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Last minute Christmas ideas

This time of year can be a repetitive slog, hosting Christmas party after Christmas party. However, whilst the traditional turkey dinner laden with roast potatoes, carrots, creamed sprouts and stuffing is a seasonal masterpiece we can all enjoy, there’s still some wiggle room for playful dishes to slide in. Obviously, we don’t want to disturb the gravy train of pre-booked Christmas dinners, the last thing the kitchen needs is impromptu changes, but tinkering with bar menus could not only allow a little creativity, but also utilise leftovers and increase profitability.

The meat from turkey carcasses is naturally the first place we look. Picked, shredded, seasoned and lubricated, it makes for a festive meat filling in a scotch egg, while it’s inclusion in a spicy south east Asian inspired noodle soup could be the answer to the biting cold of winter. Curry has been a popular way to utilise the messier trim of a turkey carcass for many years, but you can seek that fiery goodness in other ways too. Jamaican jerk spicing runs very close to that of Christmas mulling spices. The cocktail of all spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne and black pepper can be used as rubs on hams, or for chunky deep fried turkey wings. Don’t overlook its application in vegan ‘dirty food’ too. A generous seasoning over cauliflower florets can deliver a seasonal bite to a bowl of mock Buffalo chicken wings. Even small plates of jerk chicken can be a great bar snack addition that naturally partners well with cold lager as well as mulled ciders and wines.

Pine needles from the Christmas tree itself can also be a source of festive flavour. Throwing a handful of pine needles into a blender with sea salt and blitzing for a few seconds will deliver a seasoning or curing rub that adds a foresty freshness to dishes. Use it for house-cured salmon to unleash its full potential, or to lighten portions of fried chicken. Sprinkle it over your portions of pate and see how it lifts the flavour of liver in a new way.

Christmas pudding, with its boozy, sticky sweetness and fruit heavy texture happens to partner with stout remarkably well. It’s worth remembering that bar snacks and bar menus are a growth area and have the potential to increase the average bar bill with tidy margins. A plate of three small Christmas pudding balls as a suggestion to partner a pint of stout could be a game changer for the kitchen, increasing yield and nudging a packet of crisps to the side lines. Similarly, small cheese boards, or simply a wedge of cheddar with four crackers and some relish is another excellent bar offering that can do well this time of the year. Many cheeses can be matched to real ales and craft beers, so be sure to explore and exploit this marriage in flavours.

Of course, it’s important to consider food waste at this time of year. If you can find ways to increase yield, or repurpose trim and offcuts, then this is not just good for the kitchen, but good for the planet too. Reports suggest that our attitude to the environment and direct social impact is going to be a strong driver for business in 2019 and the years ahead. Before we hit January and all those ‘fresh starts’, it could be wise to demonstrate a resourcefulness to the food we prepare and serve. With new and innovative ideas coming out of kitchens every day, that shouldn’t be too hard to do.