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Monthly Archives: December 2012

My Christmas Dinner Countdown

The thought of a well planned and trouble free Christmas dinner does sound like heaven and I’m sure it’s something we’d all love to say about the entire Festive period. However, the reality  for some is likely to be a very tiring day, desperate to relax after a few weeks of non stop shopping, working, nativity plays and Christmas nights out.

Regardless of all the activities we find ourselves involved in, it is possible to make Christmas dinner a reasonably relaxed affair by simply preparing a few dishes for the freezer in advance.

With my food prep countdown well underway, one of the first dishes I made was a vegetable dish, parsnip and swede mash, great for freezing and can be easily reheated on Christmas Day with the addition of herb flavoured breadcrumbs.

Parsnip and Swede Mash, ready for the freezer and a breadcrumb topping on Christmas day  tbreadcrumb topping

Parsnip and Swede Mash, ready for the freezer and a breadcrumb topping on Christmas day tbreadcrumb topping

The quantities given will serve approximately 10 people and I divided the dish into two giving me another vegetable perhaps for the New Year dinner. All that needs to be done is to defrost overnight in the fridge and top with the breadcrumbs and reheat in time for dinner.

Parsnip and Swede Mash

700g/1lb 8oz each of  Parsnips and swede cut into bit sized pieces

A few sprigs of fresh thyme , leave removed.

150 ml carton soured cream, the half fat will reduce the calories!



6oz fresh breadcrumbs

Few sprigs of thyme, leaves removed

Cook the parsnips and carrots for about 15-20 minutes until tender.

Drain, add the cream and thyme leaves and mash either with a masher or process in a food processor

Season with salt and pepper and transfer to an oven/freezer proof dish.

Freeze  and it’s ready for the breadcrumb topping prior to cooking.

Breadcrumb topping.

Top the parsnips and carrots with the breadcrumbs mixed with the thyme leaves, drizzle with olive or rapeseed oil and bake at 190oC/fan170oC Gas 5 for 25 -30 minutes until piping hot.

Cooks notes

The dish also works well with other vegetable combinations such as carrot and sweet potato or celeriac and sweet potato.  A combination of parsnip and apple is delicious as an accompaniment to roast pork.

If you’re planning to organise most of your meal on Christmas eve, make and chill in the fridge overnight and add the breadcrumb topping before reheating.


TheChristmas Dinner Countdown




Over the past few weeks I have read the Christmas edition of several food and women’s magazines and as expected preparations for the big day are top bill.

Most have timetables, starting at 0000 hrs…switch the oven on…stuff the turkey….prep the sprouts…turn the oven up, the oven down…take a break and have champagne with friends….back to the kitchen, turn the sprouts on, steam the Christmas pudding. Part of the timetable usually includes and hour if you’re lucky…..’Time to Relax’ for some it should read….have a lie down. Over the years that became the reality of the glossy timetables for me, tied to the kitchen, cranky and too tired to enjoy the entire day

The section I prefer is the ‘Get Ahead’ and it’s this that ensures that I look forward to Christmas day knowing that the preparations done on the days and weeks leading up to Christmas will have enabled me to enjoy the day along with the rest of the family.

Yes, there was a time, usually around the 1st Dec when I placed Delia’s Christmas cookbook in the Kitchen work top and started my Christmas marathon…finally crossing the finish line about 3pm on Christmas Day exhausted and cranky….with around a dozen jolly relatives sitting at the table.

It is with great joy that I am happy to announce that those days are long gone. The food is much the same but the frenetic Christmas morning preparations have changed……low maintenance has top bill in my kitchen

The’s so much preparation that can be done in advance to take the make Christmas dinner stress free and now is the time to decide on that ‘Get Ahead’ cooking. Over the years I have learned that Christmas dinner, no matter how glorious and enjoyable is just another dinner and that some sensible and realistic planning will bring a good result to be enjoyed by all the family.

My turkey has been ordered and is currently a happy bird walking around the farm at St Brides Poultry. By Christmas Eve it will be ready for the oven the next morning, buttered, streaky and stuffing in place.

This week the sausages will be wrapped in bacon, the stuffing will be made and both will be frozen. Next week I will buy the cranberries and make cranberry sauce, breadcrumbs will be frozen for the bread sauce I may even par boil the potatoes and freeze them on the tray ready for roasting on the day.

A baked root vegetable mash of parsnip & swede or carrot and sweet potatoes …….will be made in advance, frozen and then defrosted overnight, other vegetables such as sprouts or carrots will be prepared on Christmas Eve, all ready for cooking next day.

Starters apart from soup are always cold, usually smoked salmon, prawns or pâté and apart from the pâté it can be quickly organised on Christmas morning.

Deserts are also made in advance, especially Christmas pudding and if like me you make enough there will still be one left from last year. There are no trifle lovers in the family so the other desert will be Sticky Toffee Pudding, a real favourite with my boys. This can also be made and frozen in advance or made about 2 days beforehand.

For me at the end of the day I will happy if we all sit down to a well cooked tasty meal and enjoyed some good family time, bad jokes and even a few games. If I’m still awake at 8pm then I know that the preparations have paid off.