It can be hard work having fun, especially when you’re in charge of making sure the days ahead live up to others’ expectations. Yet, there can be an element of enjoyment about this, too. Team One Time Fashionista is off to their last voyage of 2014. Does that mean I will not cook and bake with you all on Christmas, for Christmas? Of course, I will, I have! As the name suggests, this is indeed a last minute post on last minute Christmas lunch preparation. In many parts of the world, some of you have already started the celebration, others are probably getting dressed now to show up at the mid-night mass and I found myself sitting at the waiting lounge in London Stansted airport to catch my flight for the last voyage of this year and, yet composing this post at 4am. I really love blogging, don’t I? How am I going to pull off this incredible feat called last minute Christmas lunch while having millions of things running through my mind? Whisper it, I’ve prepared them all before, and had them ready for you all nitwits, lazies and the downright incompetent like me(?) so that you can finally learn to do the job properly. Better late than never!
All of these recipes can be whipped up even in the very last minute before Christmas, and are packed full of tips, cheats and ideas that are bound to impress – no one will ever know!
I suggest you prepare a main dish, few side dishes and something to satisfy your sweet tooth. I have come up with two options for the main course- one for the meat eaters and the other for the vegetarians.
Let’s cook and bake now
Main course: Meat dish
Roast chicken with lemon and fresh herbs
This whole roast chicken is so easy, but it’ll give you that perfect juicy meat and crispy skin
Preparation time: 1 hour and 30 minutes (plus resting time)
What all I need:
1.5 kg rooster chicken
freshly grounded black pepper
1 small bunch fresh thyme, rosemary, sage
Having learnt the things I’ve learnt about chickens over the last few years, of course I’m going to suggest that you buy free-range or organic. But if you’re a little tight for cash, buy any chicken that is fresh and available in all good supermarkets.
To prepare your chicken
Step one: Take your chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before it goes into the oven. Preheat your oven to 240°C/475°F/gas 9. Break the garlic bulb into cloves, leaving them unpeeled.
Step two: Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper, rubbing it all over the bird. Carefully prick the lemon all over, using the tip of a sharp knife (if you have a microwave, you could pop the lemon in these for 40 seconds at this point as this will really bring out the flavour). Put the lemon inside the chicken’s cavity, with the bunch of herbs.
To cook your chicken
Step one: Place the chicken on top of the roasting tray and put it into the preheated oven. Turn the heat down immediately to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 and cook the chicken for 1 hour and 20 minutes. If you’re doing roast potatoes and veggies, this is the time to crack on with them – get them into the oven for the last 45 minutes of cooking.
Step two: Baste the chicken halfway through cooking and if the veg look dry, add a splash of water to the tray to stop them burning. When cooked, take the tray out of the oven and transfer the chicken to a board to rest for 15 minutes or so. Cover it with a layer of tinfoil and a tea towel and put aside.
To carve your chicken
Step one: Remove any string from the chicken and take off the wings (break them up and add to your gravy for mega flavour). Carefully cut down between the leg and the breast. Cut through the joint and pull the leg off.
Step two: Repeat on the other side, then cut each leg between the thigh and the drumstick so you end up with four portions of dark meat. Place these on a serving platter. You should now have a clear space to carve the rest of your chicken. Angle the knife along the breastbone and carve one side off, then the other.
Top tip: When you get down to the fussy bits, just use your fingers to pull all the meat off, and turn the chicken over to get all the tasty, juicy bits from underneath. You should be left with a stripped carcass, and a platter full of lovely meat that you can serve with your piping hot gravy and gorgeous roast veg.
Main course: Vegetarian
Nut roast pie with cranberries
Although this is a veggie roast, this truly is a meal fit for a king. I admit this is not the shortest of recipes, but it is really satisfying to make and the pastry is brilliantly quick and simple.
For this recipe you will need an 18cm/7in springform cake tin.
What all you need
For the filling
drizzle olive oil
4 leeks, finely sliced
4 rosemary sprigs, picked
6 thyme sprigs, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
250g/9oz chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
5 sage leaves, roughly chopped
600g/1lb 5oz mixed nuts (e.g. pecans, cashews and hazelnuts)
150g/5½oz Gruyere, grated
3 free-range eggs
150g/5½oz dried cranberries
125g/4½oz frozen cranberries
For the pastry
100ml/3½fl oz water
125g/4½oz plain flour, plus extra for rolling out the pastry
150g/5½oz wholemeal flour
1 free-range egg, plus 1 free-range egg, beaten, to glaze
For the gravy
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp tomato puree
1 tsp yeast extract
1 tbsp plain flour
few rosemary sprigs
500ml/18fl oz vegetable stock
pinch brown sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
How I prepared it
Step one: Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and grease a 18cm/7in springform cake tin. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the leeks, rosemary and thyme for 4-5 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Step two: Add the mushrooms and sage and cook for 2-3 minutes, then remove from the heat, transfer to a large bowl and set aside to cool. (Reserve two tablespoon of this mixture for the gravy.)
Step three: Toast the nuts in the oven for 8-10 minutes (keep an eye on them as they burn really easily). Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Step four: Blend the nuts in a food processor to a coarse powder and add to the leek mixture with the cheese. Mix until well combined and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Step five: Stir in the eggs until well combined.
Step six: For the pastry, heat the water and butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat until the butter melts and the mixture just boils.
Step seven: Mix the flours, salt and egg together in a bowl, then add the butter mixture and mix together really quickly until combined. Shape the dough into a ball (it should be quite moist) and chill in the fridge for five minutes.
Step eight: Tear off one-fifth of the pastry and set aside, then knead the remaining pastry briefly and roll out on a well-floured work surface into a 5mm/¼in thick circle.
Step nine: Flour the top of the dough, fold into four, and use it to line the 18cm/7in springform cake tin. Put the folded dough into the tin with the pointed end towards the middle, then unfold the dough so that the excess falls over the side (the dough will be quite fragile). Now ease the dough into the corners of the tin. If the dough tears, squeeze it back together again, this pastry is very forgiving.
Step ten: Trim the pastry, leaving a 1cm/½in border.
Step eleven: Spoon half of the filling into the tin, pressing it down tightly with a wooden spoon. Tip over the dried cranberries, press down a little and finish with the rest of the pie filling, pressing down well.
Step twelve: Brush any exposed pastry with the beaten egg.
Roll the reserved pastry into a circle, and using the cake tin as a guide, cut out a circle with a 1cm/½in border.
Step thirteen: Place the pastry over the top of the tin and squeeze or crimp the lid onto the pie to seal it, trimming any excess. Cut a slit in the middle of the pie to let any steam escape and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
Step fourteen: Remove the pie from the oven and carefully remove the tin. Slide the pie onto a baking tray and glaze the top and sides of the pie with the beaten egg, then return to the oven for a further 15 minutes, or until golden-brown.
Step fifteen: Remove the pie from the oven, glaze the top again and top with the frozen cranberries. Return to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes.
Step sixteen: Meanwhile, for the gravy, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the reserved mushroom and leek mixture followed by the tomato purée. Stir on a low heat for 2 minutes, or until it changes colour to a deeper shade of brown.
Step seventeen: Add the yeast extract, flour and rosemary then gradually add the stock. Bring to the boil, then season with salt pepper and brown sugar.
Step eighteen: Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until thickened. (You can strain the mixture for a smooth gravy if you like.)
1. Honey-roasted parsnips and carrots
Total Time: 40 mins
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
What all I need
500 gram(s) (1lb 2oz) parsnips, sliced
500 gram(s) (1lb 2oz) carrots, sliced
25 gram(s) butter
50ml olive oil
t tbsp runny honey
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
How I prepared it
Step one: Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 160°C fan/Gas 4. Cook the parsnips and carrots for 3 minutes in a pan of lightly salted boiling water. Drain well and arrange them in a shallow ovenproof dish.
Step two: In a small pan, heat the butter, olive oil, honey and thyme until it is bubbling, then drizzle over the vegetables in the dish. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until the vegetables have begun to caramelise and soften. Serve immediately.
2. Easy, perfect roast potatoes
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr 30 mins
What all I need
1.8kg (4lb) floury potatoes such as Desiree, King Edward or Maris Piper, peeled and cut into large chunks
90ml (6 tbsp) sunflower oil
4 sprigs rosemary
How I Prepared it
Step one: Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F, Gas Mark 5). Put the potatoes in a saucepan of cold, salted water. Bring to the boil and cook for 10 mins until the potatoes soften. Drain and return to the pan. Replace the lid and shake the pan to roughen the potatoes’ edges.
Step two: Heat the oil in a roasting tin in the oven for 5 min. Transfer to the hob to keep hot. Add the potatoes and coat well with the oil. Add half the rosemary and cook on the top shelf of the oven for 1 hour 15 mins, turning now and again until crisp and golden. Season with salt and the rest of the rosemary.
3. Brussel Sprouts with Butter
What all you need
200g brussel sprouts
One small cube of Butter
preparation: 10 minutes
Growing up most of us associate Christmas lunch with being forced to eat soggy, bitter sprouts but done well, sprouts can be an indulgent treat. They’re perfect partnered with a little butter bringing out the sweet natural flavour.
Step one: Brussel sprouts take 6 minutes to cook – drop them into a pan of salted, boiling water, checking first to discard any which smell bitter and peeling off any leaves which look old or scarred.
Step two: Strain the sprouts and add back into the hot pan with a tablespoon of butter.
Step three: Stir until the sprouts are coated and serve
Top tip: You can also boil some green peas and roast them in olive oil to serve along with your root vegetables, green peas will add a bit color to this perfect healthy platter of vegetables.
Something sweet: Traditional Mince pies
Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without mince pies. Why?Take a look at these rich, sticky, sweet fruits wrapped in pastry to see why. They are delicious. Mince pies have been eaten as part of a traditional British Christmas since as long ago as the 16th century. Then, they were made of meat but are now made with sweet mincemeat; a mixture of dried fruits, sugar, spices and brandy.
If you have been following this blog, you know I have shared how to make star mince pies here before. The preparation method for these traditional mince pies and the star mince pies are almost same, if anything is different is the way they look- shape and size.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 12 individual tart size
What all I need
350g / 12oz plain / all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
225g butter / 8 oz cubed or an equal mix of butter and lard
1 beaten egg + cold water as needed to bind the pastry
1 jar of mincemeat, shop bought, you can also make them at home
2 tbsp icing sugar
How I have Prepared it
Step one: Heat the oven to 205°C/400°F/Gas 6. Make the Pastry Place the flour, butter and salt into a large clean bowl. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, working as quickly as possible to prevent the dough becoming warm.
Step two: Add the egg to the mixture and using a cold knife stir, add cold water a teaspoon at a time until the mixture binds but don’t make it too wet that it is sticky.
Step three: Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for a minimum of 15 minutes, up to 30 minutes. The dough can also be made in a food processor by mixing the flour, butter and salt in the bowl of the processor on a pulse setting. When the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, add the egg slowly, through the funnel, then add water a tsp at a time until the dough comes together in a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill as above.
Step four: Assemble the Pies Choose a muffin or bun tin for the size of the pie you want. Choose from a standard 12-cup muffin tin down to small canapé size. The number of pies will depend on the size of cup you choose.
Step five: Dust a work surface lightly with a little flour and roll out two-thirds of the pastry to 1/8″/3mm thick. Cut circles to line the cups of your tin, don’t worry if the pastry doesn’t come to the top.
Step six: Fill the pastry lined tins 2/3 full with mincemeat. Roll out the remaining pastry to the same thickness and cut smaller circles to fit as lids on the tarts or to be decorative, cut stars or other fancy shapes.
Step seven: Dampen the edges of the tart bases with a little cold water and press the lids on. Make a small hole in the surface of each pie with a small sharp knife to allow the steam to escape (you can omit this if using star or round-shaped lids). Bake in the preheated oven for 20 mins (15 mins if making canape size) or until golden brown.
Step eight: Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the icing sugar.
Top tip: Mince pies are delicious served hot or cold on their own or with brandy butter. They will keep well if placed in an airtight tin – up to seven days. Sometimes they benefit from a gentle warming in the oven before serving.
So, don’t panic if you’ve left sorting your Christmas menu to the last minute. These easy preparations use clever shortcuts and don’t require specialist shopping. I am genuinely hoping that these last minute post will help some of you! Ah yes! Christmas wishes add that extra glow to the spirit of Christmas and the feast around it, so here is wishing you all a very merry Christmas from up in the sky in a flight en route to Morocco!