Winter is the season for entertaining so if your diary is jam-packed with parties, get set up and make the most of your freezer by preparing food ahead, leaving you plenty of time to enjoy the fun.
Biscuits are the perfect Christmas treats to make an early start on as most freeze well either as raw dough or a fully baked biscuit, ready to be baked or decorated at the last minute. For classic gingerbread, follow this simple recipe and make a big batch ready for showstopping houses and more, or mix up the spiced orange dough for these simple Christmas biscuits, then you're set up for a fun afternoon cutting out shapes and decorating. These traditional Lebkuchen can be baked fully and just glazed before serving, too.
Packs of pastry are a freezer favourite. Whip out the night before to defrost for quick canapés and nibbles to make during the party season. These cranberry Camembert puffs are the perfect mix of tangy fruit and oozy cheese while these smoked salmon vol au vents are a retro classic, plus both only take 10 minutes to prepare. With a pack of shortcrust pastry in the freezer and a jar of mincemeat in the cupboard, you can also make cheat's mince pies in moments with this easy Christmas pop tarts recipe.
Pastry is again your friend when it comes to prepping ahead for big family feasts. Everyone loves tucking into a hearty pie, so what better way to be prepared than to have one ready and waiting in the freezer to heat through when ready. This chicken, mushroom and cranberry pie is perfect for a Boxing Day buffet, or try this beef, swede and barley pie for a hassle-free winter meal in between the festivities.
As soon as frozen cranberries become available in store it's worth stocking up on a few bags to avoid any last minute panics. These cook down just as well as fresh berries for tart cranberry sauces or adding to festive bakes and puds, such as the gorgeous pink curd filling of this cranberry meringue pie. A fresh cranberry sauce can also be made and frozen ahead, simply needing defrosting overnight before serving.
Christmas dinner wouldn't be complete with a glug of gravy to pour over, but it can be an extra worry with so much to prepare on the day. Luckily, gravy freezes well and you can take all the time you want getting extra rich flavour on a quiet day up to 3 months ahead. Give this make-ahead turkey gravy a go this year.
Although the meat is the main attraction, we all know Christmas dinner would be nothing without all the veg, too. To help you get ahead with the roasties, peel and cut your potatoes in half, parboil for 5 mins, drain and return to the pan. With the lid on, shake them well to fluff up the edges, so they go crispy later and leave them to cool. Pop onto baking trays to freeze and, once frozen, tip into freezer bags to store. When ready to cook, heat a baking tray with oil or goose fat then cook the potatoes straight from frozen, just allowing 5-10 mins longer than normal. This method also works for other root veg such as carrots, parsnips and butternut squash.
Another essential side, cook up your bread sauce ahead of time, cool then freeze in a freezer bag or sealed container. Defrost fully in the fridge, then stir in an extra splash of milk when reheating for the perfect creamy texture. We love this all-in-one bread sauce recipe: freeze after step 2 then add the nutmeg, butter and seasoning before heating and serving.
Although the turkey may be the star in many households, a veggie main can also be a stunner and might also be easier to do, too. This colourful vegan nut roast can be frozen then just reheated and garnished to serve, as can this gloriously gooey cauliflower cheese pithivier.
Being able to whip a beautiful pud out of the freezer takes a lot of the pressure out of hosting for large gatherings. Ice cream cakes make for a fun dessert that kids and adults will both love, such as this towering gingerbread ice cream cake or more elegant frozen chocolate and caramel bundt. For a more refreshing finish, try making your own gin and tonic granita with this easy step-by-step recipe.
It's always worth being prepared for unexpected guests, so a few simple ideas for easy nibbles are always good to have. Stash some mini meatballs in the freezer ready to whip up these three-ingredient meatball mozzarella skewers, bake some veggie sausage rolls ahead to reheat to serve, or have a beautiful salmon tart ready to go if your guests decide to stay for dinner.
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