Ask Peter: The busy person's Christmas lunch
I’m hosting the family Christmas lunch this year. There’ll be people coming and going and I will be busy with the kids that morning, so I’d love some ideas of things I can prepare a day or two in advance and heat/serve on the day. Or some things that are super-fast and easy to get out while people are arriving. Thanks, Anne
If the weather is going to be good, and the sun is going to be out in your neck of the woods, then you can make your Christmas Day smooth sailing with plenty of prep in advance. However, if the rain comes in then your family and friends may not be so keen on room temperature salads and reheated food. But, as I can’t predict anything, here are some suggestions for ways to make your day go smoothly and stress free — at least a little.
Serve turkey breasts rather than a whole bird. Marinate the breasts in a mixture of ginger, smoked paprika, garlic and olive oil for 24 hours, turning every 8 hours.
Christmas Eve or the day before, sear the breast on the skin side until golden, then turn over and place in a roasting dish with ½ cup water and ½ cup apple juice. Loosely cover the dish with baking paper and roast at 160C until it’s pink in the middle — which will all depend on the size of the breasts. Take the paper off, increase the heat to 220C and cook until golden, then remove and leave to cool and place in the fridge.
On Christmas Day, bring it out of the fridge 2 hours before lunch and allow it to come to room temperature. Slice the breast thickly (just less than 1cm) and spread it out like a concertina. Puree 1 ripe mango with chilli, garlic, ginger, star anise or allspice and soy sauce and brush this over the breast then bake at 150C until golden and bubbling and serve straight away. Or, simply serve it cold with the sauce drizzled over it in place of gravy.
If you’re unable to buy just the breasts then buy a whole bird and remove the legs, which you can slowly roast at 150C for 2 hours or so, rubbed with chopped garlic, fresh thyme and oregano, and some chopped fresh chillies. Leave to cool, then remove the flesh from the bones and slice thinly (5mm) and serve alongside the breast meat. These can also be cooked a day or two in advance — and we all know that leftovers taste better than the first run! If turkey isn’t your thing, then treat chicken breasts the same way with a lot less cooking!
Salads are obviously the way forward for the meal rather than hot steamed vegetables and there are a million things you could make. My current favourite is roast cauliflower and garlic with tahini dressing. You can either cut the cauliflower up the day before, toss with loads of thinly sliced garlic, cumin seeds and olive oil and leave to cook on the day at 190C, or cook it the day before. Once it’s golden and caramelised toss it with a mixture of tahini and plain yoghurt, pomegranate molasses (or lime juice), salt and pepper. Even better with fresh pomegranate or toasted pecan nuts sprinkled on top.
A Christmas pudding pavlova is always a way to appease the traditionalists and the "it ain’t winter and we don’t want a heavy dessert” brigade. Cook the pudding the day before by slicing it into pieces 1cm thick and baking at 180C until slightly crisp and the dried fruits caramelise. Leave to cool and store in an airtight tin. Make a pav a day or two before as well and keep it airtight. On the day, smother the pav with cream whipped with Greek yoghurt, vanilla extract and a little icing sugar. Crumble the pudding on top, then scatter with loads of hulled strawberries that have been tossed with icing sugar. Eat quite soon after you’ve assembled it and you’ll be happy you aren’t waiting for a few hours to heat the pudding.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes here.