• Jo Watkinson

Festive top tips: Plan your festive cooking with ease

I have another festive top tip for you. At this time of year you're probably going to find yourself in the kitchen at some point constructing some kind of elaborate meal. It might be Christmas Day, it might be a party in the run up to it, but there's going to be lots of food, lots of different timings to get right and you're probably going to be spending time with your friends and your family, might even be having a little drink or two while you're doing it. Which makes it tricky.

For me, this is my cocktails and canapes party that I have every year for a small group of my friends. It's a lot of faff. There's a lot of canapes, lots of cocktails, lot of main course food, big old dessert. And the thing is I don't want to be stuck in the kitchen. I want to be able to spend time with my friends having a lovely time and catching up. I don't want to be worrying about what I have to do next.

To make it as easy as possible, to remove all the stress and to remove all the thinking from it, my top tip for you is have yourself a spreadsheet. The joy of this spreadsheet is it covers the days in the run up to the party. It tells me what I had to take out of the freezer and when so that I don't forget because I have been known to leave things in the freezer and not remember that I need them to be defrosted. And then on the day itself, it tells me exactly what I need to do at exactly what time I need to do it. It makes it so much easier. It basically means that all you have to do is read the spreadsheet and it tells you exactly what to do at what time. You don't have to read the packets of anything. You don't have to remember what the recipe said. You don't have to have multiple recipes lying around the place telling me what the cooking times are because it's all on the spreadsheet.

You don't have to do any thinking at all, which means you go in the kitchen, you do the thing it says, you take note of when you have to be next in the kitchen. You leave the kitchen, you go and spend time with your friends. And it means everything will magically be ready at all the right times without you having to do any thinking whatsoever. And I don't know about you, by the time I've had a couple of Christmas cocktails, I don't want to be having to remember the eight different things that I've got cooking at the same time. What time they're all supposed to come off the heat or out of the oven or be turned off or anything like that. Just makes it so much easier. My top tip for you, find yourself an hour, one afternoon or one evening. Sit down with a cup of tea and think it through in logical order. Work your way through your courses. If you're doing multiple courses, or a buffet or whatever, think through each item you're going to cook and serve. Do them all and then sort them by time and work out what time everything needs to go in. And it will make your life on the day so much easier. You'll be so much more relaxed and you'll get to spend so much more time with your friends and your family and your loved ones. My top tip for you, get yourself a spreadsheet.

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