Neven Maguire’s nifty festive tips

Want to serve up a stress-free Christmas dinner? Neven Maguire helps you get ready

Things that can be in the freezer:

If you are super organised, it’s a great feeling to have started the Christmas preparations early. The following types recipes can be frozen up to three weeks in advance of Christmas Day.

  • Creamy bread sauce;
  • Cranberry sauce;
  • Christmas pudding;
  • MacNean frangipane; mince pies
  • Brandy butter

Things that can be done more than a week before:

  • Make mint chocolate truffles up to two weeks in advance.
  • Order your turkey and ham well in advance, along with any other specialist items.
  • Shop for all the store
    cupboard ingredients and alcohol you’ll need.

Remember to think about exciting non-alcoholic mocktails for kids and designated drivers. It’s always worth having extra lemons and limes, rapeseed and olive oil, eggs and a few extra loaves of bread for the freezer.

Supplies of extra-wide foil, kitchen roll, cling film, parchment and greaseproof paper are also
essential.

  • Clean out the fridge and reorganise it so that you’ll have plenty of room.

Consider keeping vegetables and other unopened items in a cupboard or in the garage if it’s nice and cool.

  • Go through the crockery, cutlery, glasses and table decorations you want to use.
  • Make extra ice or buy it in a bag.
  • Make a food shopping list of everything you think you’ll need and keep it handy so that you can add to it as you think of things.
  • Make a list of things to do that is well spaced out.
  • Sharpen your knives.

On the day:

  • Carving made easy:

For neat slices, make sure your carving knife is sharp. No carving knife? Use a long, thin-bladed knife or electric carving knife instead. Don’t use a serrated knife, as this will rip the meat.

Once the turkey has rested, transfer it to a large board. Hold one of the legs by the knuckle between the leg and body (the hip joint), pulling the leg away from the body as you go. The leg should come away quite easily. Repeat with the other leg and then either carve each leg between the thigh and the drumstick to create two pieces or slice the meat straight off the legs. Discard the bones or freeze for later to use in stock.

To carve the breast meat, the traditional method is to hold your knife flat against the breast, securing the bird with a carving fork, and cut the meat along the length of the breast. The other option is to cut the entire breast off the carcass by slicing down one side of the entire backbone, then cutting under the breast, following the line of the ribcage. Then just slice the breast on the board and repeat with the other side.

Warm the plates in a low oven (the microwave or even the dishwasher works too) and put the turkey and ham on the plates first, followed by stuffing and any garnishes. Finish with the vegetables and roast potatoes. Alternatively, create a buffet area and allow everyone to help themselves, perhaps getting parents to help any children with their selections first.

Have cutlery to hand, wrapped in napkins.

Neven Maguire’s Perfect Irish Christmas (Gill Books) is priced €22.99.



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