As Christmas fast approaches, it's important to get planning now and prepare in advance to ensure a stress-free festive season. We all know that feeling when something unexpected happens on Christmas day, but there are simple measures you can put in place to prevent this - you'll be amazed how easy they are! And it's not just the kitchen that requires some TLC - keep you and your guests safe and warm at home by bleeding radiators, hanging heavy curtains to block out the cold and setting the room thermostat at or around the recommended temperature of 21°c (70°f). Here are my top tips on how to avoid Christmas disasters in the kitchen:
1. Keep your recipes quick and simple. You'll have plenty of (less stressful) dinner party opportunities during the year to try out more complicated recipes. Keep your Christmas fare fuss free. For a quick dessert, try roasting pears or peaches with a vanilla pod, a touch of butter and a drizzle of honey.
2. Brainstorm your Christmas menu. Putting pen to paper and jotting down your menu ideas will help streamline your preparation, and help you avoid timing disasters (or dishes fighting for space in the oven). Once your menu is finalised, you could even write or print some copies of the menu to give to your Christmas dinner guests to take home as a keepsake.
3. Search for inspiration. Lots of foodie blogs and cookbooks feature Christmas menus and timing guides. Don't try to do everything yourself - draw inspiration from others, and follow tried-and-tested tips.
4. Don't leave things to chance. Do a trial run with your oven to determine temperatures and cooking times before attempting a big roast dinner. Every oven varies slightly, so it's a good idea to get comfortable using yours before jumping into a Christmas feast.
5. Buy flowers in advance. Opt for varieties that are long lasting. Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are bound to have the heating on regularly over the Christmas season, so keep an eye out for long-lasting flowers and top up their water often.
6. Prepare your Christmas pudding ahead of time Fruit mince, Christmas puddings and Christmas cakes can all be prepared weeks before Christmas Day. And cooking them in advance will help kick-start the Christmas spirit too!
7. Stay on top of your stress levels. If you need to take a break from grocery shopping, cooking, and preparing - give yourself some time out. Have a cup of tea, light a lovely scented candle and take some deep breaths.
8. Delegate! It's so important to determine which tasks you can delegate to guests, friends, family, and co-hosts. Guests like to feel helpful - delegate tasks so that people can jump in and assist on the day (it will add to the festive fun, too). Ideal tasks to delegate in my house: carving the Christmas meat, or the washing up!
9. Keep your decorations simple. Homemade decorations are always a nice touch. Keep the pressure down and don't blow the budget. I like whipping up some paper snowflakes (when I've got time) to decorate the Christmas table.
10. Clear out space in your fridge. Whether your kitchen is in a Parisian shoebox or a large family home, you can never have too much space in your fridge. Get as organised as possible, and clear space for leftovers and presents from guests.
I've teamed up with British Gas to share my advice on how to make sure your Christmas runs as smoothly as possible. For more tips and advice to keep your home running smoothly this Christmas, visit the British Gas website.