Deck the halls with boughs of holly...and make sure the turkey has enough time to cook, start the cake a month before Christmas, make your own pastry, mincemeat and puddings and, if you have time, remember to invite the family.
We’re bombarded with advice for the perfect home-made Christmas and in the process the pressure is piled on, says cook Rosemary Moon.
‘Having been a food writer myself I feel so embarrassed about all the stuff that’s written about cooking at Christmas. It can make people feel so pressurised,’ she says.
‘If you read the magazines, it must all be perfect. It is an important family occasion, of course, but it can be ruined by people trying to meet these expectations.’
Nevertheless, Chichester-based Rosemary is a great believer in festive DIY and is running a confidence-boosting course called Homemade Christmas at West Dean College near Chichester.
‘The bottom line is if it’s home-made it’s going to taste fantastic,’ she says, a comment which some might find dubious.
‘I mean just putting that bit of effort into it yourself is going to make all the difference. And even if you don’t make everything, it’s really worth doing a few bits and pieces’ explains Rosemary.
The course is for people who want to serve up their own festive treats, but lack the experience or confidence. Participants will be making mincemeat, marzipan and possibly cranberry sauce.
Rosemary will give demonstrations and tips on cooking turkey dishes for after Christmas and pre-Christmas meals like fish pie.
She says: ‘I would say if there’s one thing to try and do yourself at Christmas it’s mincemeat. It tastes so much nicer. Also home-made marzipan is so much better. Even the very best stuff you can by in the shops doesn’t do it really.
‘We’ll be making our own with a lovely texture and of course we’ll be ladling the sherry into it.’
Rosemary will also be creating a lighter fruit cake that takes less time than the traditional dark cake.
‘It’s because of the royal icing that people make the cake so far in advance,’ she explains.
‘It needs to dry and requires two coats. Of course things are a lot more relaxed these days. But this lighter fruit cake makes things even more simple. It’s really nice and isn’t difficult.’
She’ll also be giving tips on the turkey.
‘This is what people worry about the most, They worry that it won’t be cooked and then it ends up dry, that’s the biggest complaint about turkey.’ she says.
‘My advice is to soak it in a salt solution with lots of vegetables beforehand. That should really bring it to life – well not literally.’
Rosemary and chef Giles Thompson will also be running a course at West Dean, in which they’ll be preparing and cooking venison, pheasant, partridge and other meats, depending on availability.
Homemade Christmas is on November 27 and costs £105. The game course is on November 25 and costs £108. Visit westdean.org.uk or call (01243) 811301 for information.