I have been cooking Christmas dinner for the past six years, from humble beginnings for a handful of people in my University halls to the Real Deal on Christmas Day for my family. I have made mistakes, burnt things, allowed others to go cold, forgotten the gravy, but ultimately everyone ended up getting fed. Christmas dinner feels daunting, particularly if you're cooking for a larger-than-normal group of people, but I know that you can do it, even if you're a novice cook. I'm going to be sharing a few tips and tricks over the next few weeks for getting your Christmas dinner in tip-top shape on the big day, things that I have learnt by trial and error so you don't have to. Once I've told you all I know, I'll also be sharing my ultimate guide to Christmas dinner, including exact timings and shopping lists so you can be as prepared as possible for the big day so be sure to check back next Monday if you're interested! Ready? Let's do this!
I'm going to start by talking about meat. For many people, this is the key to Christmas dinner, the centrepiece that makes the whole thing worthwhile. It's often the trickiest thing to get right, and the most expensive thing to get wrong, so nailing this is important. I'm going to give you my best secret right now, in this post, to make sure you get it right: Buy A Slow Cooker.
It's as simple as that. Ditch the turkey (does anyone even like turkey?) and pick up a joint of beef from the butchers. Yes, it's slightly less traditional, but if you're new to the Christmas dinner game then it will save you hours of worry. Plus, you won't have to eat dry turkey. You can thank me later. This beef could not be simpler or more delicious, cooked in red wine and herbs until tender and melt-in-the-mouth, you pretty much bung everything in the slow cooker and forget about it. It frees you up valuable oven space so you can juggle your side dishes and roast potatoes with ease, and the resulting juices will also make a spectacular gravy with very little effort. Tell me that's not a win-win?
The only downside is the long cooking time; if you usually eat your main meal at lunch time it may mean setting your alarm extra early to turn on the slow cooker in time. It can be done, I promise - just leave everything ready to go in the slow cooker the night before so the meat can marinate and then roll out of bed to press the on switch at the appropriate time. Plus, you can have a sneaky look to see if Santa's been before everyone else...