This is going to be an odd year for many. May be you’re going to be tackling a smaller Christmas Dinner for the first time. May be you’ve decided to go all out now you don’t have to trek round to Auntie Sue’s because it’s “what you always do”! May be you’ve never cooked more than a fried egg but think this is your time to shine!
Whatever your situation, I thought it may be timely to do a little example of how to do a low effort Christmas Dinner as guidance for those that need it. Remember, Christmas Dinner is just a roast dinner but with cranberry sauce and crackers! Don’t let the weight of expectations get you down, this can be as simple or as complicated a meal as you want to make it!
You can look at the Christmas tag for some older recipes and round ups that are more comprehensive but I wanted to highlight some really simple recipes here. Whether you’re on your own or just a smaller family gathering this should hit the spot!
We like to have nibbles to tide us over from noon to 3pm when we have our Dinner. If you want to keep it super simple just grab some party food from the freezer section. These days they almost all cook at 180°C for around 15 minutes. Any leftovers are also great for grazing at!
In my family the Prawn Cocktail is king. (Well, for me it is, mum does try to do fancy smoked salmon thingies!) This is not only traditional but super simple. Finely sliced iceberg lettuce, prawns, cocktail sauce (Iceland’s is my favourite!) and a twist of lemon on top to look fancy. Less than 5 minutes and you’re done!
Turkey is, of course, traditional and if you want to keep it super simple I recommend a frozen Turkey crown. They’re about £10 and you can pick one up in almost any supermarket.
However, a large roast chicken will also do very nicely! I love to do a one pot chicken dish where you simply get a Really Big Pot, put in new potatoes in the base, add your chicken (put some herbs, garlic and half a lemon in the cavity), and scatter with bacon lardons. Drizzle with a little olive oil and cook according to the time on the packet (or 25 minutes per lb + 20 minutes in 180°C oven) Add a cup of frozen peas 30 minutes before the end. This also works well in a slow cooker on high for 3 hours if you need the space in the oven or even if you don’t have an oven! You can find the more detailed recipe here.
A roast dinner is all about timing. If you figure out your timings then it’s plain sailing. You can prep all of your veg in advance, even the night before, so all you have to do on the day is put dishes in the oven on time or you can get the roast in and then do your veg prep. I have a post outlining some of the timings for veg here.
2 hours before: Roast In
45 minutes before: parsnips in (I like them crispy.)
30 minutes before: leeks in cream sauce, stuffing balls & pigs in blankets in
25 minutes before: Brussels sprouts and carrots in steamer on the hob. Check the sprouts after 15 minutes by poking with a sharp knife. They should be soft but not soggy.
Serving Time: Remove the chicken from the pot and place on a serving board. Use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes and peas and bacon. You can make gravy with the juices. I explain how here.
Christmas pudding is traditional, easily available from the supermarket, and I hate it. So I have a couple of other seasonal options that you can make the day before:
If you’re on your own do not let this stop you from having a full roast! The leftovers are the best bit! From this dinner I will be able to make sandwiches, soup, risotto and may be a few other dishes as takes my fancy! I basically won’t have to cook again for the next week, which is exactly how I like it!
700ml hot chicken stock (make it from the roast chicken carcass if possible)
Leftover cooked chicken (I use the two thighs)
~8 mushrooms, quartered
1 cup frozen peas
100g cold water prawns
1tbsp lemon juice small knob of butter
– Heat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C. – Melt the butter, with the olive oil, in a large, deep casserole dish with a lid until just bubbling and foaming. – Add the garlic and cook on a medium heat for 1 minute. – Add the rice and cook for about 1 minute, stiring well. – Add the wine and cook, stiring until the liquid is absorbed. – Add the hot chicken stock and stir.
– Add the clocked chicken, frozen peas, mushrooms and prawns and give a good stir.
– Add the lemon juice and stir. – Put the lid on and put the casserole dish and out it in the oven for 35 minutes.
– Remove from the oven give it a good stir and check the rice is to your taste, if it is too al dente (hard) then put it back in for another 5 minutes.
– Add the knob of butter and leave to sit for 5 minutes to melt before storing through and serving.
When I was little I would add soy sauce to it but as I grew older I would add Parmesan and creme fraiche, follow your own taste buds
This was one of the tastiest things I’ve cooked all year! I was so proud of how it turned out. My kitchen smelt amazing having been full of spices! I usually have a jar of supermarket curry paste tucked away for emergencies but I was feeling creative and I knew I could do better.
It was actually a doddle to whip up and it gave me enough for two separate curries. Needless to say, the second portion wasn’t hanging around for long!
For the Korma paste:
2 tsp garlic purée
1 tbsp ginger paste
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon tomato puree
2 fresh green chillies
3 tablespoons coconut powder
1 tsp dried coriander leaf
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tablespoons flaked almonds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
For the Sauce:
2 chicken breasts, sliced
1 x 400g can coconut milk
1 tbsp corn flour slaked with a little water
– First you want to heat a large, heavy frying pan and lightly toast the flaked almonds and cumin seeds over a medium high heat until fragrant.
– Then put all of the ingredients for the paste into a food processor/blender and pulse until you have a smooth paste.
– To serve 4 add half of the paste to the large frying pan and heat on a medium high heat.
– Add the chicken breasts and stir well.
– Add the coconut milk and simmer on a low heat for 15minutes.
– To thicken your sauce add the cornflour and stir well until thickened. Then remove from the heat.
If you’re quick you may just get to the last of the wild garlic in a shady spot. The distinctive smell should guide you!
This is a quick easy supper that takes advantage of the wild food available for such a short season. Although, I admit, I grow some ‘wild’ garlic in a container in my garden for convenience and I always find gnocchi very satisfying after a long day in the garden!
1 pack gnocchi (I use giant gnocchi here but regular ones work just as well)
200ml double cream
2 tbsp green pesto
a good handful of wild garlic leaves, washed and slices into ribbons
4 tbsp* freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano *at least
Cook the gnocchi according to the packet instructions.
Gently heat the cream and pesto in a small saucepan. Do not allow it to boil.
Add the garlic leaves and Parmigiano Reggiano and make sure it’s piping hot through.
Pour the sauce over the gnocchi in bowls.
Excellent with some crusty bread and a crisp Riesling after a long day in the garden!
I came across a box of soft shell tacos in the supermarket and couldn’t resist whipping up these simple chicken and pepper tacos for dinner the same night. I don’t often find soft shell tacos in stock, often making do with the small own brand tortillas as an alternative, and I struggle with crunchy tacos (and baguettes for that matter) so when I do find them I seize the chance!
This is a great recipe to have at hand as by cooking the herbs and spices a little first then adding the chicken on top you get the effect of a marinade or spice rub but without any of the associated time or effort. Winner!
1 tsp puréed garlic
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp coriander leaves
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chipotle chilli powder (or to taste)
2 tbsp lime juice
2 large chicken breasts, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
Soft shell tacos
Guacamole/salsa/sour cream to serve as you prefer
– Heat a splash of oil in a large frying pan then add the garlic, tomato and all of the spices in a little pile in the middle and let it sizzle a little.
– Dump the chicken on top of the spices and quickly stir it around so it’s coated.
– Add the pepper and lime juice and stir occasionally while cooking for about 5 minutes.
– Heat up your soft shell tacos and prepare them as you like. I’ve suggested lettuce with guacamole, salsa and sour cream but mix it up! Mayo works well too. I also like to serve mine with corn on the cob as a side.
This Sausage and Red Lentil Stew started as a riff on Cassoulet… but it just isn’t Cassoulet. It’s lazy girl’s cassoulet! It’s still deliciously comforting and a filling but not too stodgy recipe to bring some tomatoey brightness to these dull February days!
It can work well with any sausages but I will say that my preferred ones are either Turkey (which are getting harder to find!) or sweet chilli sausages, which are just delicious in anything you put them in! I would steer clear of chicken sausages though, I just don’t think they have the depth of flavour you want here and they get lost with the vibrancy of the tomato.
8 sausages of your choice
2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 clove chopped garlic
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tin butter beans, rinsed and drained
1 red pepper, chopped
5 tbsp red lentils
1/4 tsp salt
Brown the sausages in a large, lidded pan first.
Add the remaining ingredients, give it a stir, pop a lid on it and leave it to simmer for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the water level, make sure you keep stirring occasionally to stop the lentils sticking to the bottom of the pan. If you need to add a splash more water do so.
Leave to sit for 10 minutes before serving as this will be HOT!
One of my favourite Japanese meals is Chicken Katsu Kare. A breaded chicken (or sometimes eve pork) cutlet with a lovely thick, mild curry sauce and sticky rice, topped with lightly pickled red pepper.
Its absolute rainy day comfort food for me. I had a real craving for it the other week but didn’t have any of my usual short cuts in stock. (In Japan I’d always make the curry with shop bought roux cubes as would everyone else!) So I set to and made it all from scratch. I didn’t even have any curry powder!
Its actually not hard at all, it just takes a bit of organisation in a small kitchen like mine as there are a lot of little stages you need to pull together. I’m very happy I took the time and did a big batch though, this recipe will serve 4 so for singletons like myself I suggest you freeze ready prepped portions for the next rainy day craving!
For the curry roux:
4 tbsp flour
1 tbsp curry powder
1tbsp Garam masala
1/2 tsp five spice
1/4 tap cayenne pepper
For the curry:
1 clove garlic
1 carrot, diced
1 medium floury potato,diced
500ml chicken stock
For the cutlets:
2 chicken breasts
2 tbsp flour + salt and pepper
1 beaten egg
4 tbsp bread crumbs
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
Sticky Japanese rice and chopped pickled pepper* to serve (*I love Lidl’s jars of roasted peppers!)
First things first, make up your curry powder if you’re making that from scratch, just give it all a good mix. There will be some spare so pop it in a small jar for later use.
Then prep your roux. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and once it is all bubbly add the flour and spices. Give it a good stir for 30 seconds or so and it will turn a golden brown. Set aside off the heat.
In a larger saucepan heat a splash of oil and sautee the onion and garlic until soft.
Add the carrot, potato and chicken stock and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the curry roux to the saucepan gradually, stirring well to avoid lumps.
Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally as it thickens to avoid sticking.
Take your chicken breasts and lay them on a large chopping board, with plenty of room between them. Cover them with cling wrap.
Take a rolling pin and whack the chicken breasts to flatten them. You will find you can slightly direct how the meat spreads, you want to get it all to a thickness of ~1cm.
Remove the cling wrap. Cut each chicken breast in half to make approximately equal portions.
Place the flour on one plate, the egg in a shallow dish and the breadcrumbs on a final plate.
Coat the chicken in the flour, then dip it in the egg and finally cover with breadcrumbs. Then set aside and continue with the remaining pieces.
Heat 3 tbsp rapeseed oil in a large frying pan (you may have to do this in 2 batches, or with 2 pans depending on size).
Place the cutlets in the oil and cook for 3-5 minutes, until you can see them cooked halfway up, then flip and cook for another 3-5 minutes until cooked through.
Serve the cutlet sliced into strips, with a heap of sticky rice, curry sauce and pickled red pepper on top.
A quick and simple supper recipe today! This Chicken, Leek and Rosemary Tagliatelli recipe uses a white wine reduction to make a super simple sauce that is super luxurious! Sometimes you need to give yourself a little indulgent treat but this is a little bit lighter than my usual cream based sauces.
The freshness of the leeks and the depth of the rosemary pair beautifully with the bacon and chicken to make a perfect Friday supper for two!
1 large chicken breast, sliced
125g bacon lardons
1 medium leek, rinsed and sliced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
200ml white wine
tagliatelle to serve
Prep your water for pasta, mine usually takes 4-5mins but check the packet for cooking instructions and proceed accordingly.
Heat a splash of oil in a large frying pan and add the bacon lardons cook for a minute or two, stirring occasionally.
Add the sliced chicken breast and cook until just turning all white.
Add the leek and cook until just softening.
Add the rosemary and the wine and simmer on a medium heat until the wine is reduced to a thick sauce coating the bottom of the pan and the leek is completely soft and the chicken cooked through.
Hi, I'm Anna and this is what's going on in my kitchen and growing in my garden.
Everything you see here is how it looked as I cooked and ate it. I don't like to make things too fussy. I want you to know that if you try one of my recipes what you see is what you'll get.
Don't forget to leave a comment, I love to know what you're thinking and if you do try out a recipe then let me know how it worked for you. Happy cooking!