First things first, have a think about the meals you plan to cook and put your shopping list together. As Lucy Brazier says in Christmas at River Cottage;
"This is less about creating a strict menu plan – we all need a level of spontaneity – and more about making sure you have the right ingredients to hand to avoid lastminute panics."
Lucy recommends thinking of your store cupboard in four parts:
Have a read of Lucy's lists below followed by a quick rummage in your cupboards and maybe a quick trip to the shops. And then you can relax knowing you're all set for the celebrations and have everything you need for a tasty Christmas with no culinary conundrums ahead of you!
Those spirit-lifting jars of goodies. You may have a little store already after a late summer/autumn harvest, perhaps including jams, pickles, chutney, booze, preserved veg and/or fruit. Rediscovering things you made earlier, ready to eat, is a particular type of pleasure. To complete your store of preserved treats, find a local WI market or farm shop, who will stock the best local products. Honey is a great example of this. Seeing the name of a village you know on the label makes you feel like you’re eating it straight from the hive with a spoon.
Your essentials may not be mine, but this is a useful checklist for your store cupboard at any time of year: • Flours (strong bread, spelt, rye, wholemeal, plain and self-raising) • Oats • Baking powder and bicarbonate of soda • Sugars (granulated, light and dark brown, caster) • Salts (flaky sea salt, fine, flavoured) • Peppercorns (black and a mixed bag of black, green and red) • Dried herbs (most importantly oregano, thyme, bay) • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios) • Seeds (linseed, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin) • Dried fruits (raisins, sultanas, currants, apricots, dates, figs, cherries, cranberries) • Spices (including cloves, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, star anise, chilli powder, dried chilli flakes, turmeric) • Mustard • Soy sauce (tamari or shoyu, or both!) • Capers • Olives • Oils (olive, rapeseed, hemp) • Vinegars (cider, white and red wine) • Organic stock cubes or bouillon
3. Dry goods
The foundation of so many meals: • Pasta • Rice • Noodles • Pearled spelt and barley • Quinoa • Dry pulses (lentils, chickpeas, beans) • Tinned pulses (chickpeas, cannellini beans, kidney beans) • Tinned tomatoes • Tinned fish: sardines, anchovies, mackerel, tuna (look for the ‘blue tick’ MSC logo signifying sustainably caught) • Coconut milk
The little things that make Christmas: • Sourdough crackers, oatcakes, digestives and any other favourite biscuits to go with cheese • Roasted nuts and crisps • Dark chocolate • Stem ginger in syrup • Turkish Delight and/or other sweets
‘Christmas at River Cottage by Lucy Brazier with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is out now (Bloomsbury, £22)’