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Christmas essentials

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Here’s a sneaky preview article by LoveFood deputy editor and CheapEats contributor Jacqueline Strawbridge.

Christmas  Essentials

By Jacqueline Strawbridge

Your Christmas will be made so much easier if you have some of the essentials squirreled away in advance.   It’s great to have the makings of supper in the cupboard, whilst making use of the seasons leftovers of course!  Here’s a guide to a few bits and bobs that you should keep handy if you can.

In the freezer

* A must at this time of year, use your freezer to store breadcrumbs, whole ciabattas, peas of course, and frozen pastry, to make quick quiches and tarts.   Freeze any leftover cakes, mince pies and Christmas pudding too for use at a later date.
* Frozen fish is so handy – prawns, smoked salmon and squid all defrost quickly and make great canapés or speedy suppers.  Try scored baby squid, seared briefly with chilli, garlic, parsley and lemon, piled onto dressed rocket and served with toasted ciabatta. This can be served as a party canapé too.

In the fridge

* Cold meats – Such as parma ham, salamis, and garlic sausage.
* Plenty of salads, tomatoes and so on.
* Cheese – Have a selection available; some crumbly cheddar, oozily ripe brie, and stinky stilton for starters!

In the Cupboard

* Goose Fat – A real must if you want crisp, fluffy, flavoursome spuds this year.
* Spices – from mulled wine to baked ham, mashed potato to hot chocolate, it’s great to have a range of spices to hand.  As a guide, always have nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon sticks.
* Canned or bottled fruits – For trifles, cheesecakes, or with homemade ice cream as dessert.
* Chutneys and relishes – Homemade are best- and will make great gifts – make sure you have plenty of cranberry, horseradish and wholegrain mustard too!
* Jars of olives, peppers, artichokes, pates, pickles tapenades etc – for impromptu platters of antipasti when friends drop round unexpectedly…..
* Dried beans and pulses for hearty soups, dried mushrooms for quick pasta and risottos.  Cans of tomatoes, coconut milk and chickpeas for tasty stews and curries to use up those leftovers.

And in the Fruit Bowl…

* Fresh clementines – in abundance!!  For snacking, making festive Buck’s Fizz, segmenting into salads – try chilled with parma ham, mozzarella and mint for an modern, refreshing starter.  Oh and don’t forget to throw the peel on the fire if you have one, for the ultimate scent of Christmas.
* Dried nuts – A staple at Christmas, great with cheese or for just snacking in front of the telly.  Don’t forget the nutcracker!
* Fresh figs – For baking, desserts, and served with cheese.  Delicious for breakfast with natural yoghurt and spiced cranberries.
* Pomegranates – I don’t know why but these juicy, twinkly little jewels just say Christmas to me! Try them in salads, muffins, or sprinkled on ricotta and drizzled with honey as a quick and tasty dessert.

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