So, we’re onto our sixth 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 and now here’s the next one –
Tip #6 – Freeze-ahead roast potatoes taste (and look) better than fresh ones.
There is a huge tradition for roast dinners in the UK. The Sunday Roast is an institution, but to be honest, it was never really a big thing in our family. And that’s probably the reason why a roast is not something that I do very often. There’s too much last minute preparation for me – too much time in a hot and steamy kitchen, too much washing up afterwards.
And in the same vein, the traditional Christmas turkey with all the trimmings is not what I want to be cooking on such a special day. I want to enjoy Christmas day, not be a slave to it.
When the children were younger, we would enjoy a buffet style Christmas lunch so that we could spend those precious hours with our family and not hidden away in the kitchen. I liked that – it worked well.
But moving to Dubai made it even easier. Only in Dubai could you buy ‘Christmas Dinner in a Box’ – my grandmother would turn in her grave! It really is genius and good value too. The big hotels and restaurants with big ovens to match, prepare your turkey (and the trimmings too if you choose) and you collect at your chosen time and go home to enjoy. Maybe it isn’t ‘only in Dubai’? Perhaps hotels and restaurants do this the world over? Whatever – it’s inspired.
In order to avoid the inevitable debate about who will do the collection on Christmas day we’ve developed a family tradition of going to the beach on Christmas morning, when EVERYBODY has to go into the sea. It’s a bit on the chilly side of comfortable (if you are a wussy desert dweller like me), so charging in to the water … and charging straight out again, is the only way. And the ‘Christmas Dinner in a Box’ hotel is right next door so it’s the perfect pit stop en route home.
The turkey is always sensational – the trimmings less so. They’re fine … just not quite how you’d make them yourself.
Incidentally, when I do cook my own turkey I’ll follow Delia’s approach or sometimes Nigella’s but this year it’s coming in a box and I’ll supplement with some trimmings of my own – all prepared well in advance of course, so as to minimise the effort on the day.
No self-respecting Christmas lunch is complete without delicious, crispy, golden roast potatoes – and did you know that you can do all the messy preparation (peel, par boil, shake in the pan, wash up) beforehand and freeze the spuds all ready to roast? I bet you like the sound of that.
I can imagine that there may be a few doubters amongst you, so I got all scientific with a ‘Blind Taste Test’ – I need no encouragement for such pastimes! So let’s get started. There were 3 contenders –
- Freshly roasted
- Par boiled then frozen before roasting
- Roasted then frozen before reheating
The tasting was a family affair and the outcome was unanimous …. DRUM ROLL, DRUM ROLL ….
In 3rd place were the ‘freshly roasted’ – SHOCK HORROR! The potato inside was less fluffy and tasted more like a baked potato. I would never have imagined it.
In 2nd place was the ‘roasted then frozen before reheating’ – these are the least hassle on Christmas day for sure. They tasted almost as good as the potatoes in 1st place but looked like they had been reheated.
But in 1st place was the ‘par boiled then frozen before roasting’. Looked amazing, tasted amazing. RESULT! I’ll never do them any other way now.
No tricks required – this is easy stuff. Just choose some nice potatoes – something like a Maris Piper that will give a gorgeous fluffy inside – and find yourself some time before the festive frenzy begins.
Step 1 – Peel the potatoes and cut into big pieces.
Step 2 – Par boil for 7 minutes then drain well before returning to the pan. Sprinkle over some flour. Put the lid on the pan and shake them around a bit to rough up the edges and to spread the flour around.
Step 3 – Cover a baking tray with baking parchment and lay the potatoes out on it making sure that they don’t touch.
Step 4 – Put the tray into the freezer until the potatoes are frozen solid then put them into a large plastic bag in the freezer until you are ready to use them.
Step 5 – Roast them whenever you are ready … goose fat is my preference. Straight from the freezer is fine.
But perhaps the most important part of this tip should be to make loads. Loads and loads and loads. You can never have too many roast potatoes – especially when they’re as little fuss as these.
So that’s another ingredient for a gorgeous, no fuss Christmas lunch. Prepare to be converted …
- 2.5kg Maris Piper potatoes, or similar
- a pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 5 tbsp goose fat, or sunflower oil
- Peel the potatoes then cut into large pieces.
- Bring a large pan of slightly salted water to the boil and tip the prepared potatoes into it. Bring back to the boil and cook for 7 minutes.
- Drain really well and then return to the pan, sprinkling over the flour.
- Place a lid on the pan and give it a couple of really good shakes to distribute the flour and to rough up the edges a bit.
- At this stage the potatoes can be frozen on a couple of baking trays lined with baking parchment. Place the trays in the freezer and when the potatoes are solid, tip them into a large plastic bag to store in the freezer until you need them. I wouldn't freeze them beyond 1 month.
- When you are ready to roast the potatoes, heat the oven to 190ºC, 375ºF (gas mark 5).
- Spoon the goose fat onto a large roasting tray and leave to heat on the top shelf of the oven for 5 minutes. Now carefully tip the frozen potatoes into the hot fat. There is no need to toss them around in the fat at this stage.
- Roast for 20 minutes, then turn up the oven to 220ºC, 425ºF (gas mark 7). At this stage, carefully turn the potatoes around in the hot fat to ensure that they are all covered in oil and are evenly browning.
- Now roast for another 30 minutes, turning once. The potatoes should be golden and crisp when they are ready.