Great Ideas for Easy, Stress-Free Christmas Cooking!

Over the few years I have been writing this blog I have posted all sorts of ideas on how to make catering for Christmas quicker, easier and tastier so I thought it might help if I collected all these links together in one place to help the cooks among us enjoy the festivities as much as everyone else. 

So, here are quick links to all my Christmas food ideas …

Christmas Dinner Side Dishes the Easy Way!

This post gives lots of ideas for side dishes that can be prepared in advance together with a useful timetable to get everything on the table at the same time.


How to Cook your Turkey the Day Before ~ Perfectly!

This post concerns both the turkey and the gravy.


Why Roasting your Veg for Christmas Dinner is Such a Good Idea!

Roasting vegetables ...

~ Makes them crisp and crunchy,
~ Caramelises their juice in a wonderful way,
~ Intensifies their flavour,
~ Can be seasoned with whatever you fancy – garlic or spice or whatever,
~ Brightens their colours for a fab looking meal,
~ Can be cooked alongside the meat so don’t need much last minute attention.


Scrumptious Christmas Recipes using Mincemeat

Mincemeat is not just for pies you know!


6 Easy No-Churn Christmas Ice Cream Recipes ~ for a refreshing change!

Among all the rich, heavy, wintery rib-sticking traditional Christmas desserts ice cream can be quite a refreshing relief!

For years (and years and years) I have used a gobsmackingly easy method to make lush, rich, creamy dairy ice cream without having to do all sorts of irritating things.

~ No fiddly custard making involved.
~ No ice cream machine needed.
~ No mashing of ice cream necessary whilst freezing.


The Easiest Way to Make Mulled Wine

The easiest way is to make Mulled Wine Syrup. My recipe makes 75ml which, as luck would have it is sufficient to mull one bottle of wine and 2 tbsp of syrup is enough to mull 1 standard glass of wine.


8 Hot Toddies and Warming Winter Cocktails

I’m afraid this link mentions the above mulled wine recipe too but there are seven more lovely hot winter drinks to investigate.


15 Delicious Ideas for Marzipan Trimmings

Not specifically Christmassy but useful if you’ve iced your own cake and have leftovers


And finally ...


Scrumptious Christmas Recipes using Mincemeat


The other day whilst sorting books that had been donated to Cornwall Hospice Care  I picked up a very torn and tatty Woman’s Magazine for December 1935.  It includes an article on recipes including mincemeat so, it being out of copyright, I believe, I am going to pass these on together with some of my own ideas.

Mince Pies

Here is their recipe …


I would make a couple of changes to this; use butter instead of lard and add the finely grated zest (no white pith) to the pastry.  Also they seem to have omitted the brandy from the mincemeat!

Mincemeat Scones

It occurred to me (I’m a slow thinker) that I could make Christmassy scones using my genius scone recipe and some mincemeat.

Why not pin for
future reference?
225g/8oz self-raising flour
a pinch of salt
60g/2½oz cold butter or margarine
25g/1oz caster sugar
80g mincemeat
80ml/3 fl oz milk

~   Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/180C fan/gas 6.
~   Stir together the flour and salt.
~   Add the butter or margarine and “rub in” with your fingers until a breadcrumb texture is achieved.
~   Stir in the sugar once you have finished rubbing in; if you add it earlier it’s uncomfortable on the hands although, of course, it does exfoliate.
~   Add the milk and mix in, by hand is easiest, and then gently mix in the mincemeat. Add a little more milk if too dry or a little more flour if too wet – work just enough to form a soft dough.
~   On a floured surface press or roll the dough out to about 1½cm/½” thick and using a cookie cutter cut into rounds. Or you could cut into squares which are easier and more economical on time: no re-rolling. They look quite good too.
~   Transfer the scones to a greased baking try, brush their tops with a little milk and bake in the oven till risen and golden – about 15 minutes.
~   Transfer to a cooling rack but eat while still warm topped with lashings of clotted cream if possible.


Speaking of Scones and Clotted Cream …

Christmas Cream Tea

Simply replace the jam in a cream tea with mincemeat.  Obviously, the mincemeat goes first topped by the clotted cream – see here for the scientific reasoning behind the jam first theory!


Mincemeat Ice Cream

This is just one of six happily no-churn Christmas Ice Creams I have devised.

Warm Boozy Mincemeat Sauce

This is perfect for ice cream!

180g mincemeat
150g soft light brown sugar
juice and zest of one orange
60ml rum or brandy

~ Gently stir together all the ingredients over low heat till amalgamated and hot. That’s it!

Mincemeat Cheesecake

See here for my basic no-cook cheesecake recipe  and where I mention “something else” add brandy or rum to the mix. Use crushed ginger biscuits instead of digestives and add a layer or two of mincemeat.

On the same page there is also a recipe for a delicious baked cheesecake recipe which would be good topped with the above sauce, but fairly cool!

Christmas Apple Crumble ~ for 3 or 4

4 medium cooking apples – preferably Bramleys
3 tbsp mincemeat
1 tbsp soft light brown sugar
240g plain flour
pinch salt
160g butter
120g soft light brown sugar

~ Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~ Peel and slice the apples into an ovenproof dish.
~ Stir in the mincemeat and the tablespoon of sugar.
~ Rub the butter into the flour together with the pinch of salt then stir in the 120g of sugar.
~ Loosely pile this on top of the apples, level the surface, make a pattern if you feel like it and bake for about 30-40 minutes till the apples have collapsed and are tender and the top is golden brown.

Mincemeat Pinwheels

~ Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/170ºC fan/gas 5 and lightly grease a baking tray.
~ Roll puff pastry into a rectangle.
~ Spread with mincemeat.
~ Roll up the pastry from one long edge, moisten the far edge and seal the roll.
~ Slice the roll, somewhat on the diagonal is good, and lay cut side up (and down!) on the baking tray.
~ Bake till the pastry is crisp and golden – about 20 minutes.

Or try this from Woman's Magazine ...


Eccles Cakes

This looks good to me and is a great way of using up leftover  pastry scraps too!  Here are some more ideas for leftover pastry.

Mincemeat Flapjacks

180g butter

120g mincemeat

30g soft dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest

250g porridge oats

~ Preheat the oven to 160ºC/325°F/140ºC fan/gas 3.
~ Grease a 20cm square (or similar) cake tin.
~ Melt together everything but the oats over low heat, stirring occasionally.
~ Stir in the oats and decant the mixture into the cake tin.
~ Bake for about 25 minutes till the top is golden.
~ Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before cutting into squares or bars or whatever.
~ Cool on a rack.

Mincemeat Bread and No Butter Pudding!

This is based on traditional bread and butter pudding but it enough it doesn’t contain butter other than for greasing the pan.  This means you can use random pieces of bread rather than neat slices.

100g-150g stale bread in small chunks
3 tablespoons mincemeat
180ml milk
>100ml double cream
1 tbsp brandy
2 eggs
75g caster sugar

~   Put the bread into a lightly greased ovenproof dish or divide between ramekins.
~    Stir the 3 tablespoons of marmalade to liquefy and then drizzle over the bread. Turn the bread around in it.
~   Whisk together all the other ingredients and pour over pushing the bread under the surface to soak it. Set aside for 30 minutes or more – even overnight will do.
~   Preheat oven to 350˚F/180˚C/160˚C Fan/gas 4.
~   Bake for about 40 minutes till risen, golden and slightly wobbly when nudged.
~   Sprinkle with sugar or icing sugar.

Serve hot, warm or cold but warm is best.

3 Christmas Breakfast Ideas

1.  Porridge – why not stir some mincemeat (and perhaps a little brandy and cream!) into your porridge, after all it is Christmas.  See here for some more ideas for porridge, suitable for all year.

2.  Yogurt – as above but not sure about brandy and yogurt? Let me know if you try it!

3.  Mincemeat Pancakes 

Here's how to make all sorts of pancakes including how to add things such as mincemeat.

Here is another recipe in the Woman’s Magazine article:


This looks more like an American style pancake recipe to me, so either do what it says above, a gill is about 140ml.

There are several other recipes in the magazine (one of which is no longer politically correct!) but these are the most appealing, I think.

Oh, and see here for Delia’s Mincemeat Soufflés

8 Hot Toddies and Warming Winter Cocktails

Now that winter has set in and we are at the start of the festive season I thought some hot toddy recipes might be useful. Firstly then, yer actual hot toddy …

Cough & Cold Medicine for Adults aka Hot Toddy

Pin so you don't forget!
Per person ...

1 tablespoon of runny honey
1 measure of whisky (bourbon works well if you are out of the normal stuff!)
2 cloves (I always leave these out!) or a star anise
1 cinnamon stick
200ml just boiled hot water or hot brewed tea of your choice
2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
1 slice of lemon

~   Stir together the honey, whisky and cloves or star anise in a heatproof glass or mug.
~   Pour in the hot water or tea, add the lemon juice and slice and stir with the cinnamon stick.


Cranberry Orange Toddy

As above but replace the hot water/tea with hot cranberry juice and use orange juice instead of lemon.

Mulled Wine

Making mulled wine syrup in advance is a brilliant idea; much better than the traditional way of heating a whole bottle of wine with the flavourings. It is quicker and easier at the time of serving and, crucially, a lot less wasteful of alcohol!

This makes 75ml which, as luck would have it is sufficient to mull one bottle of wine and 2 tbsp of syrup is enough to mull 1 standard glass of wine.

1 orange
1 lemon
250g light brown sugar
60ml red wine
1 cinnamons stick
1 vanilla pod
2 slices of fresh ginger
a generous grating of nutmeg

~   Remove the zest from both fruits in long strips – make sure not to get any of the white pith involved.
~   Squeeze the juice from the orange (set the bald lemon aside to do something else with sometime) and put in a small (non reactive is best) pan with the zests, the sugar and the red wine.
~   Stir together over medium heat till the sugar has melted.
~   Add the spices, turn up the heat and cook at a gentle boil for about 5 minutes to form a light syrup.
~   Cool to room temperature before removing the spices then strain the syrup pressing on the debris to get out all the delicious juices.
~   Pour into a clean bottle and keep in a cool place till needed.


To use mulled wine syrup …

Warm the syrup gently over low heat, add the red wine and heat through.  Don’t allow to boil or some of the alcohol will evaporate off.  Speaking of alcohol a little brandy could advantageously be added to the glass when serving.


Mulled White Wine

Makes a change!  Make a syrup as above but using white wine and caster sugar instead of brown sugar.

Wassail - Mulled Cider

Wassail comes from the Old Norse phrase “ves heill” meaning meant “good health”.  In addition to being a general festive greeting, accompanied by a bevvy, it was also a way of honouring apple trees by going to the orchard and toasting them with mulled cider. As a result, the trees would obviously feel all proud and happy and yield a bumper crop in the coming year.

1½ ltr dry cider (and for my American readers I mean the alcoholic type) divided into two halves
125g soft light brown sugar
12 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
about 2cm fresh root ginger- sliced
1 orange – sliced
1 apple – sliced

a little rum, brandy or, best of all, Calvados – optional
~   Pour half the cider into a large pot and add the rest of the ingredients except the rum.
~   Simmer together gently for about half an hour.
~   Add the rest of the cider, taste and add a little more sugar if necessary, if you do then simmer a few mins to dissolve it.
~   Ladle into glasses to which you may, or may not, have added a tot of spirit.


Moose Milk

Not the ice cream based drink, obviously, as that probably wouldn’t work hot! This is a surprisingly delicious and very easy hot moose milk!

Irish (or other Nationality) Coffee

As illustrated on the cover of my stunningly good (IMHO – but its worth a look!)  Christmas cookbook.

Per person ...

30ml of your preferred delicious spirit or liqueur
1 teaspoon sugar
a cupful of hot strong black coffee
60ml/2 fl oz double cream

~   Warm a generous wine glass in warm water (this is to stop it cracking with the heat of the coffee) and put a teaspoon in it – so is this!
~   Put the sugar and half the coffee in the glass and stir to dissolve the sugar.
~   Stir in the alcohol and then add enough coffee to come to about 1cm/½” below the top of the glass.
~   Stir then slowly pour the cream over the back of a teaspoon onto the surface of the coffee where it should float.

If you are a black coffee drinker, then this might be more to your taste …

Ponce Livornese

This is from Tuscany; Livorno in Tuscany to be precise.

Per person …

2 teaspoons of sugar
30ml rum or brandy
a twist of lemon peel
30ml espresso or strong black coffee

~   Put the sugar, spirit and lemon peel in a heat proof glass and muddle them together with a teaspoon to merge the flavours.
~   Add the coffee and stir to dissolve the sugar.
~   Serve immediately.

I was not quite sure about the lemon in this, but it works quite well!

Useful Tip when Making Hot Toddies!



How to Make a Delicious Pan Sauce in Minutes!

Pin for future reference!

I don’t often watch cooking programmes on the telly but yesterday, accidentally, I watched and enjoyed Rick Stein’s Long Weekends where he visited Bordeaux.  One dish he ate there was steak in a rich sauce of shallots, bone marrow and Bordeaux wine  which got me both drooling and thinking (being a woman I can do two things at once).

Pan sauces are so quick, so easy and so perfect for seared meats I thought I’d explain the method, the stages, the reasoning and give some good examples to get you started.

Quantities given are for one steak, pork chop, chicken breast, lamb chop or whatever, douuble up as appropriate.

Pan Searing & the Maillard Reaction

The reason you should sear meat is to brown it causing what is known as the Maillard reaction which, in short, makes it tasty! The browned and caramelised drippings that are stuck to the bottom of a pan are known as the fond which is French for base. They are, indeed, the base of a great sauce. to make the most of it ALWAYS deglaze the pan after cooking meat – see below. (In this picture I was browning meat for a stew, where the maillard reaction is also important, but it is the same principal - just smaller lumps of meat!)

~   The meat should be patted dry and lightly seasoned before you start to cook it.
~   Generally speaking the best fat to use is a combination of 1 tbsp olive oil and a teaspoon of butter per steak or other piece of meat. On its own butter might burn but mixed with oil it will add its flavour without burning.
~   When pan frying ALWAYS get the pan good and hot before adding oil and then get the oil good and hot before adding the meat.
~   If cooking more than one piece of meat ALWAYS leave plenty of room between pieces, otherwise what they will actually do is steam rather than fry and they'll end up pallid and soggy.
~   When turning meat use tongs rather than a fork to manipulate it so as not to pierce it allowing valuable juices to be lost.
~   If the meat seems stuck to the pan when you want to turn it wait a little while; once a good crust has formed it will release itself from the pan, providing you dried the meat properly before cooking.


Resting Meat

Pan seared meat should always be set aside in a warm place, lightly covered with foil, for 10 minutes or so, during which time the fibres of the meat will relax, juices re-distribute and the meat will become tender and succulent. While the meat is relaxing you will have plenty of time to make the sauce.

Adding Aromatics – maybe!

This stage is optional but adding appropriate aromatics such as very finely chopped shallots, onions or garlic, spices can add a lot to a sauce. Here’s what you do …

~   Pour off any excess fat being careful not to disturb any of the fond.
~   Over medium heat add your aromatics and stir for 2-3 minutes till vegetables have soften and spices have “bloomed” which means they have released their volatile oils and smell gorgeous.

Deglazing the Pan

~   Add a about 100ml of appropriate liquid to the pan. – red wine or beef stock for beef and lamb, white wine or chicken stock for pork and poultry- get the idea? Try Madeira with steak, sherry or balsamic vinegar also work well in some instances. Even water is a lot better than nothing!
~   Bring it to a simmer scraping up  the fond that has stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Reducing the Liquid

~   Cook stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon till all these yummy bits have dissolved into the liquid and continue cooking till the liquid has thickened and is syrupy enough to lightly coat the wooden spoon.

You now have a fine sauce which will be delicious served with your lump of protein, but you can go one step further and make it even better!

Finish the Sauce

Add a generous knob of butter or a splash of cream and stir in. Butter will not only add flavour and lushness it also makes the sauce glossy. Cream makes it ... creamier. Here's an idea - you could use a deliciously and appropriately flavoured butter! Oh and don't boil the sauce after adding butter.

Taste & Season

Whether or not you have enriched the sauce now is the time to taste and season with salt and whatever else you fancy and is appropriate e.g. black pepper, a dash of hot sauce, a spoonful of apple sauce (great for pork) fresh chopped herbs, a squeeze of lemon, a little whole grain mustard or whatever. More details here on how to season to taste.

Serve immediately with the well-rested meat. Pan sauces tend to be rich, you don’t need a great deal, just a few spoonsful.

So that’s how to do it - lots to read but not much to do! – and here’s a few ideas.

Pan Sauce Suggestions

Pan Sauces for Pork

Apple Cider Sauce - deglaze with chicken stock and/or dry cider and, once reduced add a spoonful of apple sauce and a little chopped fresh sage.
~   Honey Mustard Sauce – deglaze with chicken stock, reduce then add a spoonful of runny honey and a spoonful of whole grain mustard.

Pan Sauces for Steak

~   Shallot Sauce – cook a finely chopped shallot in the pan at the aromatic stage and deglaze with red wine and/or beef stock, maybe add a teaspoon of Dijon or wholegrain mustard or even a teaspoon of black garlic. Finish with butter.
~   Peppered Steak – coat the steak with freshly and coarsely ground black pepper before pan frying. Deglaze the pan with beef stock and a little brandy.  Finish with cream.
~   Caramelised Onion Sauce – deglaze with beef stock and/or red wine, reduce and then stir in a spoonful of onions cooked my favourite way. Finish with butter.

Pan Sauces for Lamb

~   Red Wine & Rosemary Sauce – cook a finely chopped garlic clove at the Aromatics stage, deglaze with red wine, reduce the sauce till it coats the wooden spoon. Stir in a little freshly finely minced rosemary and finish with a little butter.
~   Minty Pan Sauce – as above but instead of the rosemary and parsley add a spoonful of mint sauce. 
~   Roasted Garlic Sauce – deglaze the pan with a light chicken or vegetable stock, reduce and then squeeze in a couple of roasted garlic cloves.  Finish with butter.

Pan Sauces for Chicken

~   Tarragon Sauce –deglaze with white wine and/or chicken stock. Finish with cream and maybe a handful of finely chopped tarragon.
~   Garlicky Mushroom Sauce – at the aromatics stage add a very finely chopped garlic clove and a handful of quartered mushrooms and sauté till the mushrooms are browning.  Deglaze with white wine and finish with cream.
~   Lemon Sauce – deglaze with chicken stock, reduce, then add a squeeze of lemon, some freshly chopped parsley and the juice of half a lemon.  You could add some capers – but I wouldn’t because I don’t like them!

Of course these are all just suggestion, follow the steps and invent your own sauces.