange slices to decorate home-made Christmas cards. Slice oranges really thinly, then place on greaseproof paper and put in a very low oven overnight until dry. They make great tree decorations, too.” – delicious. team

Easy drinks

10. “Keep the flavour of drinks such as gin and tonic fresh by freezing some of the mixer in advance in ice-cube trays. Tonic water freezes brilliantly (I love Fever Tree for its vibrance). Deploy this frosty trick and your drinks are guaranteed to stay cool – and you never end up with diluted flavours.” – Olly Smith

11. “Make warming hot chocolate for those not drinking alcohol. Bring 500ml milk, plus a pinch of ground cinnamon and chilli powder (if you like), to the boil in a pan. Put 100g good-quality dark chocolate in a bowl, add one-third of the milk, then beat until smooth. Add remaining milk, mix well and serve.” – Chocolatier William Curley

Quick nibbles and easy starters

12. “Serve a centrepiece platter of antipasti for a starter on Christmas Day. Choose a selection of cured ham and salami and arrange on a platter with good-quality marinated olives, roasted peppers and roasted artichoke hearts. Serve with slices of toasted or griddled sourdough and let everyone help themselves. The beauty of antipasti is that you’re not restrained by cooking timings, and it’s a lovely relaxed way to start Christmas lunch, with time in between the starter and main course to finish off cooking the turkey and trimmings.” – delicious. team

Sorting out the veg

13. “Keep side dishes simple. Peel all the veg the day before, then blanch in batches: 5 minutes for carrots, 5 minutes for sprouts and 3 minutes for broccoli (the exact timing depends on how small you cut your veg – basically, you’re getting them almost to the point of being cooked). Drain, refresh under cold water, then cool, cover and chill until needed. You can parboil the potatoes in advance, too (for 8 minutes), then tip them into hot goose fat when you’re ready to roast them. On Christmas Day, mix the other veg and heat them in a large frying pan with a pinch of seasoning, 100ml water and 50g butter per 250g of veg over a moderate heat until heated through and just tender. It’s all done in about 4 minutes – and there’s no multitude of pans to juggle on the hob or wash up later.” – Ed Baines

14. “Vegetarian guests? Try this… roast all your veg together with Christmassy spices and a dash of water. The juices created make a great veggie gravy.” – Tristan Welch

15. “Try veg with an Italian twist: simmer broccoli, cauliflower and sprouts together in a pan until al dente. Refresh in cold water, drain well and put in an ovenproof dish. Make a béchamel sauce, add plenty of Parmesan, then mix into the veg. Bake for 20 minutes. The veg and the sauce can be made the day before, then combined and cooked on the day. Ciao!” – Gino D’Acampo

16. “Try something easy and different… Make a red wine and onion gravy, then add a bit of cocoa – it offsets the tangy taste of the wine superbly. For extra crisp potatoes with a tasty twist, add 2 tbsp coarse semolina and 1 tsp smoked paprika after parboiling and draining the potatoes, just before roasting.” – Jean-Christophe Novelli

On the day

17. “Keep your turkey super-moist with this clever method: add fresh thyme, garlic, lemon zest, sea salt and pepper to 150g melted butter. Take a large sheet of muslin (from a good haberdashery) and dip into the melted butter and flavourings to soak them all up. Cover the turkey with the muslin and tie with string. Put in the oven and cook, basting every 30 minutes over the muslin (the muslin acts as a wick, holding the moisture). To brown and crisp the skin, take off the muslin 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time.” – delicious. team

18. “Take your turkey out of the fridge two hours before you want to cook it, to allow it to come to room temperature. Putting a fridge-cold turkey straight into the oven will make the oven drop in temperature and ruin your well-calculated cooking times.” – delicious. team 

19.  “Save time on plating up: put the vegetables and sauces into hot serving dishes and let people help themselves – then the only thing to do at the last minute is carve the turkey.” – delicious. team

20. “Bear in mind that most ovens aren’t big enough to fit a turkey as well as all the vegetables. But don’t panic. A turkey can be left to rest for up to an hour after cooking, loosely covered in foil. It will still be lovely and hot, and will leave your oven free to cook the roast spuds and other veg. Serve the turkey with piping-hot gravy.” – delicious. team

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