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

Mealplanning II

Just a little more on mealplanning, after my cooking with leftovers post a few months ago set the scene.

I do my weekly mealplan with Google Docs, in front of the computer. Seems a bit nerdy to type about food, but incrementally benefits have emerged.

The first is that I can plug it into my shopping list doublequick. I have been using OurGroceries for a few years now. It’s a smartphone app that can sync the household shopping list between my phone, P’s phone and all the various computers. If either of us wants something, we can put it on the list from wherever we are and it’s in the right place for whipping out the phone at the supermarket. Once you get there, tapping each item as you go round the store crosses it through. (and were anyone watching from home, they could see how fast you were getting around)

For ages I was planning the week’s meals, printing them out and sticking them to the cooker hood with a magnet (the fridge front is part of a fitted kitchen, so not metal!) This meant unless I was actually in front of the cooker, I couldn’t necessarily remember what was for dinner that night. Now, thanks to the magic of Google and cutting and pasting, I create an event in my calendar for the meal each night. I have access to P’s calendar too, so I can easily see if there things that will delay him or mean he isn’t eating at home. I can make the event longer if it’s something that needs extra cooking, and if I’m out of the house and need additional ingredients, all I have to do is check my phone.

Thirdly, I’ve gotten into the habit of posting the week’s plan into Google Plus and pushing it to a group of contacts I know are interested in food. This leads to helpful discussion and interesting facts and helps share some of the ideas. (You can find me on Google Plus here.) In fact, this has fast become my only use of Google Plus. It tends to be the social network I check last and only if I have time. And almost all of my contacts seem to be using it as their secondary network, so by the time I get there, most of what I read I have already encountered from those people on Twitter or Facebook.

I have been thinking about posting the meal plans here on the blog. Is that de trop? To be honest, much of the writing I do here now is food and twitter, so at least that would mean a weekly post!

Mealplanning and cooking with leftovers

For the last three months or so, when I’ve been home all week, I’ve been much more rigorous about meal planning and cooking an evening meal. I start the week – before I go shopping – by writing out what will be the evening meal for both of us, then head to the supermarket. This has really saved me some money, cut down how often I shop and some weeks, when I start off thinking there’s loads leftover, has got the weekly shop down to £20. Not bad!

Some of the parameters for the mealplan for the week are: one and often two veggie nights – or at least meat free. When it’s just us, I don’t make much of an effort to make sure I am totally veggie, so might still use a meat stock, for example. Another is that evening meals contain at least 2 portions of veg to fit in with a general plan of 1x juice with breakfast, two fruits at lunch and voilà – 5 a day.

And for each week I try and make sure there’s at least one pair of cooking too much / cooking with leftovers the following day. An example is the 2×2 lasagne I blogged about a few years ago. ((years? really?? omg)) This week I shall be doing something a little like that, but with canneloni and a blue cheese sauce.

Other things I like to do are:

Roast chicken: one roast chicken will feed two of us at least three times, and then boiling up the bones for stock is a good way to take up space in the freezer get further tasty meals in future. Subsequent meals include: chicken pie with a simple crust and a sauce made from crème fraiche and mushrooms and chicken risotto using the stock as well

Bacon joint: Sainsbury’s has these rolls of smoked bacon as a joint that are particularly delicious and available in smaller sizes. The 750 gram joint will just about feed two twice if you are not piggy. It does rather annoy me that something sold in exactly 750 grams has cooking instructions based on multiples of 500 grams, so I always have to blink twice whilst doing the maths to work out the cooking time. Something like this in the oven is a good excuse to do jacket potatoes at the same time, so the first meal is usually bacon, baked potatoes and cauliflower cheese, and versions of the second meal have been chunky pea and ham soup and yer basic ham egg and chips.

Sausages: usually another excuse to do baked potatoes, supermarket sausages are usually sold in packets of 8, which is too many for two but not enough for four, so the leftover 2/3 sausages need substantial bulking out to turn into another meal. However, what I have been doing lately which is rather nice and reasonably healthy is a veg-ful pasta sauce where you fry an onion, celery and carrot until translucent, then add a tin of tomatoes and a glass of wine and boil furiously until the wine is pretty much reduced and glossy. Add in the sausages somewhere along the line and start boiling pasta towards the end, mix the lot together and there you go.