Stress Free Christmas Part 7: Christmas Food and Drink

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It’s time to Eat Drink Cook & be merry!

See what I did there?

In Part 7, we’ll be planning our Christmas food and drink shopping and I’m hoping to open your eyes to the many and wondrous options out there, other than the local supermarket.  I recently started getting a veg box delivered each week and discovered that I’m not spending any more than I would at Sainsburys but I’m getting fresher and more varied veg, while supporting a small business rather than a faceless supermarket.

More and more I am disappointed by what my supermarket has to offer – watery chicken, extortionate steak that is actually more fat than meat and cuts that are getting smaller and smaller each year.

Why settle for this when we have such huge choice out there that is both better quality and often-times, cheaper?  So, get your list making hat on and let’s get started with our Christmas food and drink planning!

Plan your Festive Food & Drink in 3 steps

Step 1: List your basic foody needs

Here, you need to think what different meals or foody occasions you need to cater for.  I’m not talking about your normal shopping from now until Christmas, you just need to think about those occasions which require special catering.  No need to be too specific just yet so don’t panic if you don’t have all your menus etc planned out.  We’re just getting a rough idea for now.  Here are a few examples…

Foody Event Rough Requirements
   
Christmas drinks party for 10 Wine for mulling (5 bottles?)
Soft drinks
3-4 easy nibbles
Something sweet
Christmas dinner for 10 Turkey
Potatoes & Veg
Stuffing
Bread Sauce
Condiments (cranberry sauce etc)
Drinks – Champagne, Wine, Beer, Soft
Christmas Pudding
Christmas Cake
Christmas Eve for 6 Ham
Red Cabbage
Potatoes
Pudding
Wine, Beer
Boxing Day for 4 Smoked Salmon
Bucks Fizz
Roast Pork?
Veg & Potatoes
Nibbles
Wine, Beer, Soft

Step 2: Adding the meat to the bones

Once you have your basic plan above sorted then you can start to work through a bit more of the detail.  It’s time to hit the recipe books and figure out what you’ll be feeding your family friends.  I’ll be adding a few recipes to help you along the way!

Here are a few other tidbits to mull (there I go again!) over…

To turkey or not to turkey?

I can’t be that helpful here because I’ve never had anything but turkey in all my thirty (ahem) something Christmases.  I love the stuff and feel no need to change the habit of a lifetime.  That being said, if you’re catering for smaller numbers then a goose can be a wonderful thing and one should never underestimate the value of a beautiful roast chicken if there are just a few of you.  I’m afraid I can’t back a plan to veer so wildly from tradition as to go with beef or some other non-poultry based meal.  Each to their own of course but it just seems wrong to me.

Party Fare

If you’re going for a nibbles type do then follow Nigella’s advice and keep it simple.  No need to spend days in preparation!  Just pick 3 or 4 nibbles that take little or no effort. Here are a few of my faves:

Cocktail Sausages: What party is complete without them?  Nigella has a few recipes for these little beauties.  Here’s just one to tickle your tastebuds..

Nigella’s Cocktail Sausages

Nuts & Olives: It’s not cheating to just open the odd packet and pour things into pretty containers.  People like nuts and olives – no need to fix what ain’t broken.

Smoked Salmon: Not being a particular fan of caviar, this would always be my choice when it comes to a celebratory snack.  Personally, I don’t think you can beat it on some brown bread and butter with a squeeze of lemon juice and a grinding of black pepper. If you want to be fancy schmancy about it though, here are a couple of ideas…

Smoked Salmon Blinis – from BBC Good Food

Smoked Salmon Crostini with Horseradish – from Delicious Magazine

Cheese – no need to keep the old fromage just for after dinner.  It can make some super little nibbles too…

Manchego & Honey – Jamie includes this in a great set of tapas recipes from his 30 Minute Meals book.  Just slice the manchego and drizzle over some good quality honey and some fresh thyme.  Yum.

Goats Cheese – There are loads of lovely little nibbles that can be made around goats cheese.  They tend to be more assembly jobs than actual cooking but they always go down very well!

Bruschettas with Goat’s Cheese, Tomato & Basil – from Delia Online

ps – bruschettas make another great little nibble.  You could just do 3 or 4 different toppings and leave it at that!

Baked Camembert – this is one of my all time favourites!  There’s something so decadent about the oozing, melted cheese.  Just cut the top off, drizzle some good olive oil over, along with seasoning and some fresh herb of your choice (I go for thyme).  Honey works well too.  Pop in the oven at about 180 C for 20 minutes until it’s all melted and delicious and then put on the table with a big basket of crusty bread for dipping.  Don’t expect there to be any left if you go back to the kitchen for more than 5 minutes!

Drinks

Most people go to a party or to Christmas dinner expecting there to be to be some celebratory tipple or other.  It would be a brave man who didn’t have both wine and beer to offer guests, but the really memorable host will have a little something extra too – perhaps a little cocktail on arrival or some after dinner digestif to round things off.  Don’t forget soft drinks for the poor old designated driver and for any children too!

Christmas Cocktails & Drinks – Jamie Oliver

Christmas Cocktails & Mocktails – Martha Stewart

Step 3: Sourcing your Food (or should that be ‘Saucing’?

Right, now you know roughly what you’ll be needing you can have a think about where you want to get it from.  Chances are that if you want to, you can just order the whole shabang from your local supermarket, but seeing as we’re being really organised here, it’s worth checking if that’s actually the best way to go.

Before I go on, I would like to stress that my suggestions below are NOT based on any commission and neither are they based on any experience of the companies I refer to.  I am just sharing the results of my own research in the hope it will help save you a bit of time πŸ™‚

Meat/Fish

Do you have a local butcher of fishmonger?  If so, chances are, you’ll certainly get better quality fare from them than from your supermarket.  It may even work out cheaper too so it’s definitely worth looking into.   Another option to consider is whether you can order any of your meat or fish online – again, potentially it could be cheaper and/or better quality. Plus, I’d much rather support a small business or local farmer than a massive supermarket!  I’ve been doing a spot of gentle research and have found a few Christmas deals worth a look…

Farmison & Co Christmas Shop

Piper’s Farm 

Donald Russell Online Butcher

Fish Fanatics

Booze

Supermarkets tend to have some good deals on alcohol, especially around Christmas but again, always worth having a little lookie to see if local off licenses can offer you something better.  Online options also tend to offer good savings so it definitely pays to shop around.  A few more of my findings below:

Bargain Booze (the name says it all!)

World & Craft Beer (got to be worth a look, if only for the great punnage – ‘Good Libations’)

Majestic Wines – their offers are always worth a little look

Naked Wines – get a good bargain AND support independent wine makers!

Fruit & Veg

I recently started getting a weekly veg box from a local farm and I am so glad that I did.  Guaranteed freshness, guaranteed organic and guaranteed to support local business rather than faceless supermarkets.  Here are a few options to consider:

Green Grocers’ Choice

Farmisons

Riverford Farm

Right, now I’ve made myself thoroughly hungry with all this talk of festive food and drink, I think I’m going to go and make myself a snack…

Have your say

As always, I’d love to hear your comments.  What’s your Christmas Dinner or Party Food of choice?

Take me to Part 8: Party Planning Phase 2 – Food & Clothes!

Catch Up

Part 1: Christmas Budget

Part 2: Making Christmas lists & Checking them twice

Part 3: Picking Presents

Part 4: Pickling Presents

Part 5: Christmas Party Invites

Part 6: Christmas Shopping

Colette Broomhead

I am a 30 something mother of 2 little boys and I live with them and my husband in Nottingham. My passions are my family and friends, my kitchen, my cookery books and all things food and drink!

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