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Guy Warner’s how-to hacks for festive feasting

Puddings made by Justine, at The Pudding Shop, Upton-upon-Severn. Photo: Andrew Higgins/Thousand Word Media
Puddings made by Justine, at The Pudding Shop, Upton-upon-Severn. Photo: Andrew Higgins/Thousand Word Media

You’d think by now we’d have got the hang of Christmas. Yet every year, there is a tendency to create the same slightly fraught, high-pressure kitchen chaos that could be featured in any episode of Boiling Point!

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, but I sometimes wonder: does the pleasure outweigh the aggro? I mean, does it really matter if we haven’t hand-prepared every single item on the menu from scratch? Yes, we could hand-squeeze the cranberries to make fresh cranberry sauce, but really, is it completely necessary?

I know some people love all the build-up and the preparations but when you take a step back and look at the pressure we often put ourselves under with the food, it all can start to look ever so slightly mad!

What I have learnt over the years is that Christmas is not just about the food – it’s actually the people who make the day. So, to give you time to enjoy being with said people, here are my tried and tested festive hacks to help you keep things a little calmer this Christmas:

1. Let the butcher do the work: quite simply, this is the best piece of advice I can give. Your butcher is the expert so let them do the heavy work. Chose a butcher that specialises in quality produce and see what they offer at Christmas. Many of them can make your pigs in blankets for you using freshly-made chipolatas and local bacon (I mean, really, who has time to stand for an hour wrapping mini sausage in strips of bacon?!), and they have fab sausage meat so you can add your own stuffing to your bird.

2. Choose a turkey crown: I know this is going to sound sacrilegious to many of you but really, it’s a game changer, particularly if you’re feeding less than 6 people. There’s a reason it’s one of the biggest sellers in our Warner’s stores – people are realising that the stress of getting up at 5am to house a small ostrich in the oven only to get stuck with loads of dark leg meat that no-one really wants, is just not worth it!

3. Consider canapés instead of a starter: let’s face it, who really needs a starter on Christmas day after they’ve just had a massive breakfast and before the anticipated lunch where we know there’ll be enough food to feed a small army? Stick to a few great canapés with drinks instead, or if you really must do a starter keep it simple and light. Even I can plate up local smoked salmon, a few salad leaves and a wedge of lemon!

4. Use your local producers: your local delis, farmers’ markets and farm shops will be your saving grace this Christmas and we’ve got plenty of great Christmas producers in the Cotswolds. They are your go-to people for any of the accompaniments that you haven’t the time or inclination to make yourself. You can find homemade stock, sauces, seasonal cakes and all those other little bits that add to the Christmas spirit. It might not be your own bread sauce you’re serving up with your turkey this year, but it’s still delicious and homemade!

5. Make it a family affair: you may be the host, but the bottom line is, everyone likes to feel useful. When family members offer to bring a hand-decorated Yule log or cure a side of salmon in vodka and beetroot, say yes – you don’t get extra points for running around like a headless turkey. Even Father Christmas has helpers at Christmas time, so don’t think you have to do it all!

My go-to Christmas hacks

Great British Life: Kitchen Garden Cranberry Sauce. Photo: Alex SedgwickKitchen Garden Cranberry Sauce. Photo: Alex Sedgwick

Kitchen Garden Foods

Make sure to pick up a jar of Kitchen Garden Cranberry Sauce – it’s made by hand in small batches using plump cranberries and sugar.

kitchengardenfoods.co.uk

Great British Life: Puddings made by Justine, at The Pudding Shop, Upton-upon-Severn. Photo: Andrew Higgins/Thousand Word MediaPuddings made by Justine, at The Pudding Shop, Upton-upon-Severn. Photo: Andrew Higgins/Thousand Word Media

Upton Pudding Shop

Some festive traditions are set in stone and a brandy-lit Christmas pudding is one of those. These guys are pudding specialists – need I say more?

thepuddingshop.co.uk

Great British Life: Waghorne's Artisan ButchersWaghorne's Artisan Butchers

Waghorne’s Artisan Butchers

This award-winning butcher’s dedicated Christmas website makes it easy to order your Christmas meat and all the trimmings.

waghornesbutcherschristmas.co.uk



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