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Get ahead with Christmas cooking

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Roast potatoes

If you’re entertaining over Christmas there can be a lot of work involved in preparing everyone’s favourite festive dishes. Here are a few tips and tricks to lighten the load and help you get ahead with the Christmas cooking, and also to think about the most energy efficient way to go about preparations.

The freezer is your friend!

The following elements of Christmas dinner all freeze really well, and can often be cooked when you have the oven on anyway to maximise energy efficiency:

  • Braised red cabbage: see a festive recipe here.
  • Cauliflower cheese: just make the sauce a little thicker than usual and it will loosen up when defrosted. If you freeze it in the dish you want to serve it in, you can literally defrost and bake without transferring to another container and save on washing up!
  • Mashed potato: make your mash as usual, put a couple of portions into freezer bags and press down to flatten to about 2cm thickness: this will make for a more efficient use of space in the freezer and very rapid defrosting.
  • Roast potatoes: Par-boiled parsnips and potatoes, once cooled, can be frozen on a baking tray well spaced out. Once frozen take them off the tray and store in a freezer bag or container. Take them out of the freezer the night before and then continue as usual with the oil and seasoning before cooking in the oven on a high heat.

‘Day before’ vegetables

All peeling and chopping of vegetables such as carrots and sprouts can be done in advance. Just store them in a container in the fridge with a little bit of water to stop them drying out overnight.

Pudding prep

Homemade puddings are a real treat, but can often involve quite a few stages. So here are a few ideas to have up your sleeve to reduce the time and effort involved when you’ve got lots of other cooking to do.

  • Meringues: did you know that meringues stay fresh in an airtight container for up to a month! They make such a quick desert when paired with whipped cream or yoghurt and fruit so are very handy to have on hand.
  • All in one cakes: You can really reduce the time taken to make up a cake mix by preparing the dry ingredients in advance. Weigh out your flour, sugar, baking powder and flavour (e.g. cocoa powder, spices etc) and keep in a container labelled with the quantity of eggs and butter required to complete the mix. Then when you want a cake your prep time will be significantly reduced and you will be ready to simply mix and bake.
  • Spiced biscuits: spiced biscuits are great to celebrate all the traditional Christmas spices, so why not make a batch to have to hand if you have visitors popping round for tea or coffee. You can make a big batch, and if un-iced will keep really well in an airtight container.
  • Fruit crumble: Crumble mix freezes really well, so make up a batch, portion it up and keep in the freezer. Similarly, you can stew fruit in advance and then all that you need to do on the day you want a crumble is assemble the two and bake!

Energy efficiency

  • Keeping the lids on your pans during cooking uses 10% less energy.
  • If you’re doing a lot of cooking, and the house is full, don’t forget to turn the heating down because you will be generating lots of heat without it!
  • Try to remember to defrost food overnight to avoid the need for using a microwave.
  • Keep your hob clean…stuck on food spills will make the rings less efficient.
  • If you are boiling water to use in cooking, make sure you only fill it with the volume of water you actually need to avoid wasting energy heating up any excess.
  • Turn the oven off before the end of the cooking time – as long as you are not making a very time sensitive dish you can use the residual heat for the last 5 – 15 minutes.