Local cookery expert Misbah Mehmood has published her top Festive Five Recipes in a free book available online and is sharing her top ten tips to make Christmas dinner as stress free as possible.
The Kempston mother-of-three, who runs her own cookery business called Foodbreak, said: “So many of my friends tell me they’re stressing over preparing the Christmas dinner, especially when they’re expecting family to join them this year, which hopefully Covid restrictions will allow. I think because last year Christmas was cancelled, there is a pressure to make this one perfect.
“But I am a great believer with a bit of planning the cooking of Christmas dinner, or any other feast, does not need to be a daunting task. So, I’ve put together my top five favourite dishes to make over Christmas into a recipe book I’ve made free online, to share with those who are struggling with ideas.
“The book contains everything from hors d’oeuvres, to dessert, including my show stopping filo mince pie, which is my own special take on the tradition festive snack, to my lemon and chilli chicken, which is a truly tasty alternative to turkey and can be made in advance.
“I have also drawn up my top ten for how I approach cooking and entertaining, to try to help others to be able to enjoy the festive season with as little stress as possible.”
- Organisation is key – make sure a week in advance you’ve got everything you need, and not just the food you’re preparing but the oil you need to cook with and the herbs you’ll use for seasoning, as well as the right cooking equipment such as trays, pots and pans. There is nothing worse than a last-minute dash to the supermarket on Christmas Eve when the shelves are empty and it’s really busy, plus you’ve got a million other things you should be doing!
- Prepare as much as you can in advance – you can peel the potatoes and vegetables the night before and leave them in pans of cold water overnight so they don’t spoil. If you’re really organised, you can boil the potatoes or parsnips on Christmas Eve and leave them in the fridge overnight. You can also freeze food in advance as well, including the mince rolls in my book, filling for my mince pies and I like to marinade chicken and freeze it, as not only does it save me time, but it also allows marinade to work properly, just defrost it on the day of cooking.
- Plan your timings for the dinner – write down exactly how long everything takes to cook and starting with the longest (which is usually the turkey or nut roast) you can work your way back as to what time other items need to be cooked, so everything is ready at the same time. Don’t forget, the roast turkey will need a good 30 to 60 minutes to rest, so you can finish off the other bits once the turkey is out of the oven.
- Keep your starters simple – let your main course be star of the show. My mice rolls outlined in my Festive Five Recipes are perfect starters. Instead of serving individually, you can serve a platter in the middle and some Christmas nibbles on the side. All the guests can help themselves and it will allow you time to focus on your main course preparation.
- Cheat as much as you can – you can buy ready prepped vegetables, microwave Christmas puddings, do whatever you can to make it easier on yourself.
- Delegate – get all the family involved. I always get my children involved in cooking as cooking is a great life skill and it’s a perfect way of spending quality time together. Or if you’ve got guests divide up the menu and they could each bring different dishes.
- Keep your table setting simple – you can’t go wrong with candles and some fresh flowers. You can set it the night before, so it’s one less thing to have to think about in the morning. If you’ve got family politics you can always put names places down to avoid any unwanted tensions at dinner.
- Clear up as you go – by tidying up and loading the dishwasher or washing up as you go, you prevent a big pile up of dirty pans and dishes, which is the last thing anyone wants to tackle at the end of a big meal. You can ask family or guests to help with this.
- Make a dessert which doesn’t take up valuable space in your fridge for people who don’t like Christmas pudding. I’ve got the perfect mince pie mini puddings and trusty chocolate cake, in my Festive Five Recipes book. Both of these can be prepared in advance.
- The most important tip of all is – do not expect everything to be perfect. Even with all the best made plans, timings might go amiss with everything else going on during the day, such as presents to unwrap and guests to entertain. Just try to enjoy Christmas as much as you can and try not to put excess pressure on yourself.
Misbah set up Foodbreak in 2017 to offer one-to-one cookery lessons and group activities. She also runs food-based well-being classes focusing on healthy eating, meal planning and portion control.
During lockdown she opened up her workshops online, which she has continued on Zoom and face-to-face, as well as now branching out into offering children’s cooking sessions in schools and community settings, children’s parties and team building days for businesses and organisations.
Misbah added “Cooking is my art and my passion. I love sharing my knowledge and skills with others through Foodbreak. You can always contact me through my Foodbreak social media channels and ask any burning cooking questions you want answering or join me on my next workshop.”