If the marathon task of cooking Christmas lunch has fallen to you, then here’s how to stay calm and keep things on track.
When you plan your Christmas feast, it’s a good idea to work out what time you want to eat and work backward from there. Then make yourself a timetable and pre-prepare as much as you can. The more prepared you are, the more you can actually socialise and relax with your guests on the day.
What’s For Lunch?
Planning your menu gives you plenty of time to sort out ingredients. Get what can be bought in advance, and figure out when you’ll buy your perishables. Don’t leave it too late as the shops tend to sell out quickly closer to the time.
Do you want to go classic and make turkey or are you feeling adventurous? Roast chicken, leg of lamb, pork roast, or duck? A mixture of dishes? Perhaps you’re in the mood for something truly South African, in which case a braai might be more your vibe.
Be smart with your choice of starters. Pick something that will keep the hungry hordes semi-satisfied until the main event, but that won’t keep you confined to the kitchen all day. If anything can be made in advance, make it the day before.
What about sides? Let’s be honest, the only side worth making for Christmas lunch is roast potatoes (to soak up all the gravy). Luckily, potatoes can be half-prepared the day before by peeling them and keeping them in a pot of water. Then choose a few light, easy salads to get them greens in. A South African Christmas in summer means you probably don’t want your meal to be too heavy.
When you plan your Christmas feast, be clever and choose a dessert that can be made ahead of time. This way, when you’re ready to serve, it’s a simple case of dishing up and presenting to your guests. Frozen puddings, mousses, and ice creams are all great pudding ideas for a stress-free dessert.
What Time Is Lunch?
If you’re opting for a more traditional British feast, remember that your turkey will need two to three hours, plus resting time, so make sure you plan to be done at least an hour before you serve. A general rule of thumb is to start the turkey about five hours before you want to eat, and four hours before guests arrive. This ensures that you have some wiggle room to finish the cooking, and it will stay warm.
Some Helpful Tips
- Don’t plan to roast everything. Your oven isn’t big enough and Eskom will most likely leave you in the lurch. If it can be served cold, do that instead.
- If you’re having a roast, get your meat done first and out to rest and par-cook anything you plan to roast on the stove. Roast potatoes will only take about 30 minutes if they’ve been par-cooked. They can even be parboiled and frozen up to one month ahead!
- On the 23rd, make space in your fridge for all the dishes that will need to be made in advance. Throw out anything that’s expired and give the shelves a quick wipe.
- The night before… defrost anything frozen in the fridge. Make the stuffing for the turkey and make sure your dishwasher is empty, ready to receive the onslaught of dishes.
- Don’t be scared to delegate. It’s ok to ask for help, so if there’s a dish that you can assign to someone else, do so. You’ll be that much more relaxed on the day.
- What about the bubbly? Buy all of your booze online a few weeks ahead of time and have it delivered to your door. Ensure that you get enough ice (on the 23rd) to keep your drinks cold.
Above all, remember to have fun and enjoy the day. It’s your Christmas, too.
Compiled by Food and Decor Editor, Claire Badenhorst
As the food and decor editor of Woman&Home, Claire enjoys nothing more than eating great food in beautiful locations. In a perfect world, she would travel for a living and have a Lord of the Rings marathon every weekend.