Christmas planning

There are many things that are synonymous with Christmas and one of them is stress. To eliminate some of this stress there are a few things you can do now to help to guarantee a calm and relaxed day. Firstly, plan the menu for the day now, and in order to do that ask the family what they want to eat. If nobody wants turkey then don’t bother with one; there are loads of exotic alternatives such as goose, duck, leg of lamb, fillet steak, venison, lobsters, scallops, and do not forget the great taste of a top class free range chicken, properly roasted, it is wonderful.

Having agreed the menu, write down all the items required to make the dinner and note the ones that are not in stock in your kitchen — especially those that need to be ordered, eg, the turkey, goose, or ham. It is also a time for delegating some tasks — partners and older children could be given one or two items that they are solely responsible for acquiring; this works really well if those items are the ones that they love. You could also consider ordering an exquisite dessert/cake for the afters. This would remove a whole list of things to buy and another job out of the way. Both KC Blake’s Pantry in Salthill and the Gourmet Tart Company make fabulous desserts/cakes and they will keep perfectly in the fridge for a day or two.

With regards to starters, do you really need this course? Why not have different nibbles for an hour or two before the meal? Try smoked salmon, Parma ham, pâté on toast, or some of the available platters of mini quiches that just need to be popped into the oven for a few minutes. My top tip here is the new duck liver pâté that KC Blake’s pantry in Salthill is selling. It’s a large portion for less than €6 and comes complete with a rich sauce that you spoon over the pate on its slice of warm toast. Add a glass of French burgundy and you have a starter that is perfect for the time of year.

Next for the wines. If this is a problem area for you then I suggest you bring in your planner menu to your favourite wine shop, tell them the budget, and buy the wines now. Store them in the garage or shed as there is less likelihood of them disappearing if not in full view!

If you are a barbecue fan it is worth considering a BBQ turkey. To do this you need a fairly serious BBQ like the Big Green Egg or a Weber, or at least a very large one with a pull down lid. If this tickles your fancy have a look at www.amazingribs.com and search for the ultimate smoked turkey recipe.

Finally, some items you could buy now and save to treat yourself later include exclusive chocolates like Lindt or Valrhona, white port, chestnuts for roasting, vintage champagne, top class Stilton, and a bottle of 1990 or 2000 Bordeaux from a major vineyard. My final tip is to buy a case of wine and wrap each bottle up for a handy presents when visiting over the holiday period.

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