A Perfect Christmas Doesn’t HaveTo Be Perfect

I am a big fan of Christmas! It is easily my favourite time of the year, and I must do a good job of organising and cooking and hosting because this is the fourth time in the last five years I have been asked to host Christmas dinner (the only year my services were not requested was in 2015, though I was originally supposed to host but sadly my Mom died on the 17th of December). I think the reason I am always called on to host at Christmas is my almost zen-like sense of calm and organisation… Or maybe it is just my fully stocked bar; who knows?

My Yoda-ish sense of calm however isn’t something that is hard-wired into my personality. It is the result of years of chaotic holidays, filled with the mini-disasters that everyone has, and my taking simple steps to ensure they never happen again.

So this year, I shall once again post some steps to ensure you have a fun and relaxing Christmas.

Domestic Dad’s Guide to Christmas Bliss.

  1. REMEMBER Christmas is just another day of the year, but with added presents, and a bit more indulgent food. The real magic of Christmas doesn’t come from perfection, it comes from “togetherness”. When the red mist begins to decent, take a moment to remember that you want it to be perfect, because you are surrounded by the people in your life that you love the most, then maybe have a glass of your favourite beverage, and go back to making memories.
  2. PLANNING is key. Make a menu well in advance, collect any special requests and make a plan. Remember to check that you have the room in the fridge for everyone’s delights, check cooking times, and make sure you have room in the oven and on the stove to make your menu in time for dinner.
  3. LISTS make everything go to plan. There is nothing worse than waking on Christmas day to realise you have forgotten to buy carrots, or pototoes.
  4. GET AHEAD. Try cooking as much as you can in advance and freezing it, ready for Christmas day. I have already made and frozen my Cranberry relish, and Stuffing Balls, and my Christmas cake has been maturing for a couple of weeks. I have also set-up a reminder on my phone to alert me to get them out of the freezer in time to be defrosted, ready for heating up on the big day.
  5. RECRUIT help. Get the kids to peel the vegetables and lay the table, ask guests to bring their favourite dish, or just ask for a hand in the kitchen from your guests. Most people actually don’t mind helping out.
  6. SET UP a drinks and snacks bar and let people help themselves. After all it is your Christmas as well, so you don’t want to spend it working as a waiter.
  7. ALLOW the kids to eat what they want for dinner. If they don’t want sprouts don’t force them, it will only cause unnecessary stress.
Advertisements

Another Chilli Recipe

Since I was a teenager I have been on the search for the world’s best chilli con carne recipe. My idea of the best chilli is that it is hot enough to give me a warming glow, but not so hot that you lose touch with your other senses. It has to be meaty and chunky, and it has to have some beans to make me think that I am being “healthy”.

I am not sure if I have found it yet, but I think I am getting closer with this fabulous chilli recipe.

Chilli Con Carne

  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Cooking time: 45- 60 minutes in the oven; 3 hours in a slow cooker
  • Skill level: easy
  • Serves: 2-4

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 250g minced beef
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 green, and 1 pepper
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 small bird’s eyes chillies, chopped (you can use other chillies at your own risk)
  • few splashes of Tobasco sauce (or other chilli sauce)
  • 1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • handful of fresh coriander chopped
  • 1 x 400g can of red kidney beans

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid and brown the minced beef. Add the onion, peppers, Worcestershire sauce, chillies, tobasco, tomatoes and tomato purée and beans. Crumble in the stock cube, and add the juice of the lime and the ground cumin, then add a little of the chopped coriander.
  2. Give it a good mix, then cover the pan and allow to simmer for 45-60 minutes, or a few hours in a slow cooker.
  3. Add lots more chopped coriander before serving on top of some rice or with some tortilla chips… Don’t forget an iced cold beer as my beverage of choice for the big people or some milk for the little ones.

Cherry and Pistachio Stuffing

Growing up in Canada my mom always made a traditional stuffing that you shoved into the backside of your turkey, and for me it was the best part of Christmas dinner. Here in England though stuffing is a completely different creature all together, but no less delicious. This recipe is made in the traditional English style, but has a fruity modern twist that should delight even the most fussy eater in your house.

The best part of this recipe though is that you can make it now and freeze it. Just remember to take it out of the freezer a couple of days before so they have time to completely defrost.

  • Skill level: easy
  • Preparation time: 15 minutes
  • Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 red onion, finely diced. (see video)
  • 450g/1lb sausage meat (if you can’t find sausage meat, just pick your favourite sausage and remove them from their skins)
  • 175g/6oz fresh white breadcrumbs
  • zest 1 lemon
  • zest 1 orange
  • 100g/4oz shelled pistachios
  • 100g/4oz dried sour cherries (or dried cranberries)
  • 1 large egg
  • small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • drizzle of olive oil

Method

  1. Melt the butter in a small pan, add the onion and cook until soft, and then leave to cool.
  2. Roughly chop the pistachios (I used a food processor and then just pulsed them a few times).
  3. Mix the ingredients, except for the olive oil. The best way to do this is by hand. Once mixed roll the stuffing into 24 walnut sized balls and put on a baking tray. or in a freezer proof container if freezing.
  4. Drizzle the stuffing with olive oil and cook at 220°C/Gas 7 on the middle shelf of your oven for 20 minutes before moving to the top shelf for 10 additional minutes.

These stuffing balls can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or put in the freezer for 2 months, but remember to take them out of the freezer a few days before Christmas and thoroughly defrost in the refrigerator before cooking.

Pan Haggerty

Winter is truly taking hold here in Britain. The evenings are darker and there is a biting chill in the air. Personally, I love winter because it provides the perfect excuse to spend my evenings wrapped up in a warm blanket with the fireplace blazing, doing nothing but lazing in front of the telly with the kids and the missus. It also provides the perfect atmosphere for consuming some delicious one pot, carb heavy food.

Pan Haggerty is a dish that fits the bill perfectly. Traditionally a dish made to feed the coal miners in Northeastern Britain it is a dish perfect for taking the chill out of your bones, and for eating from large bowls in front of the television.

pan haggerty

Pan Haggerty

  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Cooking time: 25 minutes
  • Serves: 4-6
  • Skill level: easy

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 250g bacon rashers
  • 6 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 onions, peeled and sliced
  • 5 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • 150g cheddar cheese, grated

Method

  1. Using a high sided frying pan, heat the oil and fry the bacon until it just begins to crisp. Remove the bacon and set aside. Leave the bacon grease in the pan.
  2. Place a layer of potatoes over the bottom of the pan. Don’t worry about presentation, just toss it in. Add a layer of onion, a layer of carrots and a layer of bacon. Repeat the layers, finishing with a layer of potatoes across the top.
  3. Pour the chicken stock over the pan, and cover. (If your pan doesn’t have a lid, just cover it over with a layer of foil.
  4. Leave to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes and carrots are tender.
  5. When everything is cooked, heat the grill. Uncover the pan and top with the cheese, then pop it under the grill until everything is golden and bubbling.
  6. Serve in bowls with some lovely crusty bread.

 

Old Skool Pork Chops

Pork chops are still one of the cheapest cuts of meat available. The trouble with them is that they are so boring without a little work.

I think one of the easiest things to do to add a bit of flavour is to pair them up with their old friend the apple… And if you are feeling very daring, some cheese.

FB_IMG_1509732844280.jpg

Old Skool Pork Chops

  • Preparation time: less than five minutes
  • Cooking time: around 15 minutes
  • Serves: 4
  • Skill level: easy

Ingredients

  • 4 decent sized pork chops
  • 2 good eating apples, cored and cut into 8 wedges
  • knob of butter
  • handful of fresh sage leaves
  • 100 g strong cheese (stilton, taleggio, or strong cheddar)

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6
  2. Season the chops with some black pepper and salt, then pour a glug of cooking oil into a pan. Carefully put your chops in the pan and cook until golden brown (3-4 minutes on each side).
  3. When the chops are nearly done, place them on an oiled baking tray. Add the apple wedges and a knob of butter to the pan and fry them until golden.
  4. Place a couple of apple wedges on each chop. Dress the sage leaves in a little olive oil and top each apple stack. If you are using the cheese top each chop with a knob of cheese. Place the chops in the oven for 5 minutes or so until everything is golden and melted.
Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s, Cook with Jamie