For many of us, the kitchen is our sanctuary – a place where we retreat from the busy-ness of daily life to enjoy the therapy of cooking.
On Christmas Day, however, the kitchen is often the least restful place be as we battle against the clock to prepare a host of different dishes, often in the midst of well-intended interruptions.
Even the most experienced cook could be forgiven for feeling frustrated at the various offers of help that, in fact, add to the workload.
However, help is at hand with our 5 top tips on reducing the stress of cooking Christmas lunch.
Organise your menu
Write a list
Enlist the right help
Prepare your table
Set the mood
Plan what you’re going to serve and write a long shopping list so you have all the ingredients to hand. And don’t be tempted to change your mind at the last minute – stick to your plan and you’ll feel more organised. Review your menu and decide if anything can be made ahead – the less you have to do on Christmas Day itself, the more time you’ll be able to spend with your guests.
Go through your menu and write down what time different cooking tasks need to be done. That way you can work through your list, knowing that everything will be ready at the right time.
Ask your family for help – before you need it. This will ensure they know what tasks they will be expected to take responsibility for, taking some of the weight off your shoulders. With a bit of fore-warning, your spouse or children will probably enjoy contributing to the Christmas meal. If they don’t want to get involved in the cooking, assign them a task such as setting the table or storing guests’ coats.
Lay your table as far in advance as you can – ideally the night before. Get your dinnerware and cutlery ready, as well as napkins, wine glasses and condiments. Wipe clean plastic tablecloths are very practical and look good too.
Think of ways to make the meal preparation more enjoyable. If you love Christmas carols, set up your radio or iPod so you can listen while you cook. If you love peace and quiet, ask your spouse to entertain the children while you concentrate on cooking. If you don’t want to be separated from your guests, arrange your seating nearby and serve pre-lunch drinks in the kitchen. Make time in your cooking schedule for a short break here and there to enjoy a drink with your guests.
Most of all, remember that you’re not super-human. If your Christmas lunch doesn’t turn out as well as you’d hoped, don’t worry. Your guests are unlikely to expect perfection – they would rather have a happy you to enjoy spending the day with. And if anyone complains – you can always invite them to do the cooking next year!