An alliterative guide to using your freezer to get ahead for Christmas.
I take a fairly ruthless and aggressive approach to preparing for Christmas, not out of some desire to smugly sit back on Christmas Eve with a glass of brandy, but rather to avoid getting so stressed out that Christmas ceases to become enjoyable. As I’m not willing to forego my favourite Christmas comestibles in the name of ease, my choice is to get ahead of myself and cook things in advance. Which, obviously, is where the freezer comes in.
A strategically packed freezer a few weeks ahead is one of the most reassuring things you can do to tackle Christmas. Whether it’s a few emergency meals saved for an exhausting day of Christmas wrapping, some standby nibbles for when that friend drops round unexpectedly, or some elements of Christmas dinner for the big day itself, the freezer will be your best friend, if you’ll let it.
One thing you must do prior to filling your freezer with lovely Christmassy things is to clear it out of all the old, anonymous garbage you’ve been freezing since July 2020. Either eat it, or chuck it – but you have to make some space. Try eating one thing from your freezer every day (big or small, doesn’t matter) for a week or two, and you’ll be amazed at how much food never knew you had.
Having made some space, let me give you a few ideas for how to fill your freezer. I’ve chosen my most successful freeze-ahead recipes in hopes you will find them as enjoyable as I do. Now, I am by no means suggesting you make and freeze every one of these things, and remember, it’s not less work doing something ahead if you would have never cooked it in the first place. Pick a few of the recipes that you feel would fit within your life, and then rest easy knowing you’ve done yourself a few favours before Christmas has even begun.
Without question, frozen appetizers are the most useful and practical entertaining mainstays at Christmas.
Sausage rolls, prosciutto roll-ups and cheese straw twists are puff pastry nibbles that are perfect with a drink, anytime. Far more elegant than a box of the shop-bought ones, they taste fantastic and will make anyone you’re feeding feel special.
For a centrepiece appetizer that people will go crazy for, this spiced cheddar cheesecake is the stuff of party legend. It’s a savoury cheese spread with nuts and mango chutney that looks and tastes really Christmassy. It also freezes beautifully; simply thaw in the fridge for a day or two before eating.
Next time you roast a chicken, use the leftover meat to make a chicken and chestnut pie filling. Cool the filling right down, then freeze. Keep a packet of puff pastry on hand and you can have a delicious and seasonal meal in a fraction of the time. Serve with boiled frozen peas, of course.
Beer braised shepherd’s pie is a proper winter warmer that freezes really well. Freeze in one large dish or several smaller ones for the next time you need a cosy dinner for zero effort.
For the Big Day
I prepare most of my Christmas feast on Christmas Eve or the day before, but doing a few bits a little earlier can really take the pressure off of Christmas Eve.
Sweet potato and carrot crisp is one such freezer favourite. Prepare the vegetable mash and crispy topping as early as a few weeks ahead, ensuring you keep them separate during freezing. Thaw before baking, then sprinkle on the crispy topping just before it goes in the oven.
Make-ahead gravy is the other element of my Christmas feast I’ve grown accustomed to freezing in advance. Chicken wings are roasted with herbs and vegetables, then slowly simmered with flour, water and a splash of booze to create a rich, deep gravy. This recipe is especially helpful if you have a family that loves gravy. For once, there’s more than enough!
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a few sweets lying around. But rather than feeling stuck with a whole batch of something, choosing recipes that freeze well means you can enjoy a little of what you fancy while keeping the rest for another day.
These gingerbread cookies freeze really well as balls of raw dough, ready to be baked fresh whenever Santa comes knocking.
For a brunch or afternoon tea, spiced cranberry and orange scones make a delightful sweet bite. Bake, cool completely, then freeze as soon as possible afterwards for best results.
Orange ice cream may not seem the most obvious Christmas dessert, but is ideal when you consider citrus fruits are bang in season this time of year. Serve with biscotti cookies for an easy final course that is sure to impress.
Mince pie twists, one of my favourite festive desserts, are designed for convenience. Portable, dippable, and yes – freezable. Make a batch early on in the festive period and enjoy surprising people with these twists on a Christmas classic.
I hope I’ve inspired you to turn your freezer into a veritable Winter Wonderland!