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Planning ahead for Christmas

The food we enjoy at Christmas plays such an important part of our festive enjoyment. However, preparing everything for your Christmas dinner can sometimes seem to be a little too much.

68In this month's blog, Kate Clarkson, YORK Cookery School’s resident cake designer and 'Chief' of all things Christmas in the Clarkson household, shares some of her tips for a hassle-free (at least as far as the food is concerned!) Christmas Day.

“Our Christmas dinner is the focus of our Christmas Day and, as such, I like to enjoy eating it! So, instead of passing out from exertion whilst everyone else enjoys the fruits of my labour, I start my preparations towards the end of November. Believe me, it’s worth it! I usually make my Christmas pudding around then so it’s as good a time as any to start getting in the Christmas mood. 

I love all the trappings that come with the Christmas meal and I’m a true traditionalist - with the odd twist here and there. The day wouldn’t be the same for me without proper home-made bread sauce, sprouts or the perfect stuffing amongst many, many other things.

Kate’s top tips 70

  • Plan, plan, plan. If you can sacrifice just an hour or so of your time in November, it will save you hours of grief later. Find a nice, quiet corner and sit down with a pen and piece of paper.
  • Decide what you’re going to include in your festive meal and stick to it. Last minute changes don’t help the cause!
  • Find out what food can be prepared ahead and stored. Stuffings, bread sauce & cranberry sauce etc. can all be prepared in advance and frozen.
  • Write a shopping list using these categories: Perishable; Storecupboard; Frozen. Clear space in your cupboards and buy non-perishable groceries at least a week ahead. 
  • Pre-ordering your Turkey/Goose/Ham from a good quality local supplier such as your local farm shop is a fantastic way to support your local farmers. 
  • You may be able to add other perishables such as goose fat (for mouth-watering, crunchy roast potatoes!) and vegetables to your pre-order too. At the  very least, leave your vegetable purchases as late as you can to ensure they’re as fresh as possible.
  • Prepare your veggies the day before and store in the fridge overnight.
  • If oven space is an issue on Christmas Day, half-roast your parsnips and potatoes the day before and just finish them off on the day.
  • Sharpen your knives well ahead so they’re ready for carving.

Bread sauce recipe

I thought I’d share my bread sauce recipe because it can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer - it actually improves when stored this way.


  • 120g white breadcrumbs (freshly made)
  • 600ml milk (semi-skimmed is preferable but just use whatever kind you have in) 
  • 50g butter (slightly salted is best) 
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Black peppercorns
  • Whole cloves (minimum 15)
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning


Peel the onion and cut in half. Stud the onion with the cloves (you can use more if your prefer a stronger flavour - I usually use at least 25!) and place into a pan. 

Add the bay leaf and about 8 black peppercorns (remember to count in the peppercorns so you can count them back out). Then add the milk and gently bring to the boil.

Once boiled, turn off the heat and place a lid on the pan. Leave everything to steep for at least a couple of hours. 

Remove the onion, cloves, bay leaf and peppercorns, keeping the onion/cloves and bay leaf to one side. Add the breadcrumbs and stir through the milk. Place the pan back on a very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the breadcrumbs have swollen up and absorbed the milk and you have a sauce. This should take about 15-20 minutes. 

Remove half of the cloves from the onion and then add back to the sauce along with the bay leaf to continue infusing.

To store, put the sauce (with onion/cloves & bay leaf) into a freezer-safe container or bag and freeze. 

When you’re ready, thaw the sauce completely and remove both the onion and bay leaf before reheating. Finally, add around 30ml of fresh cream and stir through the sauce before serving.


From everyone at YORK Cookery School, we wish you all a very merry Christmas and prosperous New Year.

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