Kitchen Cheats for Christmas Dinner Cooking Fails

Mushy sprouts and dry turkey will be no more with this helpful Christmas Kitchen-Disaster solving guide.

On Christmas Day there will always be something that goes not quite right. Something you forgot. That one thing that has the power to wreck what is an otherwise absolutely outstanding attempt at the perfect Christmas dinner. You’re not alone. There will be thousands of others in your shoes all over Ireland on Christmas Day.

Here’s our guide to common festive fails and how to wing your way out of trouble this Christmas…

1. Overcooked sprouts, a classic mistake. No panic. Just strain and throw them in the processor with cream, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and a grating of festive fresh nutmeg. Voila! Brussel Sprout Puree. Finish with a good sprinkling of parsley or even better, toasted flaked almonds. If anyone comments, just say ‘They were meant to come out like that!’

2. Turkey breast getting dried out, but the bird still not cooked? Rub a generous bit of butter over the top then cover the breast with foil before returning to the oven.

3. The turkey is nearly ready and you realise you haven't made the cranberry sauce. The cranberries are still in the freezer. No problem. Cook them from frozen. Pop them in a pan with a splash of water, grated orange zest and sugar to taste. Heat gently till they are defrosted, then continue as normal, cooking till they pop. Let the sauce cool a little before serving. Then tell your guests, ‘Warm Cranberry and Orange Relish. All the rage you know!’

4. Forgot the chipolatas? If you have ordinary breakfast sausages in the fridge, simply remove skins and roll the meat into little balls. Wrap pieces of streaky bacon around or dust with flour, and bake in the oven till they are brown and crisp.

5. No sausage meat for the stuffing? Repeat the tip above, using the meat from the skinless sausages. Or make a light breadcrumb stuffing by whizzing fresh white bread in a processor. Add grated onion and apple, thyme, lemon zest and a beaten egg to bind. Or whatever else you were going to put in your stuffing. Use to stuff the neck end of the turkey only, or bake separately in a buttered ovenproof dish.

6. You've made turkey stock and used the turkey cooking juices for the gravy. But it's watery and not hitting it in the flavour stakes. Pour it into a pan. Add a splash of booze. Port is good for turkey gravy. Bubble the gravy rapidly for a few moments over fairly high heat, to reduce the volume and concentrate the flavour. Then add some fresh herbs like parsley, thyme or rosemary, whatever you have to hand. Failing those, add a pinch of dried herbs. Taste for seasoning before pouring into a warmed gravy boat to serve. 

7. Always remember that decorative garnishes can resurrect almost any dish. We eat with our eyes first. So be generous with your flourishing! Throw a few sprightly sprigs of fresh herbs over and inside the cavity of an overcooked turkey, which by the way is the most common festive fail of the lot. A good sprinkling of finely chopped mixed herbs on top of slightly singed parsnips or roast potatoes add colour and eye appeal. Burnt round the edges or cracked pastry mince pies look way better with a light dusting of icing sugar, before you present them to your guests. Getting the picture?

8. And finally, stay calm. Remember that getting prepared in advance is the key to a smooth and fail-proof Christmas Dinner.