As with all cooking, the key to getting it right is the timing. This means starting with the schedule for what gets eaten when, and the expected cooking times for the various parts of the meal. You then need to work back from the eating times, by the length of time it will take to cook each item, to find out when you have to start in order for each thing to be ready when you want it. There are also a few other constraints, principally space on the hob and in the oven. One helpful feature is that many things will keep hot for some time once they're cooked, so you don't need everything ready exactly simultaneously.
The normal programme for the evening is something like this:
The long-running bits of cooking are:
The cooking schedule typically turns out something like the following; it should be reviewed in light of the weight of the turkey and any other changes in recipes.
|3.30||Turn the oven on and start preparing the turkey for cooking.|
|3.45||Start cooking the turkey.|
|-----||There is now a "dead" period. This can be used for shopping (see preparation), or you can simply put your feet up after a hectic morning and prepare for the frenzy to come.|
|5pm||Start work on the soup. This will tie up one person for a good part of the next couple of hours.|
If you are cooking the hams in advance, to serve cold, now is a good time to start - this will free up the pan(s) and hob space when you next want them.
|6pm||It is usual to organise a few helpers to arrive at this point, to start work on the salad.|
It is also usual to have two (possibly three) people in the kitchen from this time on.
|6.30||If you're cooking the hams in advance, they're probably done now. Drain them and let them cool.|
|7.00||The soup will probably be done about now. Put it on a back ring and keep it warm.|
If you're cooking the hams to serve hot, start now.
|7.30||Serve the soup. Take a few minutes off to enjoy it yourself, even if you stay in the kitchen!|
Do not attempt to wash up the soup bowls etc. at this stage - you will need all the space in the kitchen for cooking.
|7.45||Put the haggis on to simmer.|
If you're doing stuffing, prepare the stuffing mixture.
|8.00||The turkey should now be cooked. Take it out of the oven and let it "rest".|
The potatoes can be put in the oven for re-warming, if desired.
If you're doing stuffing, this can also go in about now.
If the veggie main course needs to be baked, it's likely to need to start now as well.
|8.05||If you're doing gravy, it probably needs to start now.|
|8.10||For reference, the food should probably now be arranged as follows:|
|8.15||The haggis should now be done. They will keep warm on a plate, especially if they're not unwrapped from their foil.|
|8.20||Start to prepare for "panic stations".|
The gravy should be ready now, or fairly soon.
It helps if you start carving the turkey and the hams now - this gives you a head start when the ravenous hordes descend!
|8.30||The onslaught begins now - or at least when you feel ready for it.|
There should be some ready-carved turkey and ham, the potatoes can be self-service (even from the oven, if there are oven-gloves), the haggis, stuffing and gravy are all self-service (usually in the kitchen, though some or all could be in the lounge if there's space), and the salad is self-service in the lounge (though it could be in the kitchen if there's serving space).
|8.45||... or possibly later...|
Once the flow of hungry Feasters has abated, you can serve yourselves, retire to the lounge and relax over a good meal :-)
People can serve themselves for seconds.
|9.30?||Once everybody's had enough of the main course, the washing up starts. There are two important
1. Nobody gets any dessert until the washing-up is finished (barring any really awkward things that need soaking).
2. The cooks don't do any washing or drying (though they may help organise the flow of things needing washing).
Given there are probably 12-15 people who haven't helped with the cooking, there's plenty of opportunity for people to swap over if they've had enough.
|10pm?||Cut the gateaux into portions (if they haven't been cut already) and allow the circling vultures
to descend. 12 or 16 portions per gateau will help ensure that people get as much choice as
Make sure that you get some yourself!
|11pm?||Again, once everybody has finished eating, it's time for the washing-up. Point 2 still applies. Unless the hosts are prepared to deal with things / have things dealt with on the day after, everything remaining should be washed up at this stage (see "At the End of the Day" below).|
Once the washing-up is done, you need to check that all the crockery, cutlery and cooking equipment is clean and accounted for. This will mean finding a home for such delightful items as the turkey carcass - typically the outside rubbish bin. Likewise, any other spare food must be disposed of one way or another - to Feasters, hosts or bin.
You will then need to work out how all the borrowed equipment is going to get home again. Those who have brought things on the day can (hopefully) take them back again; some other borrowed items may also be returnable on the evening. Otherwise, you must either arrange with the hosts to leave things behind, or (neater) take everything else away and sort it out later.
In the past, the "clear it all away" option has involved the shopping trolley (used to deliver food and cooking equipment) being reloaded with all the cooking equipment again and pushed halfway back across town. In 2000, fewer things were borrowed, and a rucksack was sufficient. You will need to review what needs to be moved, and work out the best way to deal with it.