So, we’re onto our eighth tip from –
12 Tips for a gorgeous, no fuss, foodie Christmas
Tip #1 was all about the cake.
Tip #2 was about making a few meals to stash in the freezer for over Christmas
Tip #3 was the joy of handmade food gifts
Tip #4 was the wonders of freezing uncooked mince pies so that they are ready at the drop of a hat
Tip #5 was a prepare-ahead alternative dessert if Christmas pudding just isn’t your thing
Tip #6 was flying the flag for freeze-ahead roast potatoes
Tip #7 was prepare ahead vegetable side dishes and now here’s the next one –
Tip #8 – Make some good choices when you stock up your fridge and cupboards for Christmas, and you’ll always be able to throw together a gorgeous, no fuss spread at the drop of a hat … a Santa hat of course!
Christmas is a time of loving and giving. It’s a time of joy and laughter; it’s a time of family rows and over tired children, but it’s also a time of eating – lots of eating … lots of eating, with one meal often feeling like it runs into the next, especially if you are hosting family and friends.
There’s a danger that we focus so much on Christmas dinner, that we lose sight of the fact that this is actually just one meal – one meal in what could be a week of festive feasts.
I’m guessing that you may have a couple of meals ready and stashed in the freezer – good for you. But if you also make some good choices around the foods to fill your fridge and cupboards, you will always be able to throw together some perfect spreads with the minimum of fuss. We’ll be doing some regular ‘dinner on a plate’ meals but we’ll also do a lot of ‘picnic’ meals in the holiday season. And there’ll be no tartan blankets or threats of rain, we’ll be doing this in the comfort of our own home. In these ‘picnic’ meals, I’ll lay out a whole host of foods on the table ‘picnic style’ and everyone digs in. There’ll be a mix of leftovers and fresh stuff and often quite a collection of condiments too. This is high impact, low effort entertaining and in fact the hardest part is packing all the leftovers away afterwards.
So here’s what I’ll be stocking up on –
Homemade, fresh from the deli or straight from a jar – this is a handy ingredient. It’s a great addition to a picnic food for sharing and will also pimp up a soft white roll stuffed with leftover roasted vegetables and some rocket leaves. And you could also rustle up a dish of pesto pasta – especially if you’re feeding ravenous children.
olives & gherkins
A few colours, a few sizes – perfect. And if you don’t get through as many as you’d imagined, you could always rustle up a Pasta Puttanesca.
Not every holiday meal needs to be fancy, schmancy. Eggs are a wonderful ingredient for ‘on toast’ meals. Cook them as you like them and perhaps add some fried up lardons or a slither or two of smoked salmon if you’re feeling festively fancy. And a few hard boiled eggs in a picnic spread? Delicious.
Sausages (big & small)
Popular with all the family and a perfect addition to a ‘picnic’ spread. Try tossing cooked sausages in a little maple syrup and wholegrain mustard for a tasty (and sticky) change.
Crisps & nuts
Perfect for keeping the crowd happy until the main event but also a bowl of crisps in a spread will help to turn a more grown up selection into something more child friendly. It is Christmas after all.
Hard, soft, blue, orange, ripe, goat’s … this is the time of year when I stock up on cheese. But no matter how adventurous your children are, probably throw a bit of cheddar in there – they’ll undoubtedly thank you for it.
Bread & crackers
I’ll stash a selection of bread and rolls in the freezer and stock up on plenty of crackers too.
Mustard & chutney
We love our mustards and chutneys and they are magical ingredients to transform a meal or a sandwich.
The quickest and easiest and most festive dessert …
Of course, I’ll also have a well-fed Christmas cake, a jar or two of pickled onions, some mince pies (stored in the freezer and ready to bake when I need them) and a box of chocolate tiffin in the fridge.
And I’ll be sure to leave enough space in the fridge for a beautiful, roasted ham done in my favourite styley – cooked in ginger beer and glazed with a punchy, mustardy ginger preserve (thanks Nigella).
This is the perfect alternative when we are all turkeyed out. I’ll cook it most probably on Christmas Eve and it can then sit quite happily in the fridge as we pick away at it. And if you get sick of the sight of it (as hard to imagine as that is), slice or cube the leftovers and freeze them in useful portions for the New Year. Makes me feel hungry just thinking about it …
- 3-4kg boneless gammon joint - you could go bigger but you may not have a pan large enough to fit it
- 4 litres ginger beer or ginger ale
- 350g chunky ginger preserve
- 2 tbsps hot english mustard
- 100g soft dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- Place the gammon in a large pan over the hob and pour the ginger ale or beer over it. You need the ham to be just about covered with liquid, so top it up with water if you need to.
- Bring to the boil, then lower the heat to keep the joint bubbling gently for 3½ hours. Keep an eye on it - you will need to top up the liquid periodically.
- Towards the end of cooking, preheat the oven to 220ºC, 425ºF (gas mark 7).
- Put the chunky ginger preserve, mustard, sugar and ground cloves in a small bowl and mix well.
- After the ham has had its time (you can check that it's ready by inserting a meat thermometer - it should read 71ºC / 160ºF), gently lift it out of the pan and place it in a foil-lined roasting tin. Ignore the advice to line it with foil at your peril - I speak from experience - the tin will be a swine to clean afterwards ...
- Now carefully cut away any string and the skin, leaving behind a thin layer of fat.
- Spread on the glaze and place in the hot oven for 20 minutes until browned and gorgeous. Slice thinly and enjoy.