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Friday 17 January 2020

Don't panic! It's the A-Z of Christmas Day

From timing the turkey to coping with unexpected vegan guests, preparation is everything when it comes to a stress-free 24 hours, the experts tell Tanya Sweeney

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Tanya Sweeney

It's all very well making a list and checking it twice, but the best laid plans and greatest intentions can often be derailed on Christmas Day through no-one's fault.

Still, forearmed is forewarned, so we asked a couple of people in the know how to avoid the usual inconveniences and curveballs that can turn the big day, going from festive cheer to one big 'oh dear'.

How to… avoid smallies' temper tantrums and overstimulation

By Joanna Fortune, author of 15-Minute Parenting: The Quick and Easy Way to Connect with Your Child (Gill Books)

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"Forget the batteries - it's important to remember that in the heightened state of Christmas, these are not your standard developmental tantrum. They're overstimulation and overexcitement, especially if kids have been awake 14 times through the night. It's normal that they'll reach a point where it's all too much.

"If you want to manage expectations about presents, you need to be clear that one gift is from Santa and some are from you. I often suggest getting lots of books and sensory toys - stuff that isn't hyper-stimulating. Young kids basically need outdoor activity, so be sure to do a good brisk walk and a perhaps a nap, even if the child doesn't usually take them.

"If tantrums happen, you use a very calm and collected voice, come down to their level and tell them firmly that we don't shout or yell in this house. No-one feels good about punishing children on Christmas Day. Separate them from the action and take them to a quieter room. Stay with them, and if they're very small, point out things to them. When you're changing their field of vision, it grounds them. I call it a 'time in'."


How to… manage the dinner timings

By Andrew Rudd, chef and owner of Medley Restaurant, Dublin (

"Just remember, everything revolves around the turkey and how long that takes. People become overwhelmed with that, which is often why I suggest going for a turkey crown and shying away from a traditional turkey. There's less waste and it's more efficient in terms of prep. The instructions are on the packaging so you can't really go wrong - it takes around 90 minutes and the likes of Aldi do amazing ranges. With everything else, prep well in advance - that means all you have to do on the day is cook it. Lay the table the night before, peel and prep vegetables beforehand, and allocate different jobs to everyone in the family - when I was a kid it was my job to lay the table, and I loved that."


How to… do a failsafe Christmas drink (and one for non-drinkers)

By Oisin Davis of Great Irish Beverages and co-owner of Virgin Mary on Capel Street

"My go-to drink over the Christmas period is a hot mulled apple. I keep a huge pot of it on the stove to dip in and out of. Serve it as is for any guest that's driving or not imbibing and for those who want to get a little looser, throw in a shot of Jameson. To make 12 serves you need: 2 litres of pressed Irish apple juice; 3 star anise; 3 cinnamon sticks; 1 teaspoon of green cardamom; 10 matchstick cuts of ginger; 2 tablespoons of Irish honey and 2 oranges, sliced and studded with cloves. Place all liquid ingredients in a pot and stir over medium heat for 5 minutes. Place half of the orange slices in the pot and throw on the lid. Reduce heat to very low and allow to cook for 15 minutes.

Ladle each serve into a mug over a tea strainer and garnish with an orange slice.

"Then for any time I need go fizzy with the bevvies, you can't beat a little elderflower with some Prosecco or Champagne. It couldn't be easier to make. Pour 2 teaspoons of elderflower cordial into a champagne flute and then drop in 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and stir. Then top up with the bubbly and garnish with a little peel."


How to… make the perfect Christmas spuds

By Atish Bhuruth, chef at the Butcher Grill in Ranelagh, Dublin (

"A really clever, easy way to save valuable time on Christmas Day and guarantee the perfect crunchy fluffy roast potatoes is to prep them well in advance and freeze them. Choose a good roasting potato like Maris Pipers. Peel and halve any larger ones. Place in cold salted water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 8 to 10 minutes until they're just getting soft around the edges. Strain in a colander, shaking to roughen the edges a little. When they've dried out a little, coat with seasoned flour and duck fat. Spread out on a tray and freeze. When frozen you can throw them all into a freezer bag. They'll keep for months. About an hour before you want to serve them, preheat some more duck fat or oil in a roasting tray in a hot oven (about 180c) carefully add the frozen roasties and cook for one hour, or until golden brown, turning them half way through. You can throw in some rosemary and garlic cloves for added flavour."


How to… deal with politics talk at the Christmas dinner table

By Terry Prone, communications expert

"The first thing to learn is not to argue when you can't change people's minds. Just as they say there's no crying in baseball, there's no fighting in politics if there's no possibility of change. The best thing is to say so someone, 'I find that interesting' or 'You make a good point', and just keep quiet after that."


How to… deal with a hangover

By Charlie Turner, director of Neat Nutrition

"It sounds dire, but if you can hold your nose and just down some pickle juice, this is a widely accepted hangover cure. The vinegar, water and sodium super combo is the ultimate 'pick-me-up', combating dehydration and boosting energy. It's worth adding some honey, not only to sweeten up the salty concoction but also to restore blood glucose levels."


How to... win at Monopoly

By Nathalie Fitzsimons, former Monopoly champion UK & Ireland

"Once you've reached three houses, the amount that the rent increases each house maxes out. If you want to use your money wisely, stick to just three houses. If you want to be extra sneaky, stay on four houses and prevent people from buying houses later in the game once you've used them all up. As soon as you get a monopoly yourself, mortgage everything else and spend every penny on houses. A monopoly with three houses on each square is far more valuable than lots of low-rent single property squares. You can always unmortgage them later in the game. In the early game you want to get out of jail as soon as possible. But once all the property squares have been bought sometimes the best thing is to wait patiently in jail, avoiding expensive rents while still collecting rent on your properties."


How to... cater for surprise vegetarian/vegan guests

Tanya O'Halloran, blogger at

"For those who don't have the time to create an extra dish for the veggie/vegan guest, there are lots of vegan options available on the market. A really popular one this year seems to be the roast from Moodley Manor, an Irish company. You can replace duck fat with sunflower oil for the roasties, use a dairy-free spread/milk in the mash and the same for the veggies. The results are just as tasty and better on the waistline and the pocket. Keep a little stuffing to the side too and you can also buy instant vegan gravy. A lentil wellington is always a super treat, and there are so many amazing recipes online. A gravy with marmite and some really good quality vegetable stock might sound odd but it is often a lot tastier than the meat version. For party canapés, you cannot go wrong with some puff pastry delights - you can make mini pizzas, mushroom filled vol au vents and just-roll pastries are vegan. You can also get Lynda McCartney sausage rolls that are vegan, they taste ridiculously like the real thing."

Irish Independent

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