Each month we ask our foodies for their expert tips and ideas for our kitchen queries. What do you do to get ahead for Christmas?
Wondering how to get ahead this Christmas? Our expert tips will help.
Plum pudding is a Christmas highlight for me. I start as early as I can and fill a large airtight container with dried fruit (I like a mix of raisins, currants and sultanas) and rum. Every week, I give it a stir and more rum. I try to do this for a few weeks – if I’m super organised, I’ll do it for about 3 months. The fruit becomes plump and boozy, perfect for a knock-your-socks-off pudding. I always make the pudding a good 3-4 weeks ahead. The result is amazing!
I find it’s the little things that help the most at Christmas time. Mince pies are a must for us, so I make the sweet shortcrust pastry up to 1 month in advance and store it, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the freezer. Baked mince pies will keep in an airtight container for 4 days... ours are always gobbled up before then! I come from Queensland, so we often have a frozen ice-cream Christmas pudding or one with a tropical Aussie twist. It can be made 1 month in advance and frozen. Just top with cream or ganache on the day of serving.
I start clearing out my freezer in November, just so I can fill it up again! Vast amounts of rum balls, chocolate truffles and fudge are a must in my family. They get made in late November, stored in containers and frozen. We start eating them almost immediately – straight from the freezer (don’t judge us!). Making breadcrumbs is a mundane Christmas chore that I like to do ahead of time. I make a big batch for stuffing and store in the freezer. Homemade Christmas gifts are another good thing to start early. If apricots are already in season and looking plump, I make chutney (reserving a jar for the Christmas ham). This year, I think I’ll also make panforte. Wrap well and store in the fridge for up to a month.
As soon as local fresh cherries come into season (late Oct/early Nov), I make a cherry pickle. Just a standard one using white wine vinegar and sugar, but adding lots of Christmas flavours like ground ginger, allspice and cinnamon. If it’s made well in advance, the flavours will be developed in time for Christmas day. Because it is a really busy time at the restaurant, I like to have sauces like salsa verde, chimichurri or salsa roja in the fridge and herbed butter in the freezer for entertaining, as barbecues are all I have time for. It’s also not a bad idea to make a rich chicken stock and freeze it ahead of time to use as the base for your Christmas gravy.
I start collecting recycled glass jars, ribbons and cards to wrap and label my homemade gifts. I also stock up on baking supplies at this time of year, so I can bake whenever I have some free time. Biscuits make lovely presents. I usually make up batches of biscuit dough, roll into balls and freeze on a tray, then transfer to snap-lock bags once frozen. When it’s time to start gifting, I can bake the biscuits straight from the freezer, then pop them in a jar, add some ribbon and a card. They’re wonderfully fresh and ready to go!
moist and boozy