As if there wasn’t enough to do at this time of year when planning for Christmas, what with present-buying, parties and planning, there is one other, really important, thing that you should make time for if you want everything to run smoothly.
Last week we looked at simple ways to create the perfect guest room and now it’s time to look at getting your kitchen ready for the big day. Of course it doesn’t have to be just for that one day of the year, but that acts like a good deadline to make sure that your kitchen is operating at peak performance.
Whether it’s the neighbours dropping in for a glass of mulled wine, or the entire family descending like ravenous hordes, it really pays to take a good long look at your kitchen and make sure it’s fit for purpose. This doesn’t have to mean a full revamp – unless you want to of course – but more of an inventory to make sure that everything is working properly and you have all the necessary equipment. We all know a story of someone whose oven broke on Christmas Eve, or the fridge that stopped working shortly after they filled it with a week’s supply of festive food.
My mother once got very excited (way back in 1975) about having a timer on her cooker and we all awoke at 2am to the smell of cooked turkey drifting through the house. And I’m certain she won’t have been the only one.
Now while you can’t prevent bad luck you can, at least, minimise the chances of it happening and work to lessen its impact. After all, as Jack Reacher says in the Lee Child novels – usually about a gangster planning to run amok – but it works for grannies too: hope for the best, plan for the worst.
Start with a really thorough clean of everything. It’s a good idea to get your oven professionally cleaned if you are expecting to feed lots of people and even if you aren’t, it won’t do it any harm. This also gives you the chance to check that bulbs are working, hinges are properly fixed – if they can pull an oven door off on Bake Off then don’t assume it can’t happen to you – and freezers are fully defrosted. This may even create extra space if it’s been a while.
Then make a list of things you need to buy. Do you need more ice trays? Do you want them in pretty seasonal shapes? One trick, with ordinary square ones, is to add a twist of lemon zest or an olive to bring a little extra flavour to the cocktail. Do you have enough pans for cooking everything? Does the blender still work – someone has to make soup with all the leftovers, and in the meantime do you need to either buy more Tupperware for food storage or set one of the children to reuniting the right box with the correct lid? That task alone may take several weeks.
In addition to family arriving, this is also the time of year when friends and neighbours drop round for drinks so check you have enough glasses – they don’t all have to match – and a selection of pretty bowls and dishes to arrange nibbles on. Even the humblest bag of peanuts looks more exciting when it’s well-presented. And, after all, on the one hand Christmas is the time for giving but on the other that does mean someone has to go shopping for nice stuff and it might as well be you.
I have been working with Miele this year writing for their online magazine Der Kern and instead of paying me money to write my words they asked if I would like a new hob and hood. Well given that mine was old and broken and not fit for purpose I said yes please. It’s a flat gas hob so it is almost flush with the work top. A completely flush one would have been complicated to fit with the existing work top so we went with this and I have to say it’s brilliant.
Our last one was 75cm which we chose because it was smaller but it did mean that it was a tight squeeze if you had more than three pans on the go – which may only happen at Christmas – but this one which is 89cm (so still smaller than the standard 100cm five burner) and fits all the pans at once with no jostling.
Yes Miele is expensive but the truth of the matter is that you get what you pay for. One of my friends was given a Miele washing machine, dishwasher and tumble drier as wedding presents some 17 years ago. We weren’t and have bought cheap ones over the years. Well all hers are still going strong. Us? Well we’ve had three dishwashers and two washing machines so I have now finally arrived on the side of buy cheap buy twice. Or three times.
All images by Paul Craig apart from the one above by Megan Taylor