Last minute preparation tips and dealing with unexpected visitors

Rozanne Stevens says items in your cupboard can save the day!

The festive season is so much more than just one big dinner on Christmas day; it’s an opportunity to catch up with old friends, work colleagues, prodigal relatives, neighbours and extended family. And Irish hospitality being at its prime at Christmas means you couldn't possibly have a visitor leave without getting a plate laden with food.

My Make Ahead Christmas staples:

  • Selection of cheeses
  • Fresh fruit
  • Dried fruit
  • Cold meats
  • Pickles, mustards, chutneys, cranberry sauce
  • Resilient salads
  • Frozen puff pastry
  • Crackers and Crispbreads
  • Good bread (sliced and in freezer)
  • Pates
  • Truffles
  • Selection of plain nuts
  • Smoked, salted, caramelised and roasted nuts 

Make Ahead Recipes

1) Gourmet Mushroom Pate

Makes 2 jars


2 tbsp dried mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for an hour

1 tbsp light olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1 brown onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

400g mushrooms, sliced

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

2 tbsp brandy

125g cream cheese (leave out for 30 minutes to soften)

2 tbsp creme fraiche

Juice of half a lemon

1/2 cup loosely packed parsley or tarragon

Salt and pepper


  • Leave the dried mushrooms to soak in a little boiling water.
  • Melt the butter and oil in a frying pan. Sauté the onion over a medium heat for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
  • Add the soaked and fresh mushrooms, turn up the heat to high, and cook for about 4 minutes until brown on the edges and softened.
  • Pour in the brandy and fresh thyme and cook on a medium heat until the liquid has evaporated.
  • Leave the mixture to cool for at least 20 minutes.
  • In a food processor, combine the mushrooms, cream cheese, creme fraiche, parsley or tarragon and lemon juice. Season well with salt and pepper. Blitz until you reach the desired consistently, slightly chunky or smooth.
  • Store in clean glass jars in the fridge.
  • Serve serve with crostini, crackers or brown bread.


2) Baked Brie with Herbs and Cranberries

Makes 2


2 x small 300g Brie

2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

4 tbsp cranberry sauce

25g smoked almonds, roughly chopped

Crusty bread to serve-part baked baguettes are good to have on hand


  • Sprinkle 1/4 of the fresh herbs on the herbs on the bottom of a round ceramic dish. Place the Brie on top. Score a large cross into the cheese and sprinkle with more herbs.
  • Bake at 190C for 15 minutes until the cheese is soft and gooey.
  • Top with cranberry sauce and chopped nuts.
  • If making ahead, simply prepare the cheese in the ceramic dish, season with herbs, top with cranberry sauce and nuts and wrap up with foil. Bake when desired.


3) Cranberry and Pistachio Goats' Cheese Log

Makes 2 logs


2 x 180g goats' cheese logs

50g dried cranberries, roughly chopped

50g pistachio nuts, roughly chopped (I used salted pistachios)


  • Leave the cheese out for an hour to soften. With a sharp knife, trim away some of the rind.
  • Mix the cranberries and pistachio nuts and roll the cheese in the mixture, pressing cranberries and pistachios into the cheese.
  • Cover and chill.
  • Serve with crackers. 

4) Kale and Clementine Salad

Makes 10 servings


200g fresh kale

6 clementines

Seeds of 1 pomegranate

50g gourmet nuts-I like using smoked or caramelised

2 tbsp finely chopped mint leaves

Citronette dressing:

60ml fresh clementine juice

60ml lemon juice

60ml olive oil

1 small shallot, finely chopped

2 tsp Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper


  • Prepare the kale by take out the tough stalks and chopping finely. Wash and dry well.
  • Mix the dressing well and our over the kale. Cover and store in the fridge for up to three days.
  • Serve the salad with the fresh mint, clementine slices, pomegranate seeds and gourmet nuts.

Creamy Mustard Horseradish Sauce

Makes 2 jars


375ml good quality mayonnaise

250g creme fraiche

1 1/2 tbsp wholegrain mustard

3 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp horseradish sauce

1 tbsp honey

Juice of half a lemon

Salt and white pepper to season

Garnish: tarragon, chives, dill, spring onions

Serve with: smoked salmon, ham, turkey or cheese


  • Whisk together all the ingredients, except the herbs, and season to taste with lemon, salt and white pepper.
  • Store in clean glass jars in the fridge.
  • Garnish with herb of your choice and serve as a condiment, dipping sauce or spread.


Cumberland Sauce

Makes 300ml bottle


Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Zest and juice of 2 clementines


1 jar cranberry sauce

125ml port

1tbsp red wine vinegar

Pinch cayenne pepper

1tbsp English mustard powder

Salt and pepper


  • Add the zest and the 100ml water to a small boil and boil until the water is mostly gone.
  • Pour in the juices, port, cranberry jelly, canner and mustard powder. Season.
  • Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Mix the cornflour with the water and add to the sauce. Boil up for 1 minute.
  • Serve warm with ham, turkey, duck or venison.


Christmas Pudding Brandy Truffles 

Makes 24 truffles


1 pound (450g) Christmas pudding

4 tbsp brandy

2 x 180g Bourneville chocolate

1 x 200g white chocolate

Twitter: @MakeAheadMealz

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