Christmas dinner meal plan when cooking for one or two

@ianvisits tweeted a few days ago that someone was writing ideas on how to plan for Christmas day for 8 and that this wasn’t fair for the numerous people who needed to cook and eat for 1 over the festive period. My first thought was that recipes for 8 could well be 4 people eating the same thing over several days and wasn’t that unreasonable, but over the last few days I’ve been mulling over what a meal plan would look like for one over Christmas. I’m probably going to be in my support bubble of 2 for a couple of days this year, but I’ve spent Christmas alone in the past and would be entirely happy to do it again. Everything below would easily double to feed two, and would be a monumental, gut-busting and freezer filling feast for one. Which is what you want over Christmas, no?

The plan is for 3 or 4 days’ worth of food, and would be quite hard to fit in the fridge! I have been eating a diet which is supposed to be low in complex carbohydrates, but I might well park that over Christmas and eat some bread. I mostly shop in Sainsburys – I think I am planning to order online ahead of time and click and collect on the 22nd.

Christmas Season 4 Day Leftovers Bonanza

Sometime prior, eg Christmas Eve Eve – have a duck confit based meal and reserve lots of the duck fat. Also some time prior, you might like to look at this and make things like speculoos fudge, mulled wine truffles, Christmas martinis, choc orange martinis…

Start Christmas Eve afternoon by making the pudding you want on Christmas Day. I think I am making a pear frangipane tart, something like this maybe. (In the past I’ve made this awesome tarte bourguinonne, but have had request to not go mad on chocolate this year).

Another good thing to get out of the way on Christmas Eve is washing up the glasses you want to use over the festive period, especially if there are some that don’t get used all that often that might be dusty. I’ll be washing the Santa teapot at this point too.

For Christmas Eve dinner, while the oven is still recovering from the tart, bake a small bacon joint, two baked potatoes and a cauliflower cheese large enough to do two meals. If you like making it properly, roux, the works, do that. If you don’t, then buy the amazing free flow frozen cauliflower cheese in bags. It’s a bag of separate cauliflower pieces, each one coated in a cheese sauce, so you can put as many or as few as you like in an oven dish. As it cooks, the sauce melts and browns and turns into a really respectable cauliflower cheese. Add another vegetable of your choice. Green beans? Carrots? Whatevs.

Once it’s roasted, serve the dinner. The bacon joint turns into 4 portions, slices for Christmas eve and 3 other portions for the following day. Cut two portions to cubes and 1 to slices and put them in the fridge when they’re cool.

Defrost the frozen scallops for tomorrow in a dish in the fridge.

Christmas morning, I want bagels, smoked salmon and cream cheese. I’ll buy smoked salmon trimmings that are much cheaper, there’s no need for fancy slices here. Just toast the bagels, mush the fish and cheese on top.

This is also good time now to start drinking, because it’s Christmas, and for once, you’re allowed. For the last few years, I’ve started the day with Norman or Breton sweet cider, because I like it and it comes in champagne style bottles which allow for a feeling of celebration. I don’t really like champagne and this cider is also far far less alcoholic, making it a great breakfast drink. I thought ahead while I was camping in France over the sweet spot of the summer hols when we were allowed, and added some to my supermarket order. Last year I enjoyed using the carving knife to sabre my bottle and some of the glasses were augmented with things like crême de mûres sauvages or Clementine gimlet syrup.

Breakfast and the first bottle out of the way, suitably replete for an extended period out of the kitchen doing whatever awesome Christmas for one things you might want to do. A film, or phoning family or whatever. Ironing, or reading whilst you’re still sober enough to do so. Last year I went bellringing, but this year no so much.

You might want to get the lunch roast out to warm up to room temperature at this point.

Roughly two hours before you want your dinner, get going in the kitchen.

I’ve just scheduled scallops with romesco sauce as our starter this year having been inspired by this week’s Masterchef. Apparently you can make it in 20 minutes, and make a small amount of the sauce out of store cupboard ingredients in a Nutribullet smoothie blender. If you buy frozen scallops you don’t even need to spend 5 minutes opening and trimming them, you just need to remember to defrost them the night before. If you don’t, you can apparently do it in 20 minutes in a bowl of warm water. I will probably look at the plan in three weeks’ time and be completely baffled why it’s there. This recipe has it out of fresh ingredients, but I’m planning to make with sun dried tomatoes and peppers out of a jar. I’m also going to make at least 2 portions of the sauce.

I want to roast a chicken. A turkey is too much for one, and a chicken augmented with slightly more christmassy trimmings is enough for me.

The lunch sequence is roughly like this:

  • Oven on
  • Check the chicken cavity is empty and add a chopped lemon, onion and carrot
  • Chicken in
  • Parboil spuds for 10 minutes. Make waaaaay too many, they’re delicious cold from the fridge over the coming days.
  • Drain then shake the spuds with flour, put into roasting tray with the duck fat from earlier, and into oven for about the final hour of chicken roasting
  • Make and eat the starter at this point somewhere
  • Get the pigs in blankets and and stuffing balls in 30-40 minutes before serving
  • Put the leftover cauliflower cheese in to reheat
  • Take the chicken out when it’s cooked and let it rest.
  • Check the potatoes. If they’re not done enough, turn the oven heat up.
  • Make gravy
  • Start boiling your additional vegetables
  • Heat your serving plate (eg put it in the sink and run the hot tap over it – the oven is busy and too hot!)
  • Open the wine, if you’ve waited this long!
  • Carve the chicken, taking off just what you want for this meal.
  • Plate the rest of your feast.
  • Eat
  • Open the kitchen window and set the oven to pyrolitic clean

The dessert was done yesterday, remember? It could reheat in the oven’s residual heat. A vanilla mascarpone would go well with it – scrape a vanilla pod into a tablespoon of icing sugar and beat into a small pot of mascarpone.

A few hours for non-food Christmas activity. Queen, reading, film, presents, thank you letters, walk/stagger…

Fridge the now cold chicken and all the leftovers.

In the evening, cheeseboard, granary rolls, bits of leftover chicken, some of the leftover bacon joint. Chutneys, leftover pudding. Crunchy salad veg like raw carrots, peppers, celery, radishes all keep in the fridge much better than leaves; they could be chopped with a dressing. Remember cheese freezes, so maybe buy the several different sorts you want but chop half of them for the freezer before you start eating.

Boxing Day

This morning we are starting with poached eggs and with them the remains of yesterday’s romesco sauce. Perhaps with bagels if you feel the need for something crunchy.

Boxing day lunch – or maybe a picnic if you want to get out there somewhere – is the same as Christmas Day evening – cold cuts, rolls, salad, cheese, leftover pudding.

At some point on Boxing Day, find some time to strip the chicken carcass and make stock. Put all the chicken meat back into the fridge. I make chicken stock with my Pressure King Pro electric pressure cooker, so the bones and bits from the chicken, reserved veg peelings, salt, pepper, celery, carrots, bay, any herbs I have knocking about, in the machine for 2 hours, then cool. You’ll need 500ml stock for this evening and the rest can freeze.

The evening meal is risotto, made from the stock above, a portion of Christmas Day’s chicken, a portion of Christmas Eve’s bacon joint, the stock, mushrooms and dried porcini mushrooms if Santa was generous. Is there still leftover pudding? Then have that.

On the 27th December, start with more of the salmon/cream cheese bagelly goodness.

For lunch use a portion of the chicken to make coronation chicken and eat it with the spare baked potato you roasted on Christmas Eve.

In the evening use the final portion of bacon joint cubes and the rest of the eggs to make spaghetti carbonara. I sometimes put mushrooms in my mine just to annoy Italian friends but also to try and get past the idea that otherwise there are no redeeming health features in the meal at all.

So there we have it. Five days of eating like a king!

Christmas Eve Eve

Confit duck with sauté potatoes

Christmas Eve

Bacon joint with baked potato, cauliflower cheese and veg

Christmas Day

Smoked salmon, cream cheese, bagels

Scallops with Romesco sauce

Roast chicken, roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, pigs in blankets, stuffing, sundry veg, gravy

Pudding

Cold cuts, rolls and cheese board

Boxing day

Poached eggs with Romesco sauce

Rolls with cold cuts and cheese board

Risotto

27th December

Smoked salmon bagels,

Baked potato with coronation chicken

Spaghetti carbonara

Outline shopping list

  • Duck confit in a tin
  • 750g bacon joint
  • 2 baking potatoes and large quantity roasting potatoes
  • frozen cauliflower cheese or ingredients to make
  • carrots and green beans, sprouts if you must
  • bagels, cream cheese, smoked salmon trimmings
  • frozen scallops
  • jars of sundried tomatoes and roasted peppers, flaked almonds, garlic, olive oil
  • medium whole chicken
  • pre-prepared pigs in blankets and stuffing balls or ingredients to make your own
  • ingredients for a dessert or a microwavable Christmas pudding
  • mascarpone, vanilla pod, icing sugar
  • granary rolls
  • cheeseboard and chutneys
  • crunchy salad veg
  • eggs
  • risotto rice, porcini mushrooms, onions
  • mayonnaise, curry powder, sultanas or dried apricots, mango chutney
  • spaghetti

Ringers’ dinner II

Last weekend I threw the house open to the lovely people in my tower for our now annual Christmas social. We initially decided we ought to have a Christmas social but that everyone’s diary in December is too hectic, so we have ours in February instead.

I like cooking for people and having people in my house but I actually don’t do it very often, so it’s nice to have an excuse.

Ringers' supper 2018

(Laid the table before counting properly AGAIN! and had to put an extra place setting in at the last minute.)

I thought that the menu had not evolved much from last year, but looking back it seems I did simplify quite a bit.  I did the mulled apple juice again and offered some of the crab apple vodka to those who were both not driving and suitably aged.

Ringers' supper 2018

It’s been cold this year, so I didn’t want to do cold starters and desserts again, and so went for a slightly ambitious three cooked courses.  Crudités were still the main feature of the starter, then I was initially thinking fondue… but it would be hard to put the pot where everyone could reach it, so went for two separate baked camemberts so that each half of the table could reach. I was planning for 8 but one of us was ill on the night and we were 7 instead.  Two vegetarians amongst our numbers and I was conscious that anything properly called camembert is by AOC definition not vegetarian, so there was some hummus available instead.

The mains as last year were baked potatoes with beans, cheese (veggie cheddar), sausages and Quorn sausages and homemade coleslaw.

I actually took hardly any photos this year, but I did take quite a lot of the dessert. I was making Simon Hopkinson’s sticky toffee pudding – I blogged about it before in 2013 and the recipe is still on the BBC, and it’s still decadent and delicious. The basic recipe says serves 4, and the only way that is true is if you don’t eat anything else for an entire weekend.  I still doubled it and cooked it in a disposable foil roasting tin for a dessert that fed 7 people on the night, did doggy bags to take for absent partners, fed my neighbours who liked the photo on Facebook, and did me and T the following day.  I still have spare ingredients and I’m making it again today for half term pudding club tomorrow 🙂

In its doubled up form you end up needing to buy over a litre of cream!

Ringers' supper 2018

The basic date sponge cooked the night before.

Ringers' supper 2018

With the first sticky toffee sauce poured over the top then put back under the grill.

Ringers' supper 2018

Loads of leftovers!

I also made fudge – this Nigella recipe ish. There weren’t shelled pistachios available when I went shopping and I didn’t fancy shelling 150 grams myself, so I just used chopped hazelnuts. And glacé cherries, because why not?  And then, having made fudge, and having been given two boxes of After Eights… I forgot to bring either of them out with the tea and coffee! So there were loads leftover which made nice end of term gifts at school for colleagues instead as well as satisfying my own chocolate craving whenever I walk past the fridge.

Ringers' supper 2018

 

 

A very Jamie dinner party

I really enjoyed Jamie Oliver’s recent series of five ingredient, easy to cook food. I’ve made loads of the things from the show, but some of the recipes called for larger quantities and feeding a crowd – so I decided to invite some friends around just so I could cook the food and try to get them to drink some of the weirder things from the liquor shelf that have been hanging around for a while.

No starter for once, just nibbles and some of the last of the basil wine, which for all its worrying in the fermentation stage has actually ended up delicious.

The main was slow cooked lamb – almost a tagine, with its ras-el-hanout and preserved lemons and an unorthodox and worrying way of cooking chick peas which seemed to work out OK.

You do wonder, with the limiting yourself to 5 ingredients, if it would have been a little better with 6 or maybe 7?  Cooking lamb without garlic?  In the final dish, the flavour of the ras-el-hanout and preserved lemons don’t come through particularly well. I wonder if this would work in the slow cooker?  The recipe calls for a 2kg lamb shoulder for 8 servings – I was feeding four, and Sainsburys only had a joint slightly over 1kg and it just about went far enough. I didn’t reduce the other ingredients at all, so have ended up with massively more lamby chickpeas than anyone can use!

Final lamb with fattened chickpeas

I wasn’t sure if the one-pot would enough to feed us all by itself, so made a side of small hasselback potatoes. I’m glad I did as they were delicious, and a good avenue for garlic and salt.

Main in serving plates - lamb, hasselback potatoes, chickpeas and tomatoes

The dessert was frozen banoffee cheesecake, moderated from the original. I used half the ingredients and made it in a 1L  / 1lb loaf tin. There was enough leftover mix to make a few ramekins as well so those can stay in the freezer till an appropriate time.  The idea of piling the chopped chocolate on the top is brilliant – it looks pretty rough and ready straight out of the freezer and slightly clumsy greaseproof lining left it misshapen as the grease creases ate into the sides. But the extremely simple garnish, a work of 90 seconds, made it look awesome and it got a nice ooh! as I brought it to the table.

Frozen banoffee cheesecake

I do like to try and do some chocolatey things – nibbles for the digestif as well as the aperitif – so I had made white chocolate salami and homemade after eight mints.  Both straight forward to make, but slightly trickier to slice!

White chocolate salami and home made after eights

In all one of the least stressy dinner parties I’ve ever done. The dessert and chocs were finished two days ahead in just over an hour; the main went on seven hours before the start time and essentially looked after itself, as well as making the house smell awesome after the first few hours. Some very enjoyable cooking and company.

More photos on flickr here.

Disaster cakes

Preheat an oven to… what was it last time? I think I did it at 180 but I can’t remember if that was too high or too low? Try 160 just to be on the safe side

Weigh three eggs, and add the same weight of fat, self raising flour and sugar to a bowl. I use vegetable oil to save having to faff with getting butter to room temperature without melting it, at a fraction of the cost and without too much taste compromise. I was supposed to be using caster sugar but somehow someone put granulated in the caster pot last time it was refilled so I suppose that will have to do.

Zest a lemon – cripes, that one’s in a bit of a state, oh well, it’s what we have. Joe Public won’t be able to taste it by the time it’s cooked – into the mix and stir until well incorporated.

Spoon the batter into 12 cake cases, realising towards the end that whilst this mix usually does 12 easily, this time it looks a bit hit and miss and there’s only really enough for 9. Oh well, the first six were a bit over full and will probably spill in the oven so I can spoon two tea spoons out of those into the remaining cases. Oh drats, the case came away with the batter and now there’s bits of cake mix all over the tin. That will be a bugger to get off later.

Cook for I dunno 15 minutes? 20?  Check they’re not burning after 20 but they’re nowhere near done so turn the oven down, or maybe up? after that and put them back in. They’re done when a skewer – where the heck have all my skewers gone? Oh there they are – comes out clean.

Leave to cool while you watch Only Connect.

Put a pointy nozzle in a disposable piping bag and place inside cocktail shaker. Spoon in a few dollops of home made lemon curd. Pff, yes of course shop bought will do. Pipe the curd directly into the centre of the cupcakes with a firm pressure and oh god there’s lemon curd everywhere, all over my hands, oozing over the top of the bag, and out around the nozzle instead of through the hole at the end.

Neatly use a teaspoon to cut holes in the remaining unruined cakes and spoon the curd in before placing the top of the cake back on and hoping the crumbs don’t make too much of a mess.

Juice the lemon you zested earlier and add icing sugar to make a fruit icing. Not that much icing sugar you dolt! Eek, this is very firm, it won’t spread at all. Oh, well, it will be fine. Normally it’s too runny anyway. Spoon the icing over the cakes taking care not to… oh… the bit you cut out might come away a bit. Yes, there will be a horrid mix of icing and crumbs and it will look awful.

Garnish with jelly lemon slices, which for no good reason are not on sale in Sainsburys any more and don’t seem to be found for love nor money anywhere other than Evil Amazon. These jelly lemon slices were actually ordered before the summer holidays and have been sitting in my pigeonhole for six weeks, but they don’t seem particularly harmed and are still well within their date so meh.

Select six of the least worst looking cakey horrors and pack them in a box for work tomorrow.

Disaster cakes

Eurovision hors d’oeuvres

We’re taking finger food to a Eurovision party this year, so I have made devilled eggs and puff-pastry pack two ways.

Eurovision hors d'oeuvres

Devilled egg recipe here. Glut of teeny eggs from newly laying small hens, so used them up in this. Quite faffy, hard to transport and not the sort of fiddly work my clumsy fingers are any good at. I should probably stop even trying anything with piping in it.

Then a block of all butter puff pastry is divided – this time I did 1/3rd tartlets 2/3rds croissants.

Preheat oven to 200 deg C

Roll the pastry, cut rounds. Halve cherry tomatoes and optionally pre-roast them a little in the preheating oven. Stick each tomato half to a pastry round with tomato purée and top with a sprinkling of grated parmesan. Bake until crispy, about 10 minutes.

Eurovision hors d'oeuvres

Roll the remaining pastry and cut into triangles, either from a large circle of rolled pastry, or less wastefully from rectangles. You are looking for very tall isosceles triangles. Place a small piece of cheese (camembert, goats, etc) and half a spoon of interesting chutney (I’m using something from the Garlic Farm) on the wider part and roll them up to form a croissant. Brush with beaten egg and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden.

Eurovision hors d'oeuvres

Serve with Meg Pickard’s Eurovision Bingo cards [PDF] .

Pudding club: sticky toffee pudding

I last made this some years ago, when Simon Hopkinson’s cookery programme was on TV. But it seems I didn’t write about it at the time, so here’s a quick post to put things right.

I made it exactly as per this BBC recipe.

It’s a truly delicious recipe – as you’d expect for something that includes over a pint of cream and most of a block of butter, along with a variety of interesting types of sugar, one of which I’d never used till the recipe sent me hunting for it.

The recipe says “serves 4” but even someone as sceptical of serving sizes as I am would think this recipe comfortably feeds 6.

Sticky toffee pudding for tomorrow's pudding club. Two toffee sauces for assembly.

The other reason this one sticks in the mind is that two years ago when I made it and photographed it and put it on Flickr, some wazzocky company took me to task for using the phrase “pudding club” in the description because they thought they owned it. Fools!

My decadent week of cake

Various things – friends visiting to see our new chickens, the last opportunity for Pudding Club before term starts again and a new found fatalism on the weight front (yeah, topping 100kg again!) has meant I have been cooking an awful lot of cake this week. I made…

Mary Berry’s Victoria Sandwich.

All the icing sugar in the world can't hide the fact the cakes are split and burned!

Which I burnt. Things I learned: a four egg mix is a good amount for my sandwich tins. 2oz of buttercream is not really enough to fill it and it takes an awful lot of jam. I need to turn the oven down. It’s really enough to combine the mix quite loosely – I would normally cream the butter with the sugar quite vigourously before adding the eggs and flour. This recipe calls for all the ingredients to go in at once and only basic mixing. And it’s fine for it.

Coffee flavoured cupcakes

Coffee cupcakes for sister in law visit.

Things I learned: a one egg sponge mix is ample to fill all four of the dinky new cupcake moulds I got for my birthday. Two spoons of instant coffee for the buttercream and two in the cake mix is about right for my taste but a bit too strong for everyone else. I need to work on my two tone icing technique and on icing more generally.

Mary Berry’s Chocolate Roulade

Oh noes! Multiple cracks! But it still looks rouladelicious!

Things I learned: this is easier than it looks. It uses a lot of eggs (might be a good thing once the birds start laying!) No flour! I turned it into a sort of Schwarzwaldkirschroulade with half a bag of frozen cherries turned into a simple jam by boiling with sugar and bits of port and kirsh I had knocking around. I make sure the sponge was good and damp and boiled some of the left up juice to a slightly stiffer set to make a drizzling jus for presentation:

And black forest roulade served with a cherry and port jus.

Dan Lepard’s cinnamon buns

An old favourite. I don’t think I’ve ever made them without burning them a little, however – in this case, although they looked blackened they didn’t taste burnt at all.

What I learned: the recipe fits neatly in my large rectangular roasting tin – I’ve always used my round 9″ cake tin before. If you leave them to prove whilst ringing for a wedding, they will likely go over the top of the tin.

Massively over proven cinnamon buns waiting for the oven to get to temperature

But they will still taste delicious and wonderful anyway.

Brownies

This recipe is a good’un and came out with the desired highly squidgy interiors. The recipe is extremely detailed, and I might have glossed over the finer points.

I had to pop off to Dunelm to buy a new tin for making the swiss roll needed for the roulade, and whilst I was there, bought a square tin for brownies and tray bakes, which I have felt I needed for a while. This recipe fills it really well.

Even more cooking for chicken visitors!

The picture shows afternoon tea with tuna and yellow pepper sandwiches, a small plate of cucumber sandwich bites, strong black coffee, and brownies and cinnamon buns for after.

Perhaps the main thing I learned is that my mobile phone takes horrible food pictures!

Summer of smoothies

So this summer, we have been making a lot of smoothies.

I’ve resisted them for years, because I assumed they relied on using those punnetts of expensive soft fruit, often flown across the world, and out of season. But somewhere on the internet, I got given the idea that bags of frozen berries work just as well, and can go straight into the blender from the freezer.

The frozen fruit is far cheaper than the fresh Class I stuff at the front of the supermarket, and so for the last couple of months I have kept my freezer stocked with berries and the blender in almost daily use.

My supermarket has a variety of berries, and we have mostly been using frozen cherries and a blueberry/strawberry mix. The black forest bags look like they ought to be delicious, but they are chock full of seeds from raspberries and they get stuck in my teeth.

The average smoothie is made with about 80grams of frozen berries, a banana, a small spoon of oats, and enough milk to get the consistency right. There’s two of your 5 a day right there! All of the ingredients can be room temperature, so long as the berries come right out of the freezer, and it still makes a nice cold smoothie without the need for ice.

I have been using these remedially when I am conscious that my diet has been poor and that I am nowhere near getting enough fruit and veg in. In extremis, some days I’ve been making 4-fruit smoothies by adding in canned fruits – the cheapest supermarket basics in the tinned pear and pineapple ranges. Since they’re going to be bashed into pieces, it doesn’t matter what size is in the tin.