What to do if you're cooking Christmas dinner for the first time

Monaz Dumasia
·10-min read
Photo credit: Maren Caruso - Getty Images
Photo credit: Maren Caruso - Getty Images

From Good Housekeeping

Just when you thought Christmas couldn’t look more different to normal, things have changed once more.

With the new Tier 4 rules and Christmas bubble restrictions in place, plans for the festive season have been turned on their head again. If you’re finding yourself faced with making Christmas dinner for one or two, you’re not alone. And, if this is the first time you’ve ever had to make your Christmas dinner too, here’s our handy guide to how to make an easy Christmas lunch...

How to make Christmas turkey for one

If you feel Christmas just isn’t Christmas without turkey, but you’re overwhelmed with the thought of roasting even a small joint, don’t sweat it. Buy fresh turkey breast steaks, (cut to roughly to the same size as a chicken breast if they’re a bit large) then swap them for the chicken in this sumptuous little number or in one of our many other stuffed chicken recipes. If turkey breasts are sold out, chicken breasts made fancy with stuffing and wrapping and served with your favourite trimmings will still feel utterly festive.

If you do want to make a mini roast (be it turkey or another meat), this might also be a great time to make friends with your local butcher. Chances are they will be able to prep a small joint of meat for you and give fab advice on how to cook it perfectly. Lots of supermarkets are also now catering to those who want a smaller centrepiece, so have a check of the aisles to see what’s on offer.

Alternative Christmas meals for one

If a roast isn’t your bag, think of Christmas dinner 2020 as the opportunity to treat yourself to something you might not have every day, then try and enjoy the process of making a deluxe dish just for yourself (or not making it, if you’d rather relax and have something ready-prepped). A glorious steak with a silky bearnaise, a beautifully cooked piece of fish or even a luxurious platter of ready-cooked shellfish (bought from the supermarket or your fishmonger for the lowest effort-to-reward ratio) could be the more joyful option.

Photo credit: DronG - Getty Images
Photo credit: DronG - Getty Images

Christmas sides for one

If you’re going for a scaled down traditional Christmas lunch, then this could be the year you get to make all the sides and dishes that you really love and none of the ones you don’t.

When it comes to prepping veg for one or two, rather than buying large bags of veg, try buying loose sprouts, carrots, parsnips and potatoes in the quantities you’ll actually use, especially if they’re not part of your regular shop.

Recipes for veg sides are easy to scale-down, so you don’t have lots left over. The principals and times for cooking them hold fast whether you’re serving one or one hundred. Here’s our quick guide to making Christmas veggies for one or more people:

How to make roast potatoes for one

Use: 1 large or 2 medium potatoes per person

Method: Peel and chop potatoes into quarters or halves, put them into cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 8-10min until tender but not falling apart. Drain and leave them to steam-dry for at least 3min. Shake them well in the colander to fluff up the edges. When you’ve reached the last 45min-1hr of your meat roasting time, heat a little sunflower oil or goose fat on a baking tray until shimmering, then add the potatoes. Turn them in the hot fat using tongs so they are coated; sprinkle over some salt. Cook in oven (at the same temperature at whatever your meat is roasting at or 200°C (180°C fan) mark 6 if you’re not roasting meat) for 45min-1hr until golden and crisp, and turn occasionally to ensure they cook evenly.

How to make roast parsnips for one

Use: 1-2 small parsnips per person

Method: Peel, trim and cut the parsnips into quarters lengthways to make 4 long wedges. Boil in a pan of water for 5min, then drain and leave to steam dry for at least 3min. When you’re in the last 45min-1hr of your meat roasting time, heat a little sunflower oil or goose fat on a baking tray until shimmering, then add the parsnips. Turn them in the hot fat with tongs so they are coated; sprinkle over some salt. Cook in oven (at the same temperature at whatever your meat is roasting at 200°C (180°C fan) mark 6 if you’re not roasting meat) for 45min-1hr until golden and crisp, turning occasionally to ensure they cook evenly.

If you’re roasting potatoes too, you can parboil the parsnips with them. Just add to the water for the final 5min of cooking time, drain with the potatoes, and remove them from the colander before you fluff the potatoes up, so you don’t end up with parsnip mash. Add the potatoes and parsnips to the hot oil as instructed above and roast together. If the parsnips look like they’re cooked before the potatoes, simply remove to a serving dish and keep warm.

How to make Brussels sprouts for one

Use: 5-6 Brussels sprouts per person

Method: Trim the bottom of sprouts to get rid of any damaged/discoloured parts. When your meat is resting, boil the sprouts in a pan of water for 4-5min.

Alternatively, you can pop the sprouts in a microwave-proof bowl with a splash of water, cover with a microwaveable plate and cook on High (for a 950W model) for 3-4min, until tender.

For a simple sprout, drain well, tip back into the pan/bowl then add a little butter and seasoning to the hot sprouts and stir to coat. If you’re after inspiration to make your Brussels less boring, check out our gallery of favourite sprout recipes.

How to make carrots for one

Use: 1 carrot per person

Method: Peel, trim and slice the carrots into your preferred style – batons or rounds. Cook in boiling water for 4-5min or until tender.

Alternatively, you can pop the carrots in a microwave-proof bowl with a splash of water, cover with a microwaveable plate and cook on High (for a 950W model) for 3-4min, until tender.

Drain well, tip back into the pan/bowl. Add butter and seasoning, and if you’re feeling swish, try a drizzle of white wine, some fresh herbs like chives or parsley and pop back on the heat for a few min, just for the veg to meld with the glaze.

Again, if you’re cooking them simply, you can boil the sprouts and carrots together to save on washing up.

If you fancy roasting your carrots, follow the steps above for the roast parsnips or combine them into one dish.

Photo credit: Diana Miller - Getty Images
Photo credit: Diana Miller - Getty Images

Pigs in blankets and Christmas stuffing for one

Pigs in blankets and stuffing balls are available in the shops ready-made. If the packs seem a little large for just you, you can either cook all of them and have them as leftovers (see below) in the days to come, freeze some of the raw ones for another roast, or maybe this is the year that you fulfil your dream of having a pile of pigs in blankets without having to fight your family members for them…

How to make stuffing for one

Split open 1-2 regular-size sausages per person, and tip the meat into a small bowl. Add a small handful of breadcrumbs, a spoonful of beaten egg and plenty of pepper and mix well. Shape into balls and add to your meat roasting tin for the final 20-25min of cooking time (or cook at 200°C (180°C fan) mark 6 for 20-25min).

Pigs in blankets are easy to cook just for yourself and you can make whatever size you like – from cocktail sausages to jumbo ones. Just pick your favourite banger, wrap it in streaky bacon and cook in the oven at 200°C (180°C fan) mark 6. Cocktail or chipolata sized ones will require roughly 20-25min, and larger ones will need 35min or so.

How to make gravy for one

If you’re cooking a smaller roast, chances are you won’t have much in the way of pan juices, but it doesn’t mean forgoing the gravy. Halve our Quick Gravy recipe (or make the whole lot and freeze the leftovers for future roasts).

Photo credit: skhoward - Getty Images
Photo credit: skhoward - Getty Images

Cranberry sauce and bread sauce for one

If you’re solo, we would stress here that although bread and cranberry sauces are great from scratch, save yourself some hassle and buy the smallest ready-made pack you can. A jar of cranberry sauce can be eaten with chicken and other meats, used in sandwiches as a chutney or in your baking too. Our Easy bread sauce uses a sachet of readymade mix and makes it more luxurious with the addition of cream. If you want to make it yourself, leftover sauce freezes well in a sealed container. Just add a little milk to loosen it up when reheating.

What to do with leftover cooked Christmas food

If you have food leftover from your Christmas roast dinner, make sure to let anything extra cool to room temperature and then portion it into containers and get into the fridge or freezer within the next 1-2hr of it cooling down. If you’ve chilled it, eat it within the next couple of days and reheat anything you don’t want to have as cold cuts until it’s piping hot. Once it’s reheated, it has to be consumed immediately and can’t be stored again.

Photo credit: clubfoto - Getty Images
Photo credit: clubfoto - Getty Images

Christmas pudding for one or two

Individual Christmas puddings are easy to pick up, but if you’d rather have something homemade and didn’t stir up one this year, then try this super-quick and light little 4-ingredient Christmas pud to serve 1-2.

  1. Butter and line the base of a small microwavable bowl or pudding basin (at least 350ml capacity) with baking parchment.

  2. Stir together 25g melted butter with 125g ready-made mincemeat.

  3. Beat in 1 medium egg, then stir in 40g plain flour.

  4. Tip into lined bowl/basin and press a small piece of baking parchment on to the surface of the pudding.

  5. Microwave on Medium (based on 950W model) for 3min or until pudding is springy to the touch.

  6. Leave to stand for 5min, then unmould and serve hot, with cream. If you like your puds really spiced, add an extra 1tsp mixed spice to the batter before cooking.

Alternative Christmas desserts for one or two

If you want a quick and easy chocolatey festive dessert, our Microwave Chocolate Pudding for two is made with storecupboard ingredients and is whipped up in a few min. For a cold chocolate pud for two, these white chocolate espresso mousses are easy to prep ahead. If you’re making either of these for one, the extra will keep wrapped in the fridge for you to enjoy up to two days later.

After a refreshing yet special festive sweet treat? This tropical coconut crème brulee for two might be just the thing.

The most important thing this Christmas is to be kind to yourself and do whatever makes you happy. Whether that’s the comfort in following your usual tradition of making a full-on roast, or the simplicity of a heating a ready-meal whilst knowing you won’t have to wash-up loads after, as long as it brings joy and not stress, that’s the main aim.

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