Nail your festive feast with these tasty tips from Rachel Brady, blogger at the Well Worn Whisk…
Christmas. It’s one of our biggest foodie holidays, so (despite the cold) the heat is certainly on for home cooks as they work to whip up a festive feast fit for family and friends.
But, while it’s always good to gather loved ones together, catering for a crowd can be a challenge. Add in a dash of Christmas traditions, a sprinkling of modern dietary requirements and a generous helping of sugar-filled kids, and it’s pretty close to chaos. But never fear, Rachel Brady from the Well Worn Whisk is here, and she’s brought all the tips and tech you need to ace it.
First, let us introduce you to the lady behind the blog…
From marketer to mummy blogger
As a mum to two littluns, Rachel’s no stranger to juggling jobs. After 10 years as a digital marketer, she actually started Well Worn Whisk on a whim one day with no grand plan or strategy. That was back in 2012, and it’s since morphed into one of the UK’s most popular family food blogs, featuring wholesome recipes designed to take the stress out of mealtimes. But we’ll let Rachel explain:
“It all started on a rainy afternoon,” she says. “I didn’t have a clue as to what I wanted the blog to be but I was facing the same challenges as every other mum and dad: trying to get healthy and delicious meals on the table without too much stress, and getting fussy kids to eat vegetables… All the usual things. So it just happened naturally – I learned about photography and blogging along the way.”
Christmas at Rachel’s
When it comes to Christmas, Rachel says she and her husband normally alternate the festivities between their family homes, but this year, for the first time, it’s just her, her hubby and the kids. And she’s looking forward to the change:
“Normally we have a low-key breakfast, maybe boiled eggs and soldiers,” Rachel says. “Then we have a little starter, but not sitting down as the kids would trash the table! It’s normally quality smoked salmon on soda bread with cream fraiche and horseradish cream. We pass this around at about lunchtime with a glass of champers.
“Turkey with all the trimmings comes a few hours later. We usually aim to eat around 4pm but, in reality, it’s always around 6pm – mainly due to the wine!
“Every year we contemplate having something different, like goose, and last year we actually had roast beef, which was really nice. But my husband’s a total traditionalist so this year we’re going for turkey as we have every other year, bar that one. The meal generally doesn’t change; same sides and sauces every year,” she says.
So, with all that being the case, what are some of Rachel’s top tips for less stress and more merriment?
1. Prepare what you can in advance
Rachel says she prepares everything in advance. It’s one of the best ways to reduce the stress and ensure you get to spend more quality time with your family on Christmas Day:
“Some things I make and cook entirely then defrost the night before and reheat on the day. Other things I part make and then defrost and cook fresh on the day,” she explains.
“In the weeks approaching Christmas I make two stuffings – sage and onion and chestnut and apple – as well as spiced red cabbage, bread sauce, cranberry sauce and parmesan parsnips. I do a baked and glazed ham two days before so we can enjoy that on Christmas Eve, and also on Christmas Day with dinner. On Christmas Eve I peel sprouts and potatoes and set them up ready to be boiled and roasted. I do fry off pancetta with chestnuts fresh on the day, as this can’t be done in advance.”
Quite a comprehensive list! As a bit of a kitchen whiz Rachel has her prep down pat, but don’t let that put you off. There are plenty of great new apps to help with this bit, including Christmas Turkey Timer free on iOS. With a guide to selecting the perfect sized bird based on the number of people you’re feeding and a calculator to determine optimal defrosting and roasting times, it makes cooking your turkey a breeze.
Most supermarkets now also have their own apps and web services as well. Your best time (and stress) saving bet is to shop online, avoid the queues and have everything delivered to your door.
2. Stick with what you know, but add a modern twist
Christmas is a time for old favourites, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Rachel says most of her recipes started out as Delia’s Christmas recipes, but they’ve all evolved and changed over time:
“It’s all about recreating what my own mum did when we were kids,” she says. “One thing I like to do is make every side special. Parmesan parsnips, spiced red cabbage – everything is enhanced and it makes for a true feast.
Feeling uninspired? It’s time to go online. Apps like Christmas Dinner Recipes by Figure and Future on Android, Big Oven on iOS, Android and Windows Phone and Mixologist on Android and iOS give you access to hundreds of recipes, tips and ideas to shake off that funk for top notch trimmings. You can also see some of Rachel’s top Christmas recipes here.
3. Buy fiddly canapés from the shops
As a strong believer in efficiency, Rachel says there’s no need to fluff about with canapes:
“If it’s nibbles you want, then I say 100 per cent buy them from the shops! They are so good nowadays, so who in their right mind would spend hours making them?!”
4. Keep your focus and take note of timings
Want your Christmas Day to run like a well-oiled machine? Try not to be too ‘well oiled’ yourself. While apps like Vivino Wine Scanner (free on iOS and Android) make it easier than ever to pick the perfect pairing, Rachel says most wine’s best saved for dinner, when all the hard work’s done:
“Don’t panic, and don’t drink too much!” she says. “If I need to check a recipe or proportions, I tend to get Delia Online up on my iPad while I’m cooking. I also use my phone to time everything and have reminders set up on Christmas Day for all the cooking.”
Seeking something a bit more in-depth than your standard in-built phone timer? Try Just a Kitchen Timer on Android or Easy Cooking Timer on iOS. That last one helps you calculate when to start each step so everything’s ready when it’s needed. No more cold carrots!
5. Let someone else clear up
Rachel believes that, at the end of the day, you should know when to call it a day. You can’t and shouldn’t endeavor to do it all yourself. Allocate cooking tasks to family members and make sure you let someone else wash up:
“Don’t stress too much!” she explains. “It’s just a roast with bells on. Don’t do it all on the day, and please don’t do it all yourself. And finally, when dinner’s served, relax and enjoy. I think you’ve earned a rest.”
Seeking some Christmas afternoon entertainment?… Check out our best new apps for December – ideal for sharing with family and friends.