Tuesday 6 December 2016

Food news: Don't be a martyr in the kitchen this Christmas

Published 20/11/2016 | 02:30

Marks & Spencer pembrokeshire turkey
Marks & Spencer pembrokeshire turkey
Jack Rabbit
Knife book from Tim Hayward

From the cook's point of view, Christmas dinner is the most stressful meal of the year. And that's not just for us amateurs - even Derry Clarke, who runs the Michelin-starred restaurant, L'Ecrivain with his wife, Sallyanne, says so. "It's the sheer number of different elements involved," he says, "and getting the timing right so that they are all ready at the same time, that makes it so tricky."

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There's a lot of pressure for everything to be perfect on the day, but it's not possible for one person to do it all without ending up feeling put upon and resenting their guests when they do eventually get to sit down. The French see no shame in buying an element of the meal from the traiteur or patisserie when they are entertaining and it's an idea that Irish hosts would do well to steal over the coming weeks.

Yes, it is lovely to make elements of the Christmas feast from scratch, but there's no need to make all of them. And while the food is an enormous part of the celebration, it's more important for the cook to be relaxed enough to spend time with friends and family and enjoy the day too. So what if the cranberry sauce came out of a jar, or the roasties out of the freezer cabinet? It really doesn't matter.

Time-pressed hosts who are working up until Christmas Eve and the parents of young children are amongst those who will benefit most from enlisting help when it comes to putting the Christmas dinner together.

Marks & Spencer has a full range of pre-prepared Christmas food available to order, and Derry Clarke says that it's easy to put a personal twist on many of the dishes to make them your own. See christmasfood.marksandspencer.ie.

The Butler's Pantry is another option, with everything from a heat and serve Christmas dinner for two to turkeys, hams and all the trimmings, plus hand-made Christmas puddings and mince pies available to order from its lovely shops. thebutlerspantry.ie

Bites..

MINCEMEAT

There is nothing quite as smug-inducing as having a few jars of home-made mincemeat in the cupboard, ready to turn into instant mince-pies at a moment's notice. Nigella's suet-free recipe is a winner, you'll find it online. And stock up on all-butter pastry for the freezer.

POP GOES THE RABBIT

Chef Ian Marconi's Jack Rabbit pop-up will be popping up at The 105 Café in Clonskeagh next Saturday, November 26. The menu features five courses of Marconi's gutsy, full-flavoured food - think ox cheeks with oloroso, celeriac and truffle oil. Tickets cost €55 from ian@jackrabbit.ie

KNIFE SKILLS

If you've never given too much thought to the implements that you use to cut things in the kitchen, then Tim Hayward's new book, Knife: The Culture Craft and Cult of the Cook's Knife, will open your eyes to the world of knives and knife geeks. A perfect Christmas gift for serious cooks. Quadrille, £20.

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