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Stress-Free Holiday Feasting

It's not long to Christmas! I hope you are feeling merry and bright and not at all anxious about your Christmas meal. Feasting with friends and family is often complicated by various dietary needs. How do you please the committed carnivore and the wheat-free vegan all in one meal? We've been thinking about inclusive menus lately, but if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the options, here's the bottom line: Christmas day is not the time to be stressing over intricate dishes. If you finish the day with everyone fed, nothing burnt, and the washing up done, you will have done very well indeed.

Here are my tips for stress-free feasting:

1. Get Organised

Make a to-do list. I like to write a master list with everything I need to do for Christmas. This will be a long list and you can add to it as you think of more things. Then each day make a list of the things that you can achieve in that day. If you think of something new, add to your master list, not to the day's list. The idea is that you will feel more in control as your daily list will be manageable, so less stress and you can reward yourself with being able to cross everything off your daily list at the end of the day. Some ideas for your list:

  • What do you need to buy from various shops?
  • What can you make ahead of time?
  • Is there anything you'll need to unfreeze?
  • What oven and fridge space do you need? (This often catches me out!)
  • What alcoholic drinks to get? What soft drinks will keep everyone hydrated? Keeping a pitcher of water out is a good idea.

2. Stock Up

Stock up your larder with staples so you don’t need to rush to the shops! Buy lots of seasonal vegetables such as celeriac, potatoes, beetroot, carrots, parsnips, onions, garlic and leeks, and partner them with the hardy herbs, sage, rosemary and bay leaves. Have a big bowl of fresh fruit, apples, pears and satsumas. It helps to have alternatives to diving into the chocolate box! You can also use fresh fruit for healthy breakfast smoothies.

Root Vegetable Gratin

3. Prepare

It really makes sense to do as much in advance as possible. I always make sure I have a large hearty robust stew that can be served on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day. When guests arrive after a long journey there is nothing better than a warm comforting stew. It doesn't matter how late they arrive as it's easy to warm up and improves the longer the flavours have time to mingle. And it can be made well in advance. My Borlottti Bean and Chestnut Stew has been a firm favourite for many years and is easy to make. The chestnuts give it a seasonal flavour along with a good splash of red wine. Serve simply with mash and you have a satisfying meal at the ready.

And if you're the one travelling and want to take a veggie dish with you, make sure it's well wrapped in silver foil so that it can be popped in the oven alongside the turkey and won't get dripped on.

4. Delegate

There is no reason that you should be doing everything yourself! Consider communicating with people ahead of time so they know what they can do to help the feast go off without a hitch. Perhaps they can bring bread or a side dish, or help with chores like setting the table or making sure the counters stay clean. As long as there are snacks and drinks, it's a great way to spend time with loved ones instead of feeling isolated and stressed in the kitchen by yourself. And usually people want to help!

Vegan Christmas Course

5. Enjoy!

It's all too easy to let stress get the better of us. So whatever you do to relax, do that! Deep breaths, stretching, a nice long walk in the countryside - or maybe treat yourself to a pre-holiday massage! You deserve to feel relaxed and full of joy over the holidays. So, when it comes time for the feast...

  • Make more than enough food, so there are lots of left-overs. No cooking for a few days! And plenty around for impromptu guests.
  • Don’t be too ambitious. It’s too busy a day as it is.
  • Have a fall back if something doesn’t work.
  • On Christmas day eat in the afternoon when the light begins to fade, so you don’t have to get up too early and you don’t waste the daylight inside when you could be working up an appetite or walking off the excesses.
  • Delegate the washing up, put your feet up, and congratulate yourself on a feast well cooked!

Borlotti Bean and Chestnut Stew

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