Monday, 9 November 2015

Getting Ready for Christmas Part 4 - Planning

Perfect for the whole family. Think boozy prune and armagnac truffles, homemade damson vodka, gluten free apple Christmas cake and mulled cider recipes! Inspired by Pinterest @rivercottagehq have created this collection of seasonal recipes to make in the run up to Christmas. They'll be perfect homemade gifts or tasty delights you can indulge in yourself on Christmas day.:
My family has always made things simply because we have not always been able to afford to buy those items in the shops.  It has proved useful in keeping us occupied and young children in the house have always been encouraged to make things no matter how simple which in turn has given them practice and encouragement to have a go and also once their project is completed satisfaction in seeing something through to the end and the confidence to have a go another time. It is not just down to the school to teach your children things.  We have always brought up with the ethos that  If you cannot afford it the next best thing is to have a go and try to make it yourself.  

As part of my Christmas preparations what I love to do is have a good nosey at all the Christmas Decorations, foods, different types of cakes, different preserves etc. that the shops have.  This is the delightful part for me because I take great delight in seeing some lovely bits and bobs and yet do not spend a penny. My pennies are kept well and truly in my purse.  You must remember that you cannot have everything but you can have some things.  Sometimes there is too much choice and you end up being the proverbial kid in the sweetie shop not knowing what to do for the best. 

However I do like stores like Aldi and Lidl who have a selection of what I call delicatessen foods at very honest prices which means feasibly everyone has the opportunity to have some lovely nice things come Christmas that do not break the bank.

What I do though is decide which pieces I like.  If I can make them myself I will (both craftwise and foodwise)  but if it is a one off "heirloom" type piece  (and its expensive) then very occasionally I do treat myself but that sort of thing has to be pretty special to tempt the money from my purse.

I do however make things myself but that is the way things were when I was growing up - a family tradition which I honour and enjoy.  At that period in time you never asked for expensive designer items because you knew your parents just could not afford it.  We still had very good presents and still had lovely family Christmas's but for me the pleasure is in the plotting, the planning, resourcing materials and then making and giving part of myself to the recipient. Every single thing I do is related in some way like an interlocking jigsaw puzzle, but  being with Family and sharing food and activities is for me what it is all about and always has been.  After all Christmas is a celebration of the original family.

So the food is important.  We enjoy a traditional roast Turkey as a rule.  Last year we tried a Ballontine but will be back to the  full Turkey again this year. I missed my cold cuts and being able to go and help ourselves to extras is all part and parcel of our Christmas.  Especially when I have made loads of pickles, chutneys, relishes and sauces to go with them.

So I source my Turkey - usually from my Butchers but depends on what they are charging.  I am not too proud to go to the supermarket  especially if the are a tad pricier than I want to pay but I do love to go to a proper Butchers by preference and I do prefer fresh.  You buy really to suit the money in your pocket and what is available to you.  Some people have Capon, a joint of Venison, a joint of beef or as our family did when I was growing up Goose. Or if you are vegetarian a nut roast or some other option  It does not matter as long as you end up with a lovely hot meal, you find it delicious and you have the company of your loved ones.  What you do is personal to you.

Then there are the accompaniments.  These also need planning for.  We usually serve chipolata sausages wrapped in streaky bacon as a side dish as well.  The Turkey is stuffed with an onion one end of the bird and the stuffing in the neck. I usually do extra stuffing as we all love this I cook it in a separate tray and then cut into fingers and everyone can help themselves to this with the cold cuts as well.  I also prepare roast onions, roast potatoes, roast parsnip (and sometimes sweet potato or roast pumpkin). These vary from family to family. 

I also make Home made bread sauce made out of left over bread and then frozen and popped into the freezer.  Link to recipe here:  We have this with chicken as well so make use of that bread that may be going to be wasted and make bread sauce or dry it in the oven for home made bread crumbs or turn it into a bread and butter pudding.  But in any event I diverse, please just do not waste it.

Never cooked a Turkey before and a bit nervous - just think of it as an oversized chicken and use gentle medium heat.  Mine always get stuffed on Christmas Eve then the Turkey is popped in a foil tent with lashings of butter smeared over it.  The aim is to keep the Turkey nice and moist at all times so that the meat is nice and tender.  I then place somewhere cold well away from the cats who be warned will start to show an unnatural interest in your Christmas Day lunch and which you must guard within an inch of your life.  They will get their share but just not prematurely.

I will give cooking times on a separate post

When I only had a half sized oven I used to prepare a lot of the veg fresh myself and then freeze it.  Saves a bit of hassle peeling veggies when you have other fish to fry so to speak. this is something I still tend to do as it gives you more time in the long run to concentrate on what you are doing and also deal with the fancier bits and pieces.  It gives you control over your oven as well.  The main oven only goes on if it is going to be used to its full potential.

So we have a shopping List forming:

1.  Turkey
2.  Sausage meat for stuffing.
3.  Chipolatas
4.  Streaky bacon.
5.  Bread for making Bread sauce and stuffing
6.  Fresh Sage leaves (or dried), Bay Leaves and Onions.
7.  Butter
8.  Cloves and dried ground Cloves and white pepper
9.  Home made Gravy base.
10. Bread Sauce.

Etc. Etc.

I am a big one for lists come Christmas time to make sure that I end up with all the ingredients (I stockpile these from September onwards) to hand to make things myself.  Sometimes you get more for your money doing things this way and if there are a lot of you to feed economically it works out per head far cheaper.  That's another reason I do all of my own preserving as I always end up with a few jars extra that can be given as a foodie Christmas present.

Choose the recipes you want to have a go at in advance and build up a folder of those recipes you intend to use. 

There are some lovely items here to have a go at:

Go through your ingredients list to add items that you do not have to your main shopping list.  If you go shopping weekly add a few bits on a weekly basis if monthly do a baking ingredients shop one month and the following month, the sweeties and nibbly bits shop and so on.   Look at your use by dates and only buy those items with a long stop date on them.  I also put said items out of the way so that nobody can get their mitts on them.    I quite frequently watch the offers and if they are genuine and it is something that we would use my hand goes into my pocket, but you have to be selective in what you choose.  Building up like this helps the budget and also means that your Christmas shopping bill is not one to faint at because it is staggered.

I go to the pound shop and if there are crisps and things like that which are cheaper to buy there - I buy them there.  When it comes to budgeting you cannot afford to be snobby about where your food comes from. The more you save this way the more pennies you have to put towards something else.   Equally there are select items that I buy from M & S or Waitrose It is all relative at the end of the day.  My loyalty lays with my ingredients and my pocket not the store provider.

Catch you soon for another instalment.



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Meet the Moggies

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