Friday, 20 December 2013

Getting Ready for Christmas

Four days. You have FOUR DAYS LEFT. 

By now you've missed the boat on being super-organised and it's way too early for the last-minute panic. So let's have a look at what can be done, over this weekend leading into Christmas, to get you ready for the big day.


Think about when you want to hit peak ripeness - will you be assembling a nectarine and peach trifle on Christmas Eve or topping French toast with plums on Boxing Day? We're lucky enough to have some fruit arriving here in just-picked condition, dropped off to greengrocers by the farmers who grew it. But others, particularly the stone fruits, need a little time to ripen into their prime. Look at your menus and think about picking up some fruit in advance this weekend. If you do have to leave it until the last minute, place the green fruit in a paper bag with a ripe banana - the ethylene will speed up the ripening process.


However stern our Bracher Arcade traders may look about cut-off dates, most of them will still take orders for Christmas Eve. Check out this list of festive specialties and put your name down for anything you must have gracing your table.


Unless you're using citrus on raw fish, a long lead-in time with marinating is an excellent idea. Note: am not suggesting you marinade a leg of lamb for four days at room temperature a la Julia Child, but whipping up your marinade ingredients and tossing your pork roast or eye fillet in it will add to your flavour impact come the big day.


The steeping of dried fruits in brandy for cakes and puddings traditionally begins months in advance.  But if you're left it until now, I suggested heating your brandy over a gentle flame and then adding the fruit. This will plump out and absorb the brandy. Once cool, you can use in your own Stir-up Sunday reenactment.


Now is also an excellent time to purchase any supplies for homemade gift-giving. The paper baking moulds from the Essential Ingredient add a lovely touch to homebaked cakes, plus you don't have to worry about retrieving your cakestand later.

If you are making chocolate treats or putting together a platter for a party, disposable trays and wicker baskets from Donnally's Party Supplies are heaven sent. (Small baskets are also heaven-sent for throwing together a quick hamper for the unexpected guest who drops by with a gift.)


Most of the feast will be picked up and prepped on Christmas Eve but there are plenty of things you can get in advance - small batch sodas, sparkling wine and craft beer, crackers, nuts, potted poinsettias, cured meats and cheeses.

Gingerbread House

Jaspers Coffee and Abla's Patisserie stock ready-to-display gingerbread houses. But if you'd like to make your own this weekend, I suggested dotting it with some interesting jewelled fruits and nuts from 53 Degrees East and the Sweet and Nut Shop. Baking this weekend will also mean that your house of cake won't get too brittle and hard before the sweet, sticky demolition.

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