It’s beginning to look a lot like lockdown… I mean Christmas.
Let’s turn Lockdown 2.0 into a productive month of planning for the most wonderful time of year, Christmas - and I’m sure you will agree that we are in need a bit of extra sparkle after the way 2020 has shaped up. I for one want to decorate the house, start steaming my Christmas puddings, and get the festivities going. I have already started watching endless Christmas movies and the 'Christmas Jazz' Spotify playlist (which I highly recommend!) has been on most days while I have been busy in the kitchen and sorting out the house.
The Christmas spirit lifts me out of lockdown fatigue and gives me something to look forward to. I know I am not alone with this sentiment and a good friend has decided to refer to November as 'Christmas staging month'. I could not agree more with this idea as there is usually too much to do in December, so starting early is the perfect plan. So especially for you, I have pulled together my recommendations on how to best prepare for Christmas.
Stir it up Sunday
‘Stir it up Sunday’ - the last Sunday of November known traditionally as the day to make your Christmas pudding. This tradition truly took off in Victorian times, when the whole family would make the pudding together and each member stirred the mix and made a wish for the future, thus bringing meaning to the name 'Stir-up Sunday' which originates from the Anglican book of common prayer. Making the pudding a month in advance means it’s an early tick off the Christmas to-do list and most importantly gives the pud time to mature and its flavours to develop. You can also feed your Christmas pudding with brandy each week until the big day to make it even boozier. I heartily recommend this.
Once you have made the pudding and steamed it on ‘Stir it up Sunday’ you can pop it away in the pantry until Christmas Day where you only need to steam it again and serve. There is nothing better than sharing a homemade figgy pudding with friends and family. It’s a special part of the holiday period and just one way we can get ahead this year. Oh bring us some figgy pudding, indeed!
Check out my traditional Christmas pudding recipe and ensure you have everything you need ahead of Stir it up Sunday. The essentials you will need are:
- A large mixing bowl
- Small pudding basins - permeable ceramic which are oven-proof. Even though they are not going in the oven they do need to be able to withstand the heat as they will be steamed for a few hours
For pieces that you can use all year round, then I recommend using the Le Creuset cereal bowls. These are great because they are oven-proof, work perfectly as pudding basins and versatile enough for other recipes after Christmas.
Steaming your Christmas pudding requires a sturdy saucepan. Shop a range of utensils to ensure your kitchen is fully equipped for December 25th.
Dried orange slices
Dried oranges are the perfect thing to make whilst you have some extra time on your hands at home. Easy to make and reusable for years to come, they are great for incorporating into your home décor, adding flourish to Christmas presents and giving a special finishing touch to cakes and bakes. Adding them to your Christmas cocktails is also highly recommended to take your drinks to the next level – the citrusy smell they produce is so wonderfully refreshing and festive.
To make dried orange slices at home you will need a few oranges, a chopping board and knife. It is worthwhile getting quite a few oranges and making a large batch which will save on power.
- Slice the oranges about half a centimetre thick (0.2 inch)
- Using kitchen paper, dab off as much of the extra juice that you can
- Preheat the oven to 80ºC (176ºF), place a piece of silver foil on the bottom of the oven to catch any drips and remove the shelves
- While the oven is heating to temperature, on the shelves that you have removed, lay the orange slices out, leaving a small space between them
- Cook for 3 hours, turning them over after the first 45 minutes
- Switch the oven off and leave the slices in the oven to cool
- Once cold, remove the oranges and allow them to rest somewhere cool and dry. The slices will continue to dry and will then be ready to use in so many places over the festive period
Presents for budding bakers
A great gift that you can make ahead during November is cookie jars. These are brilliant presents and stocking fillers for friends and family alike who love baking or have a sweet tooth for a cookie (or two!).
In a large jar, simply add all the dry ingredients that you would need to create tasty cookies in aesthetically pleasing layers. Make sure you include a label with instructions for the recipient to follow, including the wet ingredients, cooking temperature and time.
You can start with a simple cookie recipe and top it with anything you would like to give it a personal touch. Toppings I think work well are Smarties, cranberries, chocolate chips and pistachios. You can really let your creativity run wild here!
For more inspiration and to check out how to put together a cookie jar, I’ve broken down the steps so you can get making right away.