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.

Mastering the basics: How to feed your Christmas Cake

Congratulations you took up the challenge and made your own Christmas cake. Now you just have to “feed” it until you are ready to eat or decorate the cake.

If you are like I was the first time I made a fruit cake, you might be a bit confused about how to feed your Christmas cake. Don’t worry though, it is an easy procedure and only takes about 1 minute every two weeks. Just follow the simple steps below and you won’t go far wrong.

  • Choose your feeding alcohol; in the past I have used dark rum, Brandy, Spiced rum, and amaretto. However, you can use any kind of alcohol as long as it isn’t creamy.
  • Poke several holes in your cake using a skewer or cocktail stick.
  • Every week or two pour a tablespoon or two of your feeding liquor onto your cake. I use a pastry brush to lightly spread the alcohol around to ensure an even spread. Some people I know also flip the cake each feeding, but I have never bothered.
  • Once your cake is fed wrap it in a layer of baking parchment and foil.
  • Store your cake in an air tight container.
  • Stop feeding your cake a week before decorating to give it time to dry.

Mastering the basics: how to line a cake tin like a professional

This weekend I am baking a Christmas cake so I have plenty of time to feed it up with booze before the big day. The hardest part of my cake recipe is lining the tin so that my cake is protected during baking… And so it comes effortlessly out of the tin.

To make this process easier, I always review a couple of handy YouTube videos to remind me how to easily and effectively line my tin.

The following videos are the best methods I have come across.

If you have any sure-fire methods of lining a tin, please share them in the comments below.

The Stress Free Christmas Dinner Plan; The Timetable

You’ve completed your menu, made your list, checked it twice and filled your refrigerator, cupboards and freezer to the max. Life is peachy, all you have to do is wait for the big day and cook away… right?

Perhaps if you are a Christmas dinner veteran, very lucky, or super organised you could get away with it. If however, you are like me, than it is better to quickly jot down a timetable, to make sure everything runs to plan. Afterall, the last thing you need is the stress of your little ones asking over and over if dinner is ready on Christmas day, because you forgot to put the roast potatoes in the oven.

Of course I am not saying you have to get out a clipboard and a stopwatch, my timetable is pretty basic, but it works. I simply decide (or am told) what time dinner is to be served and then work backwards. Then I add an extra half hour to cover any mishaps, and I end up with something that looks like this:

Continue reading “The Stress Free Christmas Dinner Plan; The Timetable”

Top tips for Christmas: how to cook perfect brussels sprouts

In many parts of the world it is traditional to eat Brussel sprouts on Christmas Day. I am not sure why (probably just because they are at their best this time of the year), but for me it was one tradition that I was sure was some sort of culinary repentance exercise (eat your sprouts and all will be forgiven for telling Santa you’ve been good all year when we all know you’ve had naughty episodes like everyone else).

Then a few years ago I was drafted in to prepare Christmas dinner at our house, so not to break with tradition I put them on the menu, and as a cook of some culinary standards, I make it a practice of mine, never to put anything on somebody’s plate that I wouldn’t eat myself. So I did what I always do, I searched the internet to find the perfect sprout recipe to lessen the pain of eating those dreaded tiny cabbages. In the end I chose a Brussel Sprout Gratin recipe, which pretty much masked that I was eating a sprout in the first place.

Last year however, I made a simple Brussel sprouts and bacon recipe, which was a revelation, because it was with that simple combination that I discovered that it isn’t sprouts that I don’t like, it is bad cooks, who insist on boiling the little green gems to a soggy bitter end.

So to prevent you from being the bearer of bad sprouts I have set off on a journey through cyberspace to find you a video to show how to cook the perfect Christmas Brussel sprouts… And who knows it may even be the video that takes you from the bearer of bad veg to the savior of the humble sprout.