Get a head start on Christmas dinner with easy recipes you can start prepping now

HI all, Suzanne Mulholland here with an early Christmas batch-cooking special.

It is not easy to get on with all our usual festive planning this year, but fear not – as long as you have some freezer space, you can at least start prepping your big dinner for December 25.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be showing you how to get ahead with all your festive food, from mince pies and delicious roasted vegetables to turkey and stuffing.

To kick off the Christmas cooking, this week I have a bumper collection of recipes for the foods you could start prepping now.

It’s all freezable, so you can save yourself lots of fuss on the big day and relax along with the rest of the family.

Mince Pies

Serves 12

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 13-15 minutes

YOU NEED:

  • 411g jar ready-made mincemeat
  • 2 sheets pre-rolled shortcrust pastry
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/220C/gas mark 6/7. Unroll the pastry sheets and keep them on the baking parchment that they come on.
  2. Using a round pastry cutter, cut out 12 discs that are about half an inch bigger than the holes in your 12-hole baking tin. Once you have 12 discs, push each into the holes.
  3. With the second sheet of pastry, take a pastry cutter – such as a star or a Christmas tree shape – and cut out 12 shapes to top each pie. Any leftover pastry can be used for other recipes or to make another batch of mince pies.
  4. In each pastry case, add about 1 heaped teaspoon of mincemeat.
  5. Do not overfill, as it will bubble over. Now place a cut-out shape on top of each filled hole.
  6. Cook in the oven for 13-15 minutes. Keep an eye on them, as they can catch pretty quickly and will cook at different times depending on different ovens.
  7. Remove once golden brown.
  8. Leave to cool for 2 minutes before carefully removing each pie using a knife and leaving to cool on a wire rack.
  9. Sprinkle with some icing sugar.

Ready to freeze: Leave the pies to cool completely before placing in a large, reusable freezer bag and popping them in the freezer.

Ready to eat: Remove the mince pies from the freezer and leave to defrost fully. They won’t take long to defrost if left at room temperature.

The easiest-ever Christmas pudding

Serves 6

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 13-15 minutes

YOU NEED:

  • 50g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 600g mincemeat
  • 2 tbsp brandy or whisky
  • 50g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mixed spiced
  • 3 tbsp treacle
  • 2 eggs
  • Zest of 1 orange

METHOD:

  1. Add all the ingredients to a bowl and, using a wooden spoon, mix really well until everything is combined.
  2. Pour the mix into a lightly oiled, 900ml glass ovenproof bowl. Cover loosely with a circle of greaseproof paper and cook in the microwave for 13-15 minutes on high.
  3. To check it is done, you can put a knife through it and if it comes out clean, the pudding is cooked.
  4. Once the pudding is cooked, leave to cool completely. This can sit and wait in a cool, dark place for up to a month before Christmas as long as it is well covered with clingfilm and foil.
  5. There is no need to freeze it.

Ready to eat: On Christmas Day, reheat the pudding in the microwave for 5 minutes on high until piping hot. Serve with brandy butter, cream and a sprinkle of icing sugar.

Christmas dinner trimmings: Bread sauce

Serves 4

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

YOU NEED:

  • ½ onion
  • 14 cloves
  • 480ml whole milk
  • ½tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 60g breadcrumbs
  • 120ml double cream

METHOD:

  1. Take half an onion and stud it with cloves.
  2. Place the milk, onion, nutmeg and bay leaves in a pan and simmer for 10 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper.
  3. Next, take it off the heat and run the milk through a sieve so you are left with just the flavoured milk.
  4. Pour the liquid back into the original pan and add the breadcrumbs and cream and stir.
  5. Allow it to thicken on the heat for a few minutes, then take off the heat and leave to cool.

Ready to freeze: Put the sauce mixture into labelled sealed freezer bags. Flatten bags to ensure you can stack them in your freezer.

Ready to eat: Defrost overnight in the fridge. Once defrosted, heat in a saucepan on the hob or in the microwave for around 1 minute. If it’s a bit thick simply add some more cream or milk to it. Heat until piping hot and bubbling.

Christmas Day starter: Smoked salmon pate parcels

Serves 4-6

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Chilling time: 2-3 hours

YOU NEED:

  • 600g smoked salmon trimmings
  • 340g tub cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp frozen chopped garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tbsp double cream
  • 12 slices smoked salmon

METHOD:

  1. Add all the pate ingredients (apart from the 12 smoked salmon slices) into a blender and blitz for a few minutes until you have a pate consistency.
  2. If you have a small blender, you might need to do this in a few batches and you may have to chop up the smoked salmon to allow it to blend better.
  3. Taste your pate and see if you prefer to add any more seasoning.
  4. If you do add anything else, just remember to give it a final blend so it all mixes together well.
  5. Take your muffin tin and line the moulds with clingfilm. Next add the strips of smoked salmon. (I recommend 2-3 thin slices per mould so you can fold it into a parcel shape.)
  6. Add a scoop of smoked salmon pate and seal the parcels with the ends of the smoked salmon strips. Wrap each parcel in clingfilm and freeze in the muffin tin.
  7. If you aren’t planning on freezing, place the parcels in their tin in the fridge for 3 hours before you eat them so they have time to set.

Ready to freeze: Once frozen for a few hours, remove the parcels from their moulds and add all parcels to a labelled freezer bag. This will free up space in your freezer.

Ready to eat: Remove the parcels from the freezer the night before you need them and leave them to defrost on a plate overnight in the fridge. Serve with crusty bread for a fab starter.

Christmas Dinner starter: Carrot and parsnip soup

Serves 4-6

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

YOU NEED:

  • 800g parsnips
  • 400g carrots
  • Olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 115g frozen diced onions
  • 2tsp chopped frozen garlic
  • 1.5 litres vegetable stock
  • Splash of double cream

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/200C/gas mark 4-6. Peel your parsnips and carrots and roughly chop. Add to a large baking tray and drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the dried sage.
  2. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, checking and turning them halfway through.
  3. Remove the parsnips and the carrots then add the honey and return the tray to the oven for around 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, add a splash of oil to a large saucepan along with the diced onions and garlic and cook until soft.
  5. Remove from the heat and wait for the parsnips and carrots to be cooked.
  6. Remove them from the oven and add to the large saucepan of onions and garlic. Add the stock and bring to the boil.
  7. Check all the veggies are soft, then remove from the heat, take a hand blender and blitz the soup until smooth.
  8. Season well and add a splash of double cream.

Ready to freeze: Leave the soup to cool completely before adding it to reusable freezer bags then storing in the freezer.

Ready to eat: Remove the soup from the freezer and leave to defrost completely. Reheat in a saucepan or in the microwave until piping hot. This will take around 5-8 minutes.

Christmas Dinner trimmings: Cranberry sauce

Serves 6-8

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

YOU NEED:

  • 85g sugar
  • 240ml fresh orange juice
  • 120ml port
  • 400g frozen cranberries
  • 1 finely chopped apple
  • 1tsp ground nutmeg

METHOD:

  1. Take a saucepan and add your sugar, orange juice and port (leave a little port for the end). Heat until the sugar is fully dissolved.
  2. Next, add the apple, cranberries and nutmeg to the saucepan and stir. Allow it to cook for about 20 minutes on a medium heat, stirring every so often.
  3. Once it has reached a jam-like consistency it is done, so take it off the heat.
  4. Next, add the remaining port. You can then choose to leave the cranberries whole to add a little texture or give the sauce a quick blitz with a hand blender if you prefer it smoother.

Ready to freeze: Put the mixture into a labelled, sealed freezer bag and squash until flat. Flat really is good, as it takes up less space in your freezer and will be quicker to defrost.

This makes quite a lot of sauce, so you should get enough to serve with two large family meals – such as Christmas dinner and a Boxing Day buffet tea.

Ready to eat: Simply defrost, then heat until bubbling in a pan and serve. If using a microwave, heat through for 1-2 minutes.

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