Happy Christmas

In part one I made much of planning ahead, list making and multi-tasking ingredients.  This means you can knock up some cracker dishes from your leftovers and also have some good ideas for what you want to cook and eat.  However, I’m also a fan of having some fully made suppers in the freezer so when you can’t face another minute in the kitchen you know there will be something to curl up on the sofa with.

I will try and find the time to make a soup, chilli and stew over the week.  Whilst none of these are ground breaking, they are hugely popular chez May and once defrosted will take little effort on my part.   If you have the energy to jazz these up, a garlic bread with one of those baguettes from the freezer would go down a treat, or maybe some of my quick flatbreads or the homemade tortilla chips mentioned in the chilli recipe (Girls’ Night In, February 2014) – and don’t worry, I am not mad enough to suggest MAKING tortillas, this is just a way of jazzing up bought tortillas into crunchy chips.

If you have some extra sausages why not try the Penne con Salsiccia (March 2015) it takes a handful of ingredients, minutes to make and is so cosy and comforting.  If you have some greens that need using up and some jaded tastebuds requiring a wake up try the greens with garlic and soy (October 2017) – I could happily have a bowl of these with rice for lunch.  You know the lunches and suppers your family love but it is the little extras such as the garlic bread or crunchy seeds strewn over a salad that lift meals from the ordinary to the special Christmas meals – and we all need a bit of special this year.


Talking of which despite not being able to party, either Christmas drinks or a full blown New Year knees up, I will be adding sparkle and glitter to our menus where I can.  Treats with drinks in front of the fire is something I love – gougeres (November 2016) and cheese sables with rosemary salt (December 2013) going into the freezer today in readiness.  My cherries have been soaking for sometime and I can’t wait to tuck into my spiced cherries in bacon (November 2013), my ultimate Christmas canapé.  Along with a Sloe Vespa, prosecco with sloe gin, I shall feel suitably and happily ready for Christmas.

For some last minute presents, anything edible always goes down well.  The effort made is much appreciated and it’s also something fun to do with your children.  We always make loads of spicy seeds (November 2018) to put in little bags with a festive bow.  The Christmas biscotti (November 2012) and grissini with rosemary (May 2015) use mainly store cupboard ingredients so can be made on a whim.

This chocolate pudding cake below (December 2012) can be made ahead and frozen and it will fill you with joy to know you have this waiting to make an appearance, particularly when you have had enough of all the dried fruit based puds we immerse ourselves in at this time of year.

Food has the ability to raise spirits and cheer us all – I hope that some of these suggestions may find their way to your Christmas table and help you enjoy the best Christmas possible.   Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas.

My Christmas larder and get ahead tips, part 1


There is little more pleasing than a well stocked larder and fridge.  That feeling of being able to hunker down and settle into the lazy rhythm of the holidays without visiting the shops is always comforting and this year, more than ever, it feels essential.  Whilst I love soup and cold ham with cheese for lunch as much as the next person, I don’t want to feel I am coasting from meal to meal of remnants, bits fished out of the fridge.  There is so much more to be done with leftovers and it’s not often I have both half a cold turkey to hand and the time to enjoy creating dishes out of it.  However, in order to achieve this without teetering on the brink of insanity and panic for ten days, I need to be organised.

Regular readers will know I am super keen on getting ahead, my devotion to planning is well known and much discussed.   Making what I can and putting it in the freezer, stocking up on treats and rustling up presents.   In previous years I have posted plenty of get ahead suggestions and I list below which months to check them out in the archives.  Suffice it to say I will be utilising these tips to get my ready-to-roast potatoes into the freezer this week along with pigs in blankets, stuffing, bread sauce, gravy and cranberry sauce – all of which come to no harm after a couple of weeks languishing in the icy depths.  Moreover, the relief if not smug glow that you will feel on knowing all these dishes are already prepared for the big day is enormous.

It is not just Christmas Day that I want to prepare for nor simply the freezer that is your friend this month.  Along with my larder planning and fridge filling I like to list the menus/recipes I have in mind for other days, where vegetables can multi task and of course, delicious ideas for those inevitable leftovers.

For instance, I couldn’t be without my Christmas salad (December 2013) as the perfect accompaniment to cold turkey, goose or ham.  It is full of fresh crunch and vibrant flavour, just the job for palates feeling a little jaded or simply tired of rich winter food.  That it’s made from vegetables that last beautifully – red cabbage, carrots, apples – is a bonus.  However, once I’ve got my mitts on these ingredients I want to know there are other recipes I can use them for.   We always have red cabbage with our Christmas Eve ham so that is the other half of this particular cannonball taken care of, why not try the Firecracker Red Cabbage (November 2013) or the gloriously crisp and tangy Red Cabbage, Radish and Herb Salad (January 2020).  Apples I turn to for an easy Tarte Tatin (January 2019) as a change from the ubiquitous dried fruits as well as cooking until soft to accompany yogurt and Granola (January 2013) or porridge for breakfast.   Carrots are a trusty fall back whether roasted to accompany Turkey, in my Thai-ish salad (November 2015) or New Slaw (May 2016) to accompany those turkey sandwiches and let’s not forget Beetroot and Carrot cake (which can be just carrot if that’s what you have) with lime frosting which is a delicious alternative to those not keen on Christmas cake (everyone I live with).  So, that’s already four ingredients multi-tasking to the max.

Do you see what I mean?  A little bit of planning and list making will make life so much easier.  Rather than gazing at that pile of cold turkey hoping for inspiration simply check out your ideas list or use mine below.  Choose some of what you want to eat over the next couple of weeks and you can adjust your shopping list accordingly.

By the way, leftover turkey can, of course, mean curry but it can also mean a riff on Bang Bang Chicken, Coronation Chicken (imagine this in those baguettes you’ve got in the freezer….) a fabulously zingy Vietnamese salad along with some of the crunchy veg mentioned above, a gratin or pie of course with ham and leeks. Use cooked turkey instead of the chicken in my Camp Fajitas (July 2016) which work so well in the Quick and Easy flatbreads (March 2018).

Bread freezes well and means you are prepared for sandwiches or soup (a happy finale for tired vegetables).  Frozen naan always lifts a curry, sourdough makes a cracking bruschetta or rarebit (for some of that leftover cheese).  Warm baguettes elevate sandwiches or soup and can made into a quick herby, garlic bread – incidentally a pinch of dried chilli flakes along with the garlic here is top notch.  If you’ve got left over cheese why not put it to good use in a some Cheese and Chive bread, a gooey, savoury treat everyone will love (December 2014).  And don’t forget soda bread, made start to finish inside an hour, no rising, Seedy soda bread, which can be regular soda bread without the seeds (April 2013) or jazz it up to be Olive, thyme and chilli soda bread (December 2018).

Frozen prawns or fish for a curry (November 2012) or Chermoula prawns (April 2020) when you want a break from the leftovers or mix prawns with a herby creme fraiche/mayonnaise to pile onto toasted sourdough for an easy canapé or snack.

A bag of frozen berries take minutes to transform into a bright and tangy smoothie or puree for cocktails (Raspberry Daiquiri, May 2014 – and we could all do with one of these to toast this year out…).  Or treat yourself to that Ivy classic of frozen berries topped with white chocolate sauce – recipes online – or warm berries up with or without a splash of booze to have over ice cream along the lines of Cherries Jubilee.  Frozen blackcurrants make a wonderfully tangy mousse (January 2017). Oh and please don’t forget my Larder Pudding (March 2015) which uses frozen raspberries but any frozen berries would work a treat or use golden syrup instead for possibly the best pudding in the world.

Make spicy seeds (November 2018) to nibble with drinks, sprinkle over salads,  soups or gratins – I am making lots of these to put into little bags for hampers I am sending out along with Christmas Biscotti (November 2012).  More of edible presents in part 2.

There are lots of ideas for canapés and party food on these pages and although this year we can’t plan parties, we can certainly treat those in our families and bubbles to some Christmas and New Year glitter and sparkle.  Ideas for these plus essentials not to be without in part 2.

I could go on.  I hope that some of these might help along with the make ahead tips you will find in the two November 2013, November 2016 and November 2019 posts.  In the last is the recipe for Chocolate and Peppermint Bark which neither I, nor my children, would want to be without.