By Sarah Harris
The big day itself may still be a few weeks away, but chances are you only have a week or two left at uni before you go home and ‘revise’ for a month. In which case you don’t have long to organise your uni Christmas.
For me, hall Christmas dinner was one of the highlights of first year. It made sense that we’d pay homage to our newly adopted family and celebrate Christmas together with the basting of an oversized bird. A good excuse to reminisce about our first term’s antics, get a little tipsy and eat pig wrapped in pig; university Christmas dinner is not to be missed.
Twice the celebrations = twice the Christmas dinner! The unfortunate thing about a uni Christmas, however, is that your mum won’t be there to do all the work. So there is only one solution (brace yourself)… you’ll have to cook it yourselves!
The main learning points to follow are:
It is not normal to look well turned out and completely in control when cooking for this number of people; Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson lie.
It is probably important to have a glass of wine or a strong spirit to hand, particularly for the last hour or so of preparation.
There can never be too much meat. Meat wrapped in meat is a particular hit with all… Except vegetarians.
Now on to the actual cooking of the dinner…
Of all the things to be prepared for our Christmas dinner, the turkey was the thing that scared everyone the most. After a term of partying hard and sleeping little, our palates were more familiar with Kentucky Fried than home-roasted, and our culinary skills hadn’t quite reached their full potential.
A simple tip for saving money, and let’s be honest, time and effort is to buy turkey or chicken breasts (chicken tends to be a little bit cheaper). Simply roast the chicken or turkey breasts in the oven for about 30-35 mins at 200 degrees, in a casserole dish with a little oil. To enhance flavours and save on time, cook the meat in the same dish with vegetables, as the potatoes and carrots take about the same time in the oven. Have a forage for leftovers in your cupboards too; a dash of honey, dried herbs, lemon juice or even just some salt and pepper will really help to add flavour.
If you’re a braver woman than me and are attempting to roast a whole chicken then pre-heat the oven to around 220 degrees and then put the chicken in for 20 minutes, then turn down the heat to 190 degrees for a further 45 minutes until golden brown and crispy.
Roast potatoes make or break a roast for me. Should Christmas dinner disaster strike, the loss of the turkey would be completely fixable by having perfectly golden crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside roasties.
Peel the potatoes, cut into bite sized chunks, and then cook in boiling water for around 10 minutes. Once you’ve tested how soft they are (easily done by prodding around a bit with a fork), whack them in a roasting tin with some oil, seasoning and rosemary.
If you want them to be extra crispy, put them back in the pan after you’ve drained them with a spoonful of flour. Put the lid on and shake about for a bit. Easy! Put the potatoes in the oven at the same time as the chicken, and after 20-30 minutes, toss the potatoes around and add a little extra oil.
When the mulled wine is flowing and you’re panicking trying to cook your first ever turkey, the cooking of a couple of veggies seem a lot more overwhelming than it should.
Peel and cut in half, then cut into long slices. In another roasting dish, drizzle with oil and then coat generously with honey. Throw them in the oven along with the potatoes and chicken (if you can fit it all in!).
When it is nearing time to serve, put on your peas following the packet instructions, along with the Yorkies.
If you are running low on space in the oven, serve up the majority and then hand round the Yorkshire puddings after they’re cooked. They only take a few minutes to heat up.
Or if you opted to make your own Yorkshires, just mix together 4 eggs, 350ml of milk, gradually whisking in 215g of flour. Put a little oil into the moulds and place in the oven until it’s super hot. Then simply add the batter mix and pop back in the oven. You’ll see when they’re done!
To complete the perfect Christmas dinner don’t forget the stuffing balls, pigs in blankets and sprouts (for those unfortunate souls odd enough to like them). Finish it all off with a generous helping of gravy. And there you have it, your own homemade Christmas meal, it may not be as good as Mams but you can take pride that you contributed yourself to the final product. All you need now are some Christmas crackers, party hats, drinks and a few festive songs and games and you’re good to go.