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!
– Melt the butter in a medium sized pan. Add a small splash of olive oil to stop it catching.
– Add the mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook until soft and browned.
– Add the white wine and vegetable stock.
– Blend with a stick blender until your desired level of smooth. (I like bits in my soup but if you want a totally smooth soup you’ll need to decant into a liquidiser and blend in that then resume cooking.)
– Bring the soup to a boil then turn down to a simmer.
– Add the cream and heat gently until the edges are bubbling.
For a dish that bears my name this took me an embarrassingly long time to get right. I would have potatoes swimming in butter or too crisp to eat without worrying about your fillings. These little stacked Pommes Anna finally hit that sweet spot between buttery and crispy and look fab for what is actually minimal effort. You can do a lot of the prep beforehand in assembling the stacks in the muffin tin if you want to prepare these in advance and then just pop them in the oven when ready so good for dinner parties!
6-8 new potatoes (waxy)
125g unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp sea salt
Cracked black pepper
Fresh thyme sprigs
– Heat the oven to gas mark 6.
– Use a mandolin or very sharp knife to slice the potatoes into 1/8” slices. Put in a small mixing bowl.
– Melt the butter in a small saucepan.
– Brush the insides of six muffin tins with melted butter.
– Place a small sprig of thyme in the bottom of each muffin cup.
– Add the garlic to the melted butter and remove the leaves from the remaining thyme sprigs and add those too.
– Gently heat until fragrant.
– Pour the butter over the potatoes. Add salt and pepper to season and toss gently.
– Place the sliced potatoes carefully in the muffin tins. You want to arrange them so that they will look good when turned out. Press down firmly in the centre.
– Pour the remaining butter over the potatoes.
– Cover the muffin tray with foil and bake in the oven for 35 minutes.
– Place a large oven dish over the muffin tin and carefully flip over so that the potato stacks come out intact. If any fall apart you can push them back into shape.
– Place the oven dish back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes until the stacks look nice and crispy on the edges.
From time to time I find myself craving the food I had in Japan. Sometimes it’s the simplest of things, like this Japanese egg salad sandwich. Because even though you’d think there isn’t much wiggle room in how to make egg salad you’d be amazed what a difference a few little tweaks make. I think the biggest difference is that the egg is mashed, not chopped and the mayonnaise must by kewpie for a truly authentic taste. The pinch of salt adds that little je ne sais quoi that makes this run of the mill sandwich spectacularly moreish!
For one sandwich:
2 hard boiled eggs
2tbsp kewpie Japanese mayonnaise
Pinch of salt
Soft salted butter
Two slices white bread
– Put the eggs, mayonnaise and salt in a bowl and mash with a fork until there are no large chunks. You could even use a food processor to get it even smoother (some conbini do) but I prefer a little texture.
– Spread the bread with butter and add the egg mix. This should be a well filled sandwich! (Though factors such as egg size and bread size will affect it, you may find this makes two less well filed sandwiches if using smaller bread.)
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
A very quick post today as I know some people are eagerly awaiting this recipe for Salted Caramel Sauce. It’s simple once you know how and absolutely amazing! I have had to restrain myself from simply eating it from the jar!
Makes 1 jar
250ml double cream
1 cup granulated sugar
– Pour the cream into a small pan and heat to just short of boiling. Turn off the heat and set aside.
– Place the sugar in one flat layer in a large, heavy bottomed pan. You need it to be much bigger than you think as when you combine the ingredients it can bubble up and rise to nearly 10 times the height! Also, thin pans mean that the sugar may quickly burn as the heating is more intense. Heat your sugar on a LOW heat. It will take time (about 8 minutes to start to melt) but if you heat it too intensely then the sugar may burn and cause problems for you. Do Not Stir!
– Once about 8 minutes has gone by you should be able to see the sugar melting around the edges. At this point you can gently turn the sugar so the melted stuff on the bottom comes on top and the solid sugar on top gets to the bottom. Your sugar should be turning from white to golden caramel. Don’t rush, it will get there.
-Once your sugar is all melted with no lumpy bits take it off the heat.
– Pour half your hot cream into the sugar. It WILL bubble, spit and rise up. Stir vigorously the whole time.
– When it has died back down pour the remaining cream in, remembering to keep stirring. It will usually rise and spit again. It will look like a lumpy mess. This is normal.
– Return the pan to a low heat and keep stirring. The lumpy mess will slowly melt back in and you will get a smooth pale caramel sauce. This will probably take about 10 minutes. If you have any huge lumps it may take longer but they will eventually dissolve. You don’t want the mixture to boil so keep it on a nice low heat and it will get there!
– When you have a nice, smooth sauce sprinkle over the salt and give it a good mix then pour into a heat proof container.
– I store mine at room temperature but that’s because it doesn’t last long at all! If you plan to be more restrained in your consumption then you can keep it in the fridge but be aware that it will stiffen at a lower temperature.
Today started well with eggy bread. I was going to make this with reconstituted dried egg powder but I just haven’t been able to find any! I was then going to use the dried egg white powder I’d found but after using it yesterday I was covered with an allergy rash. It could have been something else I touched but I did have an egg allergy as a child and still can’t have vaccines cultured on egg so chances are it was that. So, I fully confess I cheated and used a fresh egg for this bread.
Eggy Bread: Mix 1 egg, splash milk, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. Melt a scant tap of fat in a large frying pan. Dip 2 slices of bread in the egg on both sides then straight into the pan. Cook until browned on the first side then flip and cook until browned on the other side.
Lunch was the fabulously vibrant beetroot soup! I spared some of my margerine ration to smear on the bread and indulged in a sausage roll as I’d been working hard in the garden all day!
Beetroot Soup: Place 3 cooked beetroots, peeled and diced, 1/2 oxo cube, a good pinch salt and a splash of Worcestershire sauce in a pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Either push the beetroot through a sieve or use a stick blender to purée it. Check for seasoning and serve.
I decided to push the boat out a bit for dinner tonight and go for Sausages in Cider with a Potato Ring, braised cabbage and carrots.
I’m a bit weird about fruit in my main courses but this sausage and cider stew was amazing! It’s definitely going to enter frequent rotation come the Autumn, it was gorgeous! The Potato Nest was a bit faffy for something that looked kind of cool but otherwise didn’t wow me. And when a wartime recipe tells you to grease your baking tray well you should listen to it because they didn’t waste fat if they didn’t need to! I tried to save my fat ration and do without and ended up with it stuck to the tray!
Braised cabbage was a saviour. I would normally fry the cabbage in some fat first, sometimes using bacon lardons but here you simply use the stock, which adds a whole lot of flavour and the slow simmering adds a nice sorry so that the cabbage actually tastes like it should, unlike that boiling fiasco! Boiled carrots rounded everything off.
Sausages in Cider: Brown 4 oz sausages in a heavy bottomed pan. (Cheap sausages help here as the fat content means you don’t need to use extra fat!) add 1 sliced onion and 1 thinly sliced dessert apple with a good pinch of salt and sprinkle of pepper. Place the lid on the pan and cook for 2 -3 minutes until the onion and apple are softened. Add half a pint of cider and simmer for 20 minutes. Add 2 tsp corn flour to a little water then mix into the stew and stir until thickened.
Potato Nest: Grate 3 medium potatoes and mix with 2 oz self raising flour and a good pinch of salt. GREASE your tray well and shape into a ring. Bake at gas mark 6 for 30-40 minutes.
Braised Cabbage: half full a pan with chicken stock. Add sliced cabbage to fill the pan and put the lid on. Simmer until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Check to see if you need to add any salt as the stock should be salty enough.
As it’s Sunday I thought I’d try a fancy dessert recipe! This is Coffee Cream and is delicious even though I messed something up along the way and ended up with a lumpy dessert rather than the smooth, creamy dessert I think I should have got. I think I left the coffee part to set for too long before mixing it with the whisked evaporated milk so it didn’t combine well. The evaporated milk took forever to cool though so that held me up. I would still definitely try this recipe again as it’s a nice one to have in the repertoire of you don’t have cream in.
Coffee Creams: Place a 250ml tin of evaporated milk in a saucepan of water (make sure it is covered by water) and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow to cool in the tin. (This can take several hours) Then put in the fridge to chill completely.
Mix 1oz cornflour with 1/4 pint milk. Make 1/2 pint strong coffee in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the cornflour and milk mixture and 2oz light brown sugar and whisk until thickened. Set aside to cool, covering the top with a damp piece of grease proof paper to prevent it forming a skin.
Pour the evaporated milk into a large mixing bowl and whisk until light and fluffy. Gradually add the coffee mixture, folding in well between additions. Spoon into serving glasses and chill before serving with a sprinkle of cocoa powder for decoration.
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!