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Tips On How To Cook The Perfect Christmas Dinner

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      27.12.2008 18:26
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      Enjoy yourself, it's your christmas too!

      Well this year was a first for me in that the family came to MY house this year, although luckily not for dinner, rather to partake in refreshments afterward! With this in mind the preperations for Chrismas lunch started early!
      30th November: Trip to Iceland, buy party food, frozen turkey, fizzy drinks, and a few cases of beer ready for the big day!
      Try to squeeze it all in the freezer, end up using Mum's instead.
      23rd December: Trip to large supermarket, purchasing lots of fruit and veg, fresh juices, stuff for sandwiches and all the fresh food needed to get you through christmas. Remember to spend an absolute fortune and buy enough to last you for at least 7 weeks.
      24th December, AM: Get your plan ready for the night, figure out which veg can be prepared early, get the meat out to defrost if necessary, panic that you didn't buy enough food for everyone.
      24th December, PM: Have a few drinks to get you in the mood before you start getting things ready. End up getting sozzled and doing absolutely nothing on your list. But DO dance to Mariah Carey.
      25th December: Get up and open presents after just 3 hours of sleep, drink tea and Coca Cola to wake yourelf up, have a huge fried breakfast of bacon, sausage, egg beans, tomatos and toast to make youself feel better, then settle in front of a Christmas movie with the kids and a selection box.
      Wake up at half past 2 and realise that your guests will be there in 2 hours and you haven't eaten yet. Think 'Oh, sod it', and chuck pizza and garlic bread in the oven instead. Thoroughly enjoy it! Enjoy your party, without getting hot and stuffy in the kitchen and feeling like you wanna crawl into bed.
      Get up on Boxing day, and cook your HUGE dinner then, without the pressure, without feeling like you've been stuck in the kitchen all day, and enjoy every second of it!
      Hopes this helps anyone who feels the pressure at christmas time!

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      22.10.2008 23:26
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      A few tips on cooking turkey

      FROZEN TURKEY

      This should be put into your freezer as quickly as possible after purchase. It can be kept for up to six months after which time it will lose some of it's flavour and texture.

      Birds should not be cooked from frozen, it is imperative the bird is thoroughly defrosted before cooking. The turkey should be defrosted in the fridge although this does take longer. Place it on the bottom shelf and as this ensures it cannot drip onto any other foods. Allow at least 24 hours defrosting for every 4/5 lbs (2/2½ kg) of weight.

      To check it is fully defrosted make sure there are no ice crystals inside, the body is soft and the legs and wings move freely.

      FRESH TURKEY

      This should be bought as late as possible as it should be cooked within two days of purchase. It should be stored in the fridge but be careful it does not contaminate other food.

      At this time of year fridges are usually well stock and room can be a problem. If you own a summer cool box this can be used to store vegetables and drinks (with the exception of dairy products, fruit juices etc.). Alternatively a container of cold water can be used to store unopened bottles of drink.

      COOKING

      It is imperative poultry is cooked properly in order to kill the bacteria which causes food poisoning. To check if it is fully cooked pierce the thickest part of the leg and the juices should run clear - any sign of pink shows it is not cooked properly. If you have a meat thermometer or a temperature probe check that the internal temperature reaches 72ºC. Temperature and time settings for cooking vary from oven to oven.

      The following are approximate cooking times for turkeys in an oven, which is at 180ºC / 350ºF / gas mark 4:

      Size of Turkey Stuffed Turkey Unstuffed Turkey
      8-12 lbs / 3.5 - 5.5kg 3 - 3 ½ hours 2 ¾ - 3 hours
      12-14 lbs / 5.5 - 6.5 kg 3 ½ -4 hours 3 - 3 ¾ hours
      14-18 lbs / 6.5 - 8kg 4- 4 ¼ hours 3 ¾ - 4 ¼ hours
      18-20 lbs / 8 - 9kg 4 ¼ - 4 ¾ hours 4 ¼ - 4 ½ hours
      20-24 lbs / 9 - 11kg 4 ¾ - 5 ¼ hours 4 ½ - 5 hours

      The modern way of thinking seems to be it is best not to stuff the cavity of the bird but to cook the stuffing separately, especially if you are likely to have some left over for another day. Not only does it cook better without stuffing but it also keeps better afterwards. If you are determined to stuff the bird don't overstuff and use the neck cavity only. You will need to allow extra cooking time of approximately 10-15 minutes per lb/450g.

      Any leftover meat should be taken off the bone and placed in a shallow dish and refrigerated. It should be eaten within two days. When reheating ensure it is hot right through (72 deg). It can be used for making Turkey pies or pasties but these should be prepared within 2 days, however, once made can be frozen up to 6 month.


      IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER

      Cooked food that was frozen and then defrosted should not be refrozen

      Remember you should reheat food only once as lukewarm food is perfect for fast growing bacteria.

      Leftover gravy should be re-boiled and eaten within 2 days.

      Store food requiring refrigeration quickly after purchase and do not overstuff your fridge.

      Remember fridges should be kept below 5ºC and freezers below -18ºC.

      Store raw meat, including turkey, on the bottom shelf of the fridge and do not let other food come into contact with raw meat, fish or unwashed vegetables

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        25.12.2002 05:39
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        Seven tips on how to get the perfect Xmas dinner and Xmas day 1. Make sure you switch the gas on the oven on. Without the oven swicthed on it will be disaster 2. Prepare the vegetables and set the turkey in the oven plate. Ready for cooking. Morning will be to hectic 3. Make sure you are organised, write a list down of the stuff need doing. That way thing are less likely to get hectic. 4. If you?ve not made a turkey before, get your Mum or someone to run by the instructions to help you. You best get on the phone if that?s the case 5. Make sure that the turkey fits your oven last Christmas our didn?t and lets just say it was a bit of a disaster. Thankfully our neighbours were good enough to cook if for us, but be careful not all neighbours are as good as ours. 6. Try to not to drink to much as you prepare the meal, otherwise you may end up a bit tipsy and try not to make the gravy to thick. 7. Be prepared for rejection, your children may not like Brussels sprouts!!!!!! Wishing everyone a merry Xmas. I hope your day will run smoothly and if it does then you?ve done well.

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          22.12.2001 06:28
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          When making traditional gravy, remember to save all the meat juices and vegetable water. Traditionally, when mixing them together gravy is formed. Today there are many other gravy powders stocks and condensed cube on the market, so sometimes errors can occur. When preparing for a dinner party there is nothing more annoying when the gravy goes wrong. Below are a few easy fix solutions that may help reduce stress levels and help to make ‘perfect’ gravy. *Burnt the Meat Juices* If you find that some of the meat juices have burnt on the bottom of the roasting pan, then there is a way to save the gravy. Pout the meat juices into on of the pans used to boil the vegetable in. (Remove the vegetables before hand, of course!) The changing of pans will prevent the gravy from having a bitter taste. Alternatively, make the Red Wine and Balsamic Gravy; recipe at the end of this opinion. *Gravy too Thick* If the gravy is too thick then too much flour or corn flour has been added to the liquid. Try adding a little more vegetable water (or if you have run out, tap water) to the gravy. Continue to stir and heat to the correct consistency required. *Gravy to Thin* Continue to cook the gravy if too thin until the liquid has evaporated off. If you add flour at this time, lumps will occur. My advise, if you must add flour is to mix half a tablespoon of flour into a knob of butter to form a smooth paste. Then add to the gravy, stirring continually with a wooden spoon. Boil the gravy to the required consistency. Remember the flour must cook thoroughly to avoid a starchy taste in the gravy. *Gravy with lumps* To avoid lumps, stir in any flour until smooth to the meat juices before adding the vegetable water, using a wooden spoon. If the gravy goes lumpy, you can always strain the solution though a fine sieve. Put the sauce minus the lumps into the pan, and re-h
          eat to eliminate any fine lumps that remain, remembering to stir continuously. *Greasy Gravy Scum* To prevent this problem occurring simmer the gravy using a low heat whilst resting the food. Do not allow the gravy to get cold, as the grease will separate. If you allow gravy to cool the alternative and healthy option is to skim off the fat, which has congealed, on the top. Then reheat the gravy when required and serve immediately. I hope this little tips help you to make perfect gravy. Below is a recipe that is ideal if you do not have meat juices and you wish to make something a little special to impress your guests. **RED WINE AND BALSAMIC GRAVY** This recipe will serve four people. It is an easy gravy to make and yet is very sophisticated. It will impress your guest and yet goes with meat and vegetable dishes alike, so vegetarians like me need not miss out. *Ingredients* 1 teaspoon of Olive Oil 1 chopped medium Onion 2 tablespoons of Soft Brown Sugar 4 tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar Half a bottle (500mls) of Red Wine ½ a pint (300mls) of stock e.g. Beef, chicken, lamb, or vegetable. Salt and Pepper for seasoning. *Method* 1) Soften onions in a pan with the oil. When soft gently melt the brown sugar with the onions on a low heat. This will sweeten and caramelise the onions. Do NOT burn! 2) Turn up the heat, add the Balsamic Vinegar, and cook for two minutes. 3) Add the wine to the pan along with the stock. 4) Boil to reduce and thicken the gravy to 2/3 original quantity. 5) Season to taste with salt and pepper. 6) Pour into a gravy boat and serve immediately.

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            14.12.2001 20:53
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            • "you are all motherfuckers"

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              03.12.2001 08:50
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              A few years ago, I found myself "indisposed" over Christmas. To be more precise, confined to the sofa with one leg stuck in the air throughout the entire holiday period, leaving Mr nikkisly and my father jointly responsible for cooking the Christmas Dinner. Between them they did all the necessary shopping - separately. They each bought a joint of beef and several pounds of Stilton cheese. No vegetables or potatoes, no crackers - either the kind that go bang, or the kind that go with a surplus of Stilton. Not even a Christmas pudding! Their combined efforts in the kitchen produced a very non-traditional Christmas Dinner (not to mention vast quantities of black smoke and some very unseasonal bad language). However, it also gave them a valuable insight into the amount of effort that goes into producing 'the perfect Christmas' year after year and, most importantly, allowed me to lower my standards somewhat for subsequent Christmases. Because, I can honestly say that it was the most stress free Christmas I have ever experienced. There were no expectations and therefore no one was surprised or disappointed when things didn't turn out a la Delia Smith. We had sufficient time on Christmas Day to relax and enjoy opening our presents without disappearing into the kitchen every three minutes to rescue something that was either boiling over or boiling dry. We didn't over indulge and consequently spend the afternoon and evening either with chronic indigestion or asleep. When all's said and done, Christmas Dinner is only a meal. It's a glorified Sunday roast, the kind that people rustle up every week without a second thought. The only way that Christmas Dinner differs is in the amount of pressure that the cook feels to get it right. The first step is careful planning. Round about now, you should be thinking about your meat if you're planning a carnivorous Christmas - making sure that your turkey, beef or whatever you're
              having is ordered, either from your local butcher, farm shop or supermarket and getting confirmation of the order in writing. About a week before the big day, take a quiet hour with a pen and paper to plan everything in more detail. Look at your invited guests - are any of them vegetarian or do they have other special dietary requirements? Decide on your timetable for the day. Do you need to fit the meal around attending church, waiting for visitors to arrive from afar or even watching a special television programme? Plan to serve Dinner at a particular time and, if you like, make up a timetable. Step two involves yet more planning and more writing things down. Decide on your menu. Most people consume a whole week's calorie requirements on Christmas Day (and frequently suffer the consequences of excessive eating and drinking) so don't prepare vast quantities of food. In the unlikely event of your guests feeling hungry after leaving the table, they will have the perfect excuse to fill up on chocolates, nuts, dates and the sort of assorted goodies that you find lying around the house in abundance over the festive season. Make a detailed shopping list, course by course, making absolutely sure that you have all the ingredients necessary for your chosen starter, main course and pudding. Check things like custard powder, sugar, stock cubes, foil and of course all the basics like bread, milk, eggs, coffee and tea. At the same time, look at the Christmas table. Do you need tablecloths, serviettes, crackers or candles? Do you have enough wineglasses, crockery and cutlery for all your invited guests? Do you remember where the carving knife and fork are? Decide on wine and, of course, non-alcoholic alternatives for children, drivers and teetotallers. And begin to clear space in your fridge and freezer. I usually do all my food shopping on 23rd December, as early as possible in the morning to avoid the crowds. Then, on Christmas Eve, I do a
              s much preparation in advance as I possibly can, delegating jobs whenever possible. If I am using a frozen turkey, I place it somewhere out of reach of the cat to thoroughly defrost. Then, my next job is to prepare the sauces. Cranberry sauce is made by boiling fresh cranberries in orange juice with a generous dash of port (optional) until a thick, gloopy consistency is achieved. I then sweeten with sugar to taste, place the sauce in a sauceboat and refrigerate. Bread sauce involves gently boiling half a finely chopped onion in milk to which a bay leaf, a few cloves and a grating of fresh nutmeg has been added. Once the onion has softened, I remove the cloves and bay leaf (making sure I've counted the cloves in, then counted them out again) then add pieces of white bread from which I've removed the crusts, stirring well. Again, when I have a thick, gloopy sauce, I stick it in a sauceboat in the fridge. In the afternoon, I prepare all the vegetables. (I try to cook a variety of vegetables, allowing only a small quantity of each per person.) I peel and slice the carrots, cut crosses into the bottom of my Brussels sprouts and broccoli and scrub my new potatoes. I then place them all into a steamer, in a saucepan with about an inch of cold water in the bottom. I start with the potatoes, which take the longest to cook so need to be nearest the steam, followed by the carrots, sprouts then finally the broccoli, pop a lid on the saucepan and forget about it until thirty minutes before I'm ready to serve the meal. I make sure I have white wine chilling and red wine warming to room temperature and even make up a tray with coffee cups, sugar, teaspoons, milk/cream jug, brandy and glasses and after dinner mints. I also lay the table, since Christmas Eve catering is an informal affair at our house - usually a cold buffet of honey roasted gammon with new potatoes and salad, followed by trifle and fresh fruit salad, with mince pies to fill up any odd
              corners. Sorry, I was preparing vegetables before I got distracted by Christmas Eve, wasn't I? I peel the roast potatoes, cut them to size and place them in a bowl of cold water. And I make sure that I have an adequate supply of frozen peas - yes, frozen peas. To my mind they're one of the few vegetables that are as good frozen as fresh. Finally, I make my starter. If it's soup, I leave it in the saucepan overnight, if it's a chilled starter such as melon balls in ginger syrup, I put it in the fridge. (Make sure you turn your fridge up a little to cope with chilling large quantities of food quickly.) If you are planning on serving things like custard or gravy, you can make these in advance too - or at least, half make them. I mix custard powder, sugar and milk in a saucepan, cover it and leave it ready to heat on Christmas Day. I do the same with gravy, mixing stock cubes, cornflour, a little water and a generous dash of port and leaving them in a mixing jug overnight. (Providing you stir both custard and gravy well before heating, they will be fine.) I make up bacon rolls and prick some chipolata sausages with a fork, place them in a shallow ovenproof dish, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate them. And I also make and refrigerate my stuffing balls. On Christmas Day itself, having decided at what time I want to serve dinner, I work backwards from that time according to the weight of my turkey. (So, if I need to cook the turkey for four hours, and I want to eat at 1.00 p.m. the turkey must go into the oven at 9.00 a.m.). I always use my grill pan (which has removable handles) for roasting the Christmas turkey. Having removed the giblets and washed the turkey inside and out, I stick half an onion and half a lemon where the sun don't shine! I place about half an inch of water in the bottom of the grill pan, then brush the turkey all over with a mixture of melted butter and vegetable oil. I then turn the turkey breast side down a
              nd place it on the wire tray in the grill pan, covering it with foil, stick it in the oven and get on with opening my presents. Two hours before D-time, I drain the water from my 'roast' potatoes, stick them in a shallow oven proof dish into which I've placed a little vegetable oil, rolling them so that they are evenly coated and seasoning them with a little sea salt. As I place them in the oven, I check to see that the juices from the turkey haven't overflowed the grill pan. Finally, I place my Christmas pudding in a large saucepan of water, open the kitchen window and leave the pudding to boil away while I get back to the pressies. One hour before D-time, I peel and prepare parsnips and stick them in the Christmas pudding water (which, of course, I've topped up regularly from the kettle throughout) for about 15 minutes. While I'm waiting for them to par-boil, I treat myself to a solitary mug of tea and a crafty ciggie (although you might prefer a glass of wine, either with or without the ciggie - the permutations are endless.) Tea finished, I put the parsnips in with the roast potatoes, coating them well with oil and also place the stuffing balls (in a dish with a little vegetable oil) into the oven. At this stage, I place my sauces on the table to warm to room temperature. 30 minutes before D-time, everyone is banned from the kitchen. I put the chipolata sausages and bacon rolls into the top of the oven, although you can of course grill them at the last moment if you prefer. (They need to be turned once during cooking). If I'm serving a cold starter, I place it on the table to lose the ice cold fridge sensation. Unless I'm serving a sparkling wine, I also open the bottles at this stage. I switch the new potatoes, carrots, sprouts and broccoli on to steam, put plates, vegetable dishes and a carving dish into the bottom of the oven and, while I'm doing that, I remove the turkey. I check that it is cook
              ed, decant the water and juices from the grill pan into the gravy, then turn the turkey breast up and remove the foil for the last twenty minutes of cooking. 10 minutes before D-time, I give my guests a toilet warning - dinner will be ready in five minutes (!) so, if they need to go and wash their hands, now's the time. I heat the soup, (if I'm serving it) and also make up a thermos jug of strong, black coffee which I put onto the prepared tray, filling the milk/cream jug at the same time. I remove the turkey from the oven and place on the meat dish to relax, again making sure the cat is excluded from the kitchen. Then I serve and eat my starter with my guests. That finished, I go back to the kitchen, put the frozen peas onto boil and finish making the gravy which I pour into a serving jug. I arrange stuffing, sausages and bacon rolls around the turkey, then take it, with the heated plates into the dining room where Mr Nikkisly carves. Meanwhile, I place the vegetables onto serving dishes, and carry them from kitchen to dining room, allowing guests to serve themselves as they receive their plates of turkey. Next, the Christmas pudding. If you are making custard, do it now, although we prefer a generous helping of clotted cream which is far less trouble for the cook, so is to be encouraged. I turn the pudding out onto a warmed dish, douse it with brandy and apply a match. I then sprint from kitchen to dining room hopefully before the flames go out. (Experience has taught me that setting fire to your blouse with the backdraft, melting your bra and spending Christmas afternoon in A&E is NOT a good idea!) Finally, we relax in the lounge with our coffee, brandy and after dinner mints. And, as is our Christmas tradition, the cook is excused all washing up duties. Hopefully, by a combination of forward planning and pre-preparation, things should run smoothly, but if by chance they don't, then at least y
              ou will have something to laugh about at Christmases to come. (My mothers' liquid Christmas cake was a talking point for many years.) Relax...enjoy...chill out. (It's just another meal, right?) And, of course, have a very Happy Christmas!

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                03.12.2001 00:09
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                Having been responsible for various forms of catering for over 20 years I know from experience that the best laid plans have a habit of going wrong. No matter how great a cook you are disasters can happen, (bet even Jamie and Delia have experienced this!). The disasters can seem even worse when you’ve got houseful of hungry guests at Christmas. I thought I’d tell you about some of the many tips I have gathered so if your Christmas dinner doesn’t go quite to plan hopefully there’s something here to help you salvage it!! ~~THE MEAL~~ **SOUP** Unless you’re cheating and using a canned or packet variety you may come across a couple of problems here. You slave over a pan for hours then the moment of truth comes and you taste the soup - yeuk too bland?! Try adding a stock cube, a simple way of adding taste, or maybe a touch of herbs or spices? Allspice for pea, ham, beef or tomato, cumin for chicken, fish or pea, marjoram for onion, sage for creamed soups, tarragon for vegetable and seafood. You look in the pan and there’s grease swimming on top, blaaaahhhh? If you have the time, refrigerate the soup and skim off the fat when it sets on the top. Another great trick is to place ice cubes in a ladle and skim it over the top of the hot soup, or put ice cubes in a towel and rag across the top of the soup, the fat sticks to the ladle/towel. Soup too salty? Depending on the soup if it’s appropriate add a can of tomatoes, which should take away the saltiness or add thin sliced raw potato, remove when they become translucent. Soup too thin? (It’s beginning to sound like Goldilocks and the 3 bears eh??), add some dried potato flakes or some mashed potato. **THE TURKEY** As everyone knows it’s vital to thoroughly defrost the turkey, it’s recommended that you do this slowly in the fridge, this often takes 3-4 days dependant upon turkey size. If you defrost a
                ny faster the bird looses juices and becomes tough. Don’t ever risk cooking a bird that has not thawed. Turkey has a reputation for often being dry. If you get distracted by the Christmas presents (or the sherry!) and overcook the bird, slice the turkey and place on a tray or ovenproof dish. Make a sauce of half butter and half chicken broth, pour over the turkey and stand in a 250 degree oven for about 10 minutes, during which time the juices will be soaked up by the turkey. Another tenderising tip for turkey (or chicken) is to rub them inside and out with lemon juice before roasting. If you’re going to carve the bird at the table and want that lovely golden colour you can ensure that happens by generously sprinkling the skin with paprika. **ROAST BEEF** For those that prefer roast beef instead of turkey, here are a couple of tips. Is the joint hard to carve? Let it sit out of the oven for 15 minutes, the juices set and it doesn’t fall apart when carved. Meat too rare? You may have thought that the meat was ok but when you started to carve you discover that it’s too rare in the centre. Cut off all the outer parts to serve first, and either return the joint to roast more whilst you have the first serving or slice the beef and grill for a few minutes. Meat overcooked? Cut off all the burnt parts and slice the rest thinly (otherwise it will be dry and tough), served with gravy it should be acceptable. Joint not browning? Usually caused by steam, uncover the joint, infact it’s best to roast uncovered in a shallow tray. **VEGETABLES** Potatoes - mashed potato that won’t fluff up? Add a couple of pinches of baking powder. Baked potatoes gone cold? If you don’t have a microwave or prefer them from the oven just dip them in water and return to the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. To stop boiled potatoes from being bland add a pinch of rosemary or bay leaf to the water whilst cooking.
                Cabbage – red cabbage is popular at this time of year but loses its colour whilst cooking, usually turning a strange blue shade! Add a tablespoon of vinegar to the cooking water and it will turn red again! If your cabbage is past it’s best add a pinch of salt to each cup of cooking water and it will help the cabbage retain what flavour it has left. Overcooked the cabbage? Drain in a colander then pat well with paper towels; toss it in butter in a warmed bowl and season. Carrots – forgotten to buy fresh ones? Soak the old raw carrots overnight in ice water, then add the juice of a lemon or a tablespoon of vinegar to each cup of cooking water. Overcooked? Try mashing them and serving alone or mix with mashed potato, top with grated cheese and brown under the grill. Cauliflower – not as white as you’d like? Add a dash of vinegar after the water boils, it will whiten. Again forgotten to buy fresh? Add a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt to every cup of water you use to cook the old cauliflower. This will help retain the flavour. Cauliflower can be bland and many make a cheese sauce but how about this for a change? Spread the cooked cauliflower out on a pie plate, drizzle with honey, sprinkle with grated cheese then bake in a preheated oven, 400 degrees, for about 10 minutes until cheese melts. Yummy! **GRAVY** Gravy and sauces are notorious for having something go wrong, so let’s see what tips there are. Bland gravy? Add a stock cube, Worcestershire sauce or even a little Tabasco. You can also add sherry or another great alternative is dry martini (honestly!). The addition of red currant jelly or even cranberry sauce livens up bland gravies. Gravy too fatty?? This is the most common problem and can be solved by chilling the gravy quickly, even in the freezer and scooping the cold fat off the top. If the fat was mostly on the top it can be soaked up with a slice of bread, or use the lad
                le trick as mentioned in the soup section above. The next most common problem has to be lumpy gravy. Try beating with a whisk or hand held beater. If that fails force through a sieve, do not remove the lumps, as this will make the gravy too thin. Not brown enough?? Well I’m told that you can add a teaspoon of instant coffee and it doesn’t affect the taste, I must admit I haven’t tried this!! **DESSERT ETC** Cream – if cream is hard to whip or won’t whip chill the bowl, the cream and the beaters and try again. If that doesn’t work try adding 1 unbeaten egg white or 3-4 drops of lemon juice. And keep whipping. A great emergency substitute for whipped cream, if the previous tip doesn’t work, is to whip up an egg white until stiff and beat in a mashed banana and sugar to taste. I bet you didn’t know that baking soda sweetens sour cream? Just add a pinch of baking soda to your sour cream and keep adding a very tiny amount until it reaches the desired sweetness. Be very careful though, just a very tiny pinch, you only need about a teaspoon for a pint of cream and usually not even that amount. So gently does it! Oranges – If you’re having difficulty peeling oranges pour boiling water over them and stand for 5 minutes. The peel and the pith peel away easily. This is a permanent effect so you can do this in advance and then refrigerate. It also has the lovely result of making the oranges juicier too! Nuts – If nuts are hard to crack or its difficult to remove the fleshy part of the nut, almonds and similar nuts can be dropped into boiling water and left to stand for 3 minutes. The shells and the skins also should come away easily. If you get shells and flesh of the nuts mixed up put it all in a bowl of water, the shells will float and the flesh sinks to the bottom. Neat huh? **DRINKS** Wine – if you find the wine is too cold, do not att
                empt to warm it you will lose the flavour. If the wine is sour you can’t reverse the process so let it keep on souring as eventually it will become a great wine vinegar. Punch – tastes of too much alcohol? Apparently floating slices of cucumber takes away the strong taste. If the punch is too bland and doesn’t really have a distinct taste, dissolve a teaspoon of rosemary, nutmeg and powdered cardamom in half cup of hot fruit juice, add more fruit juice to cool and add to the punch. So there you go – I hope that you won’t have any Christmas dinner disasters but if you do it might not be as bad as you first thought. Oh and if it’s a total disaster we now have our own friendly Fireman Sam to put out the flames (a little name drop for a newcomer)............ Happy Christmas, everybody. Angie x

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                  13.09.2001 17:11
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                  • "....and friends"

                  For all those friends out there in these tragic times, particularly our friends in America, and mine cbpotts and gbopotts, I thought it might be fitting to remember past festive times, and future ones to come. This op may be a little off topic, but some people who were there may actually be able to fill in the further details in another op for you. Well it was Christmas 2000, and I had invited all my Dooyoo friends, so here are the tips. Tip One. Invite lots of friends, so that no one person has to do too much work. Well, I certainly did that. As far as I can remember I will list all the people that were there. Cbpotts, gbopotts, misslook, curly00, shelley222, Sue26 no she's not going shopping again !!), jewels, b-rokscarrie, Jennifer3002, a-true-ben, grinchgirl, pollee, Smark1985, Joanna Hudson, sidneygee and the queenofsheba. There were certainly a lot of people there, and I must have forgotten a few. Tip Two. You need lots of room. I had previously artistically turned the lower floor of my house into a through lounge (attacked the dividing wall with a sledgehammer and smashed it down) so that was no problem for me. Tip Three. Relax first, and give the presents out. Did this, everyone had so many presents, I just can't remember, but I do know I was given an I.O.U. for a computer at home, which I must redeem soon. Everybody was getting into the mood now, especially with the traditional glass of sherry. Tip Four. Decide what everyone is going to do. At this point the ladies decided that the men must go down the pub, so that they can talk about ladies things, so some of this op I will have to do in partial flashback mode. As everyone must do what they want, misslook and curly00 decided to come to the pub, and everyone agreed. In the pub I can remember Smark1985 telling us the mysteries of WWF wrestling and how he was going to keep the rest of the world out of Cornwall. curly00 was saying about
                  the benefits of straight hair, sidneygee got out a Haynes manual, and I can remember telling an enthralled audience of the wonders of Accountancy, and how I balanced the books. Anyway it was two thirty by now, and we had had a few drinks, so back home. On the way back gbopotts said how quaint English pubs were. Tip Five. Watch the Queens Christmas Speech. On returning home the women had prepared the food, and had obviously had quite a few Bacardi Breezers and vodka's as well, so I suggested sitting down and watching the Queen. Well we did this, and it was a good job I had suggested that the women turn the food down, because with all the drinks that had been forced on us, we all fell asleep while dutifully saluting the Queen. Tip Six. You need a large kitchen. I haven't, so you'll have to pretend here, but I have got an oven, and a combination microwave, so some of the required items were in place. Tip Seven. What to cook. This is in flashback mode, and I've only taken it from the women wot did it, please get one of them to do an op for more details. I am reliably informed that to start with there was. :- Prawns, Mussels and several other seafoods. Froglegs Escargots. Snails in garlic sauce. Is this the same as Escargots, don't ask me !! Oysters. The main courses were turkey, goose, pheasant and various types of meats. I am reliably informed you need a large oven to take a turkey for 20 people, so beware of this fact. Roast potatoes of course were cooked. A word of advice here, make sure you get either Maris Piper or King Edwards, take no substitute, only these. Peel the potatoes before cooking them also, and if they are large ones, it is a good idea to cut them into smaller pieces. Vegetables, yes must have these. Take it from one who knows these things, vegetables come in many different types. There are peas, beans, cauliflower, swede, brussel sprouts, parsnips
                  , carrots.. well quite a list. What did we have, dunno, ask the women, but I can tell you that most vegetables are green. Bit of gravy comes in handy at this point, oh and some roast chestnut stuffing. Bung some yorkshire puddings on too. For sweet there was Christmas puddings, Trifles and minces pies. Now wasn't I good with my Delia bit telling you what the women did ?? Tip Seven.(Can't count because of the amount of drink consumed !!) Lay the tables. Smark1985 said something about the Dudley Boyz and "Get the tables out", so all the men rushed to the Victorian tables handed down by my dear grandmother to me. They pulled out the leaves, put on more inherited tablecloths, and in fact laid perfect tables with all the attendant cutlery and centrepieces. Tip Eight Eat the food. Well, we awoke from our Christmas intoxication at six o'clock, the women checked that the food wasn't too burnt, so we served it up and tucked in, great. Tip Nine. Relax afterwards. This is to let the vast amount of food you may have eaten be digested. Well we left the tables (didn't fancy eating them much anyway) and sat on the armchairs and settees. Pollee put the kettle on and the queenofsheba came round saying "coffee and kitkats anyone ?". We relaxed after a memorable day anyway. So there it is, all I can remember of last Christmas, hope this one in the present circumstances will be as good.

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                    07.12.2000 16:23
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                    Christmas dinner is perhaps one of the most important meals of the year. For most it is the one time all family members can sit down at the same time, if you have kids of the teenage variety you know what I mean! The family all sit down in eager anticipation & the cook sits down exhausted with the stress of it all! The secret is delegation. Everyone should lend a hand no one is too small! Vegtables can be prepared while watching the box the night before. The turkey can be stuffed by hubbie or who ever. ( yuk I can't do it ). Write yourself a list of timings so everything is done at the same time, then use the timer on your cooker as a reminder the next thing has to go on, if your cooker does not have a timer buy one they are very cheap & available at most £1 shops. Try out all the dishes you will need to put in the oven, see if they fit & how to arrange them, its a lot easier to do when the dishes & oven are cold. My worst nightmare came true one year when the oven overheated & shut itself down 2 hrs into the cooking time with 14 guests for dinner, I just cried, hubbie then placed coolbag blocks around the controls & used the cold setting on the hairdryer to cool in down, disaster over in half an hour! Lastly don't panic, if things go wrong put it down to experience & have another drink.

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                      01.12.2000 18:31
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                      Christmas wouldn't be christmas without the traditional dinner, but if like me you want to be able to spend some time away from the kitchen on christmas day then you need to get organised the day before, here are my tips for an easier Christmas day dinner. Christmas Eve- 1.Prepare the vegetables- chop carrots and put into a pan of water.Brussells need to be put into a food bag and stored ready in the fridge. Peel potatoes and leave whole to stand in water. Make up your stuffing and cling film and put in the fridge. If you are using giblets for your gravy then simmer with one onion and one chopped carrot, then when cool drain and put into the fridge. Decide what time you wil be eating the next day and make a note of bird cooking time required and time it will need to go in. Christmas Morning- if you are having a starter such as prawn cocktail-wash all lettuce and tomatoe, cucumber etc, slice and place into individual dishes in fridge. Part boil the required amount of potatoes for the roasts as it will save time later. Set the table as early as possible, so you know its done. Chill any wine. Then all you need to do is dish up your prawn cocktails, and cook your bird and vegetables for the time needed. If you are having Christmas pudding I suggest microwaving it as it takes a few miutes only and no boiling it dry!. Well good luck and enjoy your Christmas dinner.

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                        23.11.2000 03:39
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                        Every year I do the same.After the 5.30 Christmas eve mass we treat the kids (and us )to Kentucky fried chicken on the way home,so no cooking tea ....lovely !Then ,amid all the other little jobs of last minute wrapping ,opening this years bottle of Baileys e.t.c, I start to peel and prepare the vegetables,prepare the big bird for its overnight stay in the oven,put the Christmas vino in the fridge (that's if I remember,9 times out of 10 it usually gets stuffed in the freezer half an hour before dinner ,and if we go all out I plonk 2 bottles in the freezer,forget about one and find it shattered and exploded all over the shop)make sure the wine glasses are all nice and shiney and think I have everything under control.WRONG ! I still seem to spend much of the morning and early afternoon fussing over the once a year (sort of)dinner,but I would'nt change it for the world ,infact if anyone tried butting in on my 'turf' they would probably feel the wrong end of the carving fork (not really....after all it is Christmas)I love every minute of that fussing and every single complement that goes with it! so much so that I repeat the whole thing on New Years day....crackers and all(and another exploded bottle in the freezer)This is not really about the 'perfect dinner'but I will add a note here on how I cook what we think is perfect stuffing,and it is simple.I grease a dish,line the bottom with sausage meat (about 2 inches deep )make up a packet of paxo sage and onion stuffing,using half water half turkey juices /jelly,put over the sausage meat,covering it all and pour over the top some more turkey juices so the sausage meat absorbs alot of it and cook for about an hour and it really is lovely (well we think so anyway )still,whatever you do,whatever you eat enjoy it and have fun!

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                          22.11.2000 06:07
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                          I still remember all the years my mother slaved in the kitchen preparing meals for lazy, unappreciative relatives. I'm American. so she used to do it on Thanksgiving as well. Then one year she had enough. All of us were hauled into the kitchen and given tasks to perform, and everyone she invited was instructed on what to bring. All of the nearby family brought hot things, and the distant ones brought appetizers and desserts. My mother, meanwhile, waved her arms about like a composer and periodically sipped her wine. That Christmas was, she said, the best one in her recent memory. Next year we did it again, and again she loved it. Now, believe it or not, we all look forward to getting together and banging out a meal as a family. You might even call it a new family tradition!

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                            21.11.2000 22:34
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                            1) Do the sprouts in the microwave: they will taste like an entirely different critter altogther, less a mushy ball of slime, more a crisp, sweet little vegetable. 2) Tradition is for people with no imagination - if the prospect of juggling all numerous so-called essential accompliments unnerves you, don't cook everything. 3) How many people do you actually have to spend this so-called happy occasion with, exactly? I mean, what have the people for whom you are cooking done to deserve your efforts? The only angst-free Christmas dinner I have ever witnessed was the one me and my girlfriend had last year - just me and her. 4) If you are afraid of buying ready-made or pre-prepared products from places like M&S or Sainsburys, you are obviously cooking for the wrong people. If you don't have the skills, the time, the confidence or the enthusiasm to construct a vast meal and want to supplement with some ready meals, go ahead. And invite anyone who looks down their nose into the kitchen to cook the meal instead. 5) You can never have too much alcohol around. 6) Or too few children. 7) Or in-laws 8) Or parents 9) Anyone who complains about the quality of the food can be emotionally blackmailed into quiet submission by insisting that unpleasantness is not allowed - 'but it's Christmas!' is a verbal weapon that cannot be underused.

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                              21.11.2000 00:39
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                              Hello Everyone!!!! I am about to divulge the secrets of the PERECT Christmas dinner....I will need to doo it in stages because of 'time elapses'.... First on the list is 'Chestnut Stuffing'.. You will need: (to serve 10)..dont forget, if there are only 2 eating, it can be refridgerated/frozen.... 3 loaves of white (if preferred brown) bread, 20 (or a tin from major Suprmarkets) of Chestnuts, 1 large onion Fresh Sage (you will need approx 12 large-ish leaves Fresh Parsley (a 'healthy bunch'..remember, parsley is 'quite' tasteless so I dont think under/over will matter) Small Garlic (up to you) Prep: De-crust the bread and 'machine' till breadcrumbs.....(I suppose you could use 'frozen breadcrumbs...or ready-made breadcrumbs)..... Finely chop the chestnuts, (how large you want the 'bits' is up to taste), onion, sage and parsley, Lightly fry the onion in a little butter (it is Christmas!) until slightly golden...ie, not hard..softened. Get the largest saucepan you have (probably the one you only use for stews)....add ALL the ingredients and stir WELL... Add some butter (a large tablespoon) and gently heat......SEASON. Season to taste, but it is so important to add freshly ground pepper. If you like Garlic, add to taste. Gently continue frying until it appears 'al'dente breadcrumbs..' you will know!!. Refridgerate or freeze at this stage. To cook: Simply add the stock from the turkey to your mixture. Add gradually, the consistancy you want is similar to dough. Place in a 'meatloaf' cooking dish..or, like me, place in foil, wrap and cook at gas mark 5 for 1 hour 30 minutes.!! Hey presto, beautiful homemade stuffing! Enjoy. I will update with 'The perfect roast potatoe' shortly...... Update. Perfect Roast Potatoes Use King Edwards or Maris Piper Peel potatoes and cut even sized pieces..(if they are too small, they will go to mush during the par-boil). Place in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 5 minutes (or until the outside of the potatoe is 'just' soft) during the simmer, place the lid on the saucepan leaving a small gap for steam. Remove from the heat and drain thoroughly. Replace the lid and shake the potatoes like mad! Allow the potatoes to 'sit' for about 5 minutes so all the water/steam evaporates. (You can place a teatowel over the saucepan if you desire) Put a slurp of vegetable oil (about 3 tblsp) into a roasting tin, add 2oz of butter (It is Christmas!). Because there is oil, the butter will not burn.... Put the roasting tin in the oven (top) and get the butter and oil to sizzling point. Quickly and carefully, tip all the potaoes into the roasting tin and coat them all with the melted butter/oil. (I usually carefully 'fold' with a large spoon). Cook in the middle of the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes on Gas mark 5. There is no need to turn them because the coat of butter and oil will crisp them anyway, and the bottom of the potatoe will crisp because of the 'fry' aspect. If you need the middle shelf for other food, simply put the potatoes to the top or bottom and reduce/increase heat and time accordingly. The result is a beautifully crisp buttery tasting roast potatoe! Enjoy! The next vegetable dish is Carrot and Parsnip mash. You will need 8 large carrots and 1 medium parsnip. Peel, chop and boil the carrots and parsnips.(Stick to the ratio 8-1 otherwise the parsnips will overpower the carrot and taste like paintstripper....less is more!) Boil until soft enough to 'mash'. Drain thoroughly and allow to sit to allow the steam/wa
                              ter to evaporate. Add a generous amount of butter (It is Christmas!) and mash the vegetables. Add freshly ground pepper to season and 'dry' it out by microwaving for 5 minutes on full power, or cover and place at the bottom of the oven for 20 minutes. All this can be done ahead of time as re-heating does not affect the taste at all. (Also, refridgerate for use the next day...just ding it when you need it). If you do not like parsnips, swede can be used but add more swede than you would have parsnips because swede is not so overpowering. This dish is an excellent alternative to plain old boiled carrots and the children will enjoy it more too!! Enjoy!

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                                20.11.2000 05:37
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                                Most of you may already know how to do this.Every year this is how I cook both my ham or turkey, it just makes them so juicy and tender.Here's what everyone brags on at our Christmas dinner. Baked Ham 10 or more lbs of the finest ham 1 can coke 1 cup packed light brown sugar 1 tablespoon mustard powder 2 tablespoons Dijon-style prepared mustard 2 cups dried bread crumbs Directions Preheat oven to 325' degrees. Place ham fat side down .Pour cola over into a large roasting pan .Bake 3 to 4 hours, or until ham can be easily pierced with fork, every so often baste the ham with the drippings of coke and ham juice. Cut the rind off.Then combine sugar, mustard,bread crumbs and coke to form a thick paste.Spread paste over entire ham.Place ham back into oven for about 45 minutes longer, until paste has melted into a dark glaze. This ham is very delicious for you and your family at any holiday.

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