Keeping Christmas lunch simple

Looking for essential, practical and helpful Christmas preparation advice? Take the stress out of your Christmas lunch with a few simple steps.

Keeping Christmas lunch simple

So somehow you have ended up as head chef for Christmas lunch, and even though the count down has only just begun, you’re a bit lost as to where to start. We all know the feeling. Never fear, brings you the ultimate guide to a stress-free Christmas dinner.

**Top tips**

  • Firstly don’t panic. Christmas is meant to be a fun time to catch up with family and friends, eat too much of what you love and relax. As the cook you have a little more on your plate, so to speak, but it need not overwhelm. Preparation is key.
  • Thierry Laborde, a chef who’s worked in 10 Michelin starred kitchens and was awarded a Michelin star himself at L’Oranger, London says*, “*I think people panic around Christmas time. They panic because there are a lot of people around the table and they want to make it fantastic.”
  • Laborde is co-owner of The Kitchen in Parson’s Green, west London, whose business it is to make things easier for those who are kitchen-challenged. Laborde says that during the Kitchen’s Stir-up Sunday Christmas pudding making session people had lots of questions. Unsurprisingly the turkey is a main concern for people but Laborde says there is not need to worry. Make sure you order your free-range turkey in advance from a good butcher. “The bronze turkey is the best.”
  • Keep in mind the size of your oven, you don’t want to end up with a bird that too big for the space. If, as happens at my local butcher, there tends to be a long queue come collection day dispatch someone else to do the pick-up. You have more important things to get on with than standing around. If you intend on leaving your turkey in brine before cooking, take into account the amount of spices required and a container, usual a bucket, large enough to submerge the entire bird.
  • When it comes to Christmas day Laborde recommends, as do many other chefs, leaving the bird to rest for at least an hour once cooked. “Put foil around it and it will be beautiful and hot. It’s like a piece of good meat.” Serving it straight from the oven will leave the meat dry and you want it to be lovely and moist. Pop some shallots celery and carrots underneath the bird to help build your gravy.
  • Laborde also recommends preparing and pre-cooking the veg on Christmas eve to save stress.* *Potatoes, carrots, parsnips and broccoli can all be par-boiled and keep in the fridge ready for a final finishing blast in the oven the next day. Stuffing can also be wrapped in foil and popped in with the turkey on the day.**People panic and buy frozen veg but its much better to have them fresh and pre-cooked the day before,” he says.

  • Bread sauce and cranberry sauce can also be made the day before and kept in airtight containers in the fridge. Allowing time for the meat to rest also means you have time finish off all these remaining ingredients before bringing them to the table. **You don’t want to do it all the same day – you're gonna kill yourself. You have kids around you and it’s impossible,” says Labord.

  • If you like all the trimmings including chipolatas and pigs-in-blankets, have them prepared on a tray and pop them in the oven first thing. Once they’re done, keep them warm and give them a final zap once everything else is ready. They’ll be pipping hot rather than annoyingly part-cooked.
  • When it comes to pudding don’t rush. The family will be full and happy to digest lunch for a while, before tucking in to the next course. If you have a pudding that needs steaming for a few hours, pop it on as you sit down for lunch. By the time you’re ready, it will be too.
  • Finally Laborde offers, “You want to enjoy yourself and have a drink as well!”



  • Write down a full list of ingredients and get the non-perishable cupboard supplies now.
  • Have a few snacks in the pantry and dips in the fridge for unexpected drop-ins.
  • Have some helpers on hand – after all Christmas is a time for sharing.


  • Worry too much – if lunch is delayed an hour it’s not the end of the world.
  • Drink too much – you’ll need to have your wits about you if you’re in charge of lunch.
  • Forget how long it takes to prepare the table – enlist some help to set the table and make sure you have enough plates, bowls, forks, knives, spoons etc.

Anne Giacomantonio