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My Obtainable Christmas 5 weeks to go (Part 1)

With only fives weeks left until the big day, if you’re at all like me, you’ll start feeling the pressure building about now. 

Every week I will give you handy hints and tips on how to get ahead for a stress-free Christmas. 

Unfortunately I haven’t any handy tips for dealing with miserable mother-in-laws, stroppy teenagers, screaming toddlers or uninvited guests but at least they’ll all be well fed and watered.
Get Ahead
I’m one of those people who loves a list, not so much for the actual list but more for the ticking off moments. It feels so good to have accomplished something but conversely I feel quite stressed when I haven’t got things under control. Therefore of course, I have a plan at Christmas to make the holidays as stressless as possible!

Start to build up your freezer with mince-pies, sausages rolls, soups and cookie doughs

Mince Pies
Make your mince-pies as normal, (see below) once made and in the pans pop the whole thing into the freezer until totally frozen (about 2 hours) now pop the individual mince pies into freezer bags ready to go back into the pans, egg washed and baked from frozen when you need them.

Sausage rolls
Make your sausage rolls now using the recipe below, take them to the stage where you pop onto the lined baking trays and put into the deep freeze for about an hour, put into some freezer bags or a tupperware container and freeze until needed. Other things you can make & freeze now are pigs in blankest (chipolata’s wrapped in pancetta) soups, make the soups as normal chill then pop into a container already for an easy christmas day starter.

Christmas mincemeat
Make Christmas mincemeat, this will let the flavours develop enough to make fabulous Christmas frangipane, but if you don’t feel like making your own add some booze, a little orange zest, a grated apple and chopped nuts to a good shop bought jar before making your mince-pies.
This week is stir up Sunday, get all the family around to str the pud and make a wish.
Things to do & buy now
A good month or so before the big day I start to stock pile, order and place a deposit  on my turkey and ham. This way I not only feel that I’m getting ahead but I can also spread the cost.

1. I always start to stock my garage with soft drinks, wines and sprits over the next few weeks, just adding one of each to my trolley each week, this way it splits the cost and doesn’t make it such a mammoth chore the week of Christmas.

2. Book your on-line supermarket delivery slot now, leave your basket empty but if you leave it any later all the good slots will have gone.

3 .Buy all your cards, make your list then write 4-5 each day ticking the list as you go, before you know it the whole lot are completed without that terrible marathon.

4. WRAP presents as you BUY, get each family member a roll of paper that you know is theirs this way you can store them without labels taking away the temptation from children/spouses to peep.

5. GIVE yourself a budget and stick to it, you may need to shop around a little more but with so much on-line now you won’t even need to leave your armchair. 
Edible Gifts
I adore giving homemade gifts and each year I make about 7 Christmas cakes to give to people that have made an impact on my life that year. I think there’s so much choice of amazing packaging now that a homemade gift is always a beautiful option. Something  made and given with love.

Now is the perfect time to make Christmas Chutney, a wonderful addition to any hamper, or if your budget isn’t stretching to a whole hamper this year tie with a beautiful ribbon and its a perfect stand-a-lone gift. If you’re making chutney for the first time beware your kitchen with have a pungent vinegary smell, so my advice make it on a bright day with the windows opened wide and Michael Buble playing loudly (ok there’s no reason for Micky B other than I love his Christmas CD).

Damson Vodka we are a little late to the party, but it’s ok, cut your damsons in half, add to a pan of spiced sugar and gently heat until you have soft damsons and a sticky syrup, pour over a bottle of vodka, next decant to a sterile Kilmer jar and pop into the fridge, just before Christmas remove the damsons and use a funnel to pour into pretty bottles. 

Make cookie dough now, form the dough into a log, wrap in clingfilm and freeze, ready to bake the night before you want to give as gifts.

Years ago I remember Delia Smith saying “once you’ve tried homemade mincemeat you’ll never go back” and my goodness she was spot on. 

500g of a mix of Raisins, sultana's, currants, apricots, dried cherries, dried cranberries
1 cooking apple diced, peeled and cored
A handful of mixed chopped nuts (not peanuts)
50g peel ( I blend mine to a paste)
3 tsp mixed spice
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of suet or melted butter
Zests of an orange and lemon
Juice of orange

Combine all ingredients in a large heat proof bowl, place in the bottom of the AGA covered with foil, or in a very low oven gas mark 1, heat for an hour, leave to cool, stir in 3 tablespoons of brandy.
Mince Pies 
These little pies should come with a warning, as the fruit juice has a chemical reaction making such a wonderfully melt in the mouth texture to these little pies, that once eaten, beware, you’ll want more.

Jar of homemade mincemeat
300g plain flour
150g chilled cubed butter
Zest & juice of 2 clementines
1 egg yolk

Mix flour butter & zest together till crumbly, add the egg yolk, next add the juice a little at a time, as soon as the pastry form a  bring ball stop adding the liquid,  I find it better to make my pastry in a food processor or my kitchen aid.Turn into a plastic sandwich bag, chill for an hour. Roll the pastry to the depth of a £1 coin. 

Now cut out circles (with a large cutter) and gently press into muffin tins add spoonfuls of mincemeat and now cut out smaller pastry circles for lids, cut out a small star and  brush with egg-wash around the lip of the bottom case to adhere the top disc, brush with more egg-wash and bake at 190˚c for 20-25 mins, dust with icing sugar x
Sausage Rolls
Lets be honest Christmas just isn’t Christmas with out a good sausage roll. 

Plain flour for rolling out
Homemade rough puff pastry or a packet of puff pastry 375g
300g good quality sausages, skinned
1 egg 
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons sesame seeds                                                           

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/Gas mark 4.

Lightly dust the work surface with plain flour and roll the pastry into 2 rectangles each 30 x 15cm.

Using your hands shape the sausage meat into two long sausages, each the same length as the pastry rectangles, and place one on each piece of pastry.

Mix the egg yolk with the milk and brush along the long side of each of the pastry rectangles. 

Roll the pastry around the sausage-meat to completely encase with the seam underneath. 

Place the sausage rolls on baking trays seam side down.
Brush the top of the sausage roll with egg wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds and slice into 3-5cm pieces.

Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

*For something a little different add some chopped sage and grated pear to the sausage meat before forming into sausages. 

Christmas Pudding 
Don't forget this week is stir up Sunday.

More edible gifts 

My recipes for :-

Plus More ideas for shopping ahead & Homemade tree decorations