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!
Falafel is something I have had a troubled relationship with. For years I wanted to like it, I just couldn’t! Everything was ether too bland or too spicy or too mushy or just not right! However, with this recipe I really feel like I’ve cracked it. And I feel that the key is to really amp up the spices. Not too much chili, but spices, the cumin and coriander, and a good dash of salt and pepper, are what are going to make your falafel sing!
It helps if you think of your falafel as portable hummous. Just as a bland humous is nobody’s friend, so too for falafel so even if you look at these quantities and think I’m crazy, remember, chickpeas are delicious but only with the proper accessories!
The wonderful thing about this falafel recipe is that it healthy and simple. You basically put everything in a food processor and blitz it up! Simple! And to keep the calorie count down on these falafel I oven bake them rather than frying them. Would frying them make them tastier… well, yeah, probably! But I can’t afford those calories so oven baking it is! That’s why we amp up the spices, what you lose in fat you can make up in flavour!
Makes ~15 falafel balls
2 x 400g tins of chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 LARGE cloves of garlic, peeled
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp fresh coriander
2 tbsp plain flour
~ 2 tbsp water if necessary
– Heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C.
– Put everything except the water in the food processor.
– Blitz, scrape down the bowl, blitz again. You want to keep blitzing until you have about half coarse mix, half smooth paste in there. You don’t want to keep going until you get hummous!
– If it’s just not coming together into a paste at all then you might just need a little extra moisture to bind it so gradually add a little water at a time until it just comes together. You don’t want to add too much or you get a soft, sticky falafel!
– Using your hands (or if you’re weird about these things feel free to use spoons/a small ice cream scoop) grab a ping pong ball sized amount of mixture and gently shape it into a nice round ball.
– Place on a very lightly greased baking tray (a quick spray with olive oil will do) and repeat until your mixture is all gone.
– Give all of your falafel a light spritz with an olive oil spray.
– Place in the top of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. The falafel should just be turning brown in places and should be crisp to the touch.
– Serve with salad, pita and haydari… or whatever else takes your fancy!
Christmas is tradtionally a time of leftovers. We’ve got just about all of the sandwich suitable turkey off it now so now it is time to think of other things to make with the bits and pieces left over. There are lots of options available but few I’d actually enjoy. Pie seemed the way to go. Not only can you use the turkey but there’s nothing stopping you from using up some stuffing or leftover vegetables or even a few dollops of cranberry sauce. Got a ham? Pop it in too! Whatever is left or takes your fancy, within reason, then in it goes! I usually keep things simple. I might do turkey, stuffing and cranberry but I’d leave out the vegetables. Ham, turkey and vegetables go well together too. If you’ve got a lot of mash then why not skip the pastry and use that? It really does depend entirely upon what you have and what you like. If you’ve only got turkey to play with then a simple turkey and mushroom pie is great too.
Makes 1 average pie dish serving 4 people.
For the pastry:
225g plain flour
pinch of salt
50g butter, chilled and diced
50g Trex (white vegetable fat), chilled and diced
3-4 tbsp chilled water
– Mix together the flour and salt.
– Add the butter and Trex and rub into the flour with your fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs.
– Add 3 -4 tbsp cold water by sprinkling it evenly over the surface fo the mixture. (I used 3 tbsp and a bit.)
– Using a flat bladed knife mix it together until it forms a dough.
– Gather it together with your hands and lightly knead for a few seconds to bring it together.
– Form the dough into a ball and wrap it in clingfilm. Place it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
For the filling:
1 onion, chopped
a good splash of olive oil
2 tbsp cornflour
1/2 pint chicken stock
– First saute your onion with a pinch of salt in a little oil in a frying pan. Add whatever leftovers you’re using and stir gently to combine.
– In a separate small pan add a good splash of oil, at least enough to cover the base of the pan.
– Gently heat this until it just starts to shimmer a bit then add the corn flour. Whisk rapidly to combine.
– Pour in your chicken stock, still whisking and keep stiring until it is a smooth sauce.
– Pour this sauce into the other pan and stir well to mix.
To make pie:
– Lightly flour the worksurface and the rolling pin, not the pastry.
– Turn out the chilled dough onto the worksurface and roll it out in one direction, turning it as you go until it reaches about 3 mm thick.
– Place your pie dish upsidedown on top of the pastry and cut a line around the dish about 1 cm out to leave room for shrinkage.
– Cut a second line around this about 1.5 cm thick.
– Fill the pie dish with the filling.
– Moisten the edge of your dish with a finger dipped in water then press the 1.5 cm thick strip round the outside of the dish trimming the length to fit.
– Moisten this pastry with water again then lay the rest of the pastry over the top using the rolling pin to help lift it across.
– I fluted the edges of this pie. It’s very simple. You basically place the thumb and index finger of one hand on the ‘inside’ of the pie and with the index finger of the other hand press the edge of the crust inwards between the two fingers of the other hand. Move round the pie and keep going until the whole edge is fluted.
– With any spare pastry I like to make decorations for the top of the pie.* I went for a Christmassy snowman and Christmas trees. Again just dampen any pastry you’re pressing together to make it stick.
– Once you’re done brush the top of the pie with beaten egg and cook in an oven preheated to gas mark 7 for 40 minutes until the pastry is a golden brown and the contents heated through. If it starts to look too brown then cover with foil or butter papers** for the remaining cooking time.
* And any spare spare pastry I stamp out shapes with cutters, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with grated parmesan to make cheesy biscuits.
** I keep the butter papers when I’ve used a block for covering things like this. It saves on foil and is a great little recycling tip!
I christen this dish French Chicken as I saw it on a French food blog A Foodie Froggy in Paris and it is full of French flavours. The other qualifier is that it is needessly complicated in places as all great French food should be! I tweaked the recipe here and there subsituting ingredients for things I had and were cheap rather than the more expensive options of porcini and fois gras.
I would not recommend that you try wrapping the chicken in spiraled strips of pastry as I did. I will give a different idea in the recipe that should give you a pretty sort of plaited effect and be a hell of a lot easier. While I was wrapping these up I swore like a trooper, they were HARD! But if Gordon Ramsey is anything to judge by may be the swearing makes food taste better because these were delicious!
For the mushroom pate:
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp dried or fresh parsley
– Put the mushrooms and onion in a large pan and fry until just soft.
– Add the garlic and parsley and stir well.
– Transfer to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.
– Heat the oven to gas mark 6 and have a large ovenproof dish ready, you may need 2 as the chicken breasts cannot touch.
– Split the chicken breasts on the top down the centre to create ‘boats’. First cut a line straight down then widen the pouch by cutting out to the sides, like an inverted T.
– Roll out the pastry and cut out 4 squares just larger than twice the size of the chicken breasts.
– Place the chicken in the centre of the square.
– Put a large spoonful of pate in the chicken ‘boat’ and smooth down.
– Top this with the mushroom pate to make a small mound.
– Cut strips in the pastry either side of the chicken then start at one end and fold the two strips on opposite sides over towards the other end of the chicken in a V shape.
– Repeat this all along the chicken breast to create a plait effect making sure the whole thing is covered.
– Brush with egg, place in the dish and cook for 30 minutes. If not quite browning turn up to gas 7 for the last 10 minutes.
– Serve with whatever vegetables you like. A simple mushroom cream sauce makes a nice addition but its moist enough to eat without if you wish.
Now this isn’t so much a recipe as a collection of foods but even though I have been cooking and eating the Full English for many years this was the first time I felt I had managed to get everything just perfect! The most challenging part of the whole thing for me has always been the fried egg. I’m too impatient. Today I finally cracked it! I have to admit that I didn’t actually cook the fried bread this time, I left it in my mother’s capable hands. Hers is always much better than mine in any event!
Per person allow:
1 slice of white bread
2 rashers of bacon
1 salad tomato, halved if using
1/4 large tin baked beans
1 large portobello mushroom
-Sausages go in first. I grill then under a fairly high heat.
-The fried bread wants to go on next. Cut your bread into triangles then pass one side under the cold tap. Put into a frying pan of fairly hot oil (about 3tbsp) then turn down a bit and leave til the first side is a golden brown. Then flip over and brown the other side.
-When the sausages are brown on one side turn them over and add your bacon to the grill pan with them and turn down the heat to medium. If grilling tomatoes as well put them in here as well skin side up then turn later.
-Put the baked beans in a microwavable bowl with a knob of butter and cover with clingfilm. Microwave on full power for 2 1/2 minutes.
-Heat a few tbsp oil in another frying pan to fairly hot then turn down to low. Crack the egg into a small bowl or saucer. Slide it from the bowl into the pan. Cook for a few minutes until the white is set. Spoon the hot oil over the top of the yolk until it reaches the way you like it.
– Brush or spray your portobello mushrooms with oil and then microwave for 2 minutes and test, microwave in 1 minute blocks until cooked. (Ours took 4 minutes.)
– If necessary give the beans another minute in the microwave to get them piping hot again.
– Everything is ready when the sausages are nicely browned all over and cooked through, the eggs are set, the bacon is soft with crispy edges, the mushroom is tender, the bread is a light golden brown and the beans are hot!
– Plate up and eat!
This “recipe” of course is open to as much variation as you want to give it. Don’t like something? Leave it out. Like your eggs scrambled? Scramble them! Only got little sliced mushrooms? Pan fry them in a small saucepan in a little butter. It’s your breakfast, enjoy it!
This was the veggie option for the party. I made it in the slow cooker so that I could throw it together and leave it and then serve from the slow cooker and it would still be hot. It could easily become non-veggie by using minced beef instead of veggie mince but brown it in a frying pan first then proceed as below. Essentially this is just my chilli con carne recipe done a bit differently.
500g veggie mince
2 onions, chopped
2x400g tins chopped tomatoes
2x400g tins red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp tomato puree
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp chilli powder
2 tbsp bisto granules made up with 200ml water
1 tbsp sugar
– Basically throw everything but the kidney beans into the slow cooker.
– Give it a stir to mix it up well.
– Add the beans and stir gently.
– Put the lid on and cook in the slow cooker for 8 hours on low.
We eat these a fair bit in our family and now I have proved that they make a decent party food. Not the most graceful of foods to eat I’ll admit but so long as your not too precious about it and just get stuck in it’s a great food!
Serves 4 (I doubled it for the party)
3 chicken breasts, sliced into chunks
1 large onion, diced
1 chilli, chopped
1 tbsp ground corriander
1 tbsp fresh corriander, chopped
4 tbsp lime juice
2 bell peppers, sliced into chunks
1 pack of tortilla wraps
– Put the chicken, onion, chilli, corriander and lime juice in a bowl and set aside to marinate for at least 1 hour, preferably longer.
– About 15-20 minutes before you want to eat heat a little oil in a very large frying pan (I used a paella pan here.)
– Add the marinated mixture, if a lot of liquid in the bottom of the bowl leave this out.
– Cook, stirring regularly until the chicken is cooked then add the peppers and the reserved juice.
– Keep cooking on a relatively high heat until the chicken just starts to char. (If using a strong chilli keep the extractor fan on as the chilli smoke can get to you!)
– Microwave your tortilla wraps as you need them for about 30 seconds (1minute for a whole pack).
– Make up the wraps as you like. Standard order is lettuce, fajita mix, salsa and creme fraiche then squeeze lime juice on top.
The best way to fold them is to place the filling along the centre but only go 2/3 along. Then fold up the remaining 1/3 over the filling and wrap the two sides over the top. Then eat! It makes a handy little pouch so you’re not dropping stuff all over yourself… well, if you’re careful!
At least I think that’s what the recipe called it. I kept the name but altered the recipe a fair bit. The idea of it was basically summery flavours in the depths of winter but these days that’s not so odd I guess! Who knows what you call it in the summer! It made a delicious dinner anyway and only took about 30 minutes to make. It even kept warm very well as dinner was delayed by another 30 minutes. I had everything ready by 8pm then kept the pasta covered with a tea towel in a warm oven and reheated the sauce and put it together when everyone was there.
4 chicken breasts either whole or in strips*
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
~200g baby plum tomatoes, halved
200g soft cheese
~400ml creme fraiche
1 tbsp grated hard cheese/parmesan
~6 fresh basil leaves, shredded
2 salad tomatoes, sliced
pasta to serve
– Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and cook the chicken until just browned.
– Get your pasta going.
– Push the chicken to one side and add the garlic, fry in the space for a minute then stir through the chicken.
– Add the halved tomatoes and cook for one minute.
– Add the soft cheese, creme fraiche, hard cheese and parmesan.
– Stir until combined. If it seems a little thick add a little water from the pasta.
– Grill the tomato slices until just starting to blacken in places.
– Serve on top of pasta garnishing with the sliced tomatoes.
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!