Tips for stress-free Christmas cooking from our senior food experts
At Daylesford we believe that Christmas is about relaxing and sharing food with friends and family.But unfortunately it’s all too easy to be swept away by stress during the festive period.
To help you avoid the negative feelings of pressure to create the perfect picture-book Christmas, we have asked the senior food experts from all areas of Daylesford to share their top tips for anxiety-free cooking at Christmastime.
Our Senior Farms Manager Richard encourages everyone not to stick to any set time that the Christmas meal will be served, to alleviate the strain of a tight deadline and create a bit more breathing space.
Richard also likes to get everyone involved with tasks like laying the table, serving drinks and washing up. Guests are usually happy to help and the final result will be even more special if everyone has played a part.
Our Kitchens Manager Gaven is keen to remind everyone not to stress and to think of Christmas lunch as simply a version of a Sunday roast.
Gaven swears by planning ahead, especially mundane jobs which can done well in advance. Prep vegetables and peel potatoes days before and store them in a bowl in the fridge, covered in cold water (just rinse before cooking).
Red cabbage is a favourite that can also be done days before: simply shred a red cabbage, add a glass or two of red wine, a good slug of port, some grated apple, a little sugar, redcurrant jelly and a splash of balsamic vinegar to balance. This can be left can marinating for a day or two before cooking gently in a large pan on the stove until glossy, slightly sweet and sour with a slight crunch. You can cook this on Christmas Eve and simply reheat for the big lunch.
Our Head Baker Eric advises buying croissants in advance for Christmas morning, and then re-warming them in a fan oven for 5 min at 150 °c. Leave to cool 2-3 min and enjoy them virtually as fresh as straight from the bakery.
If you are having sourdough bread over Christmas, revive it with this trick: warm up a fan oven at 200°c. Place your loaf directly on a rack in the middle of the oven and throw a few ice cubes in a tray at the bottom to create some steam. Re-bake the bread for 8-10minutes and it will seem perfectly fresh too. Be careful while opening the oven or cutting the bread!
For the stollen and stollen bites, dust them with a bit of fresh icing sugar before serving.
Stephen from the Pastry team suggests steaming your Christmas pudding prior to having lunch, so all that is needed is a quick reheat prior to serving (with Daylesford brandy butter – a great shortcut!). Again, this helps to create more flexibility in the day – often people need a bit of a break and even some fresh air and a walk after the main course, before they can manage sweets.
Our Head Gardener Jez said his essential tip is to get the children out of the kitchen! Of course, his Christmas table is a bounty of seasonal, organic vegetables from the Market Garden and he encourages others to include underrated, easy-to-prepare ingredients at their best this time of year. For example, a dish of mashed swede is delicious and adds interest to the spread.
Our Head Cheesemaker Peter Kindel says his key ingredients for a stress free Chrsitmas are “Wine in hand, cheese on the table and a fire in the fireplace!”. He’s absolutely right – remind yourself that even if things do not go exactly to plan, your guests will be more than content.