Trimmings: recipes in time for the holiday

Last year’s special meal. No idea why the sprouts look fuzzy. (They weren’t but I altered the photo to get the colours right, so…)

Happy Solstice and some holiday cooking.

Easy Trimmings

Whatever holiday you celebrate at this time of year you probably have a main dish (veggie or not) with lashings of extra veg and… all the trimmings. My daughter (who is veggie) agrees with me (I’m not veggie) that this is the best part of the celebratory meal. It is, of course, possible to buy all the trimmings or side dishes from your favoured supermarket or corner shop. However, some things are incredibly easy to make at home and (a) they taste better (b) you get much bigger quantities for a lower price (c) they make the kitchen and most of the house smell good.

Cranberry sauce.

Traditionally, this goes with turkey but so far as I’m concerned it goes with almost anything though I’ve never tried it with fish. (I don’t like turkey – find it a bit dry and bland – so we usually have chicken.)

Buy a punnet of cranberries well before the shops start to run out in December. Freeze it. Just throw it in the freezer.

You can start to thaw the berries but they’ll thaw as you cook so don’t worry. Put them in a pan with sugar, not too much but they can be tart – I use about two tablespoons of white granulated to a large punnet. Add a glass of orange juice plus shreds of orange rind if you happen to have been eating oranges or tangerines, a small glass of port (though sherry/madeira/etc would probably do) and make sure the liquid just covers the berries. If not, add a little water or more juice/alcohol. You can leave out the orange if you’re allergic to citrus or the alcohol if you’re teetotal. Though bear in mind that alcohol is burnt off during cooking so the sauce will not be alcoholic and is suitable for children. Put the pan on a medium to low heat and cook till most of the berries have burst. Then carry on till the liquid has reduced a bit but don’t go too mad as you are not making jam.

Store in the fridge – it will keep well into the new year if allowed. Ours isn’t and doesn’t.

Bread sauce

I think this is meant to go with turkey, too, and of course would not be suitable for kosher Jewish meals so just serve it with anything you like! Again, probably not fish.

Buy sliced white bread for this, even if you normally eat brown or whatever. Either buy a crustless loaf or cut off all the crusts which you can then turn into croutons if you feel inclined. I use about half a loaf for a dish of sauce that lasts through the holiday week for meals and sandwiches.

Peel a small onion and stud it with cloves. You might need to use a skewer to make little holes to help the cloves go in. Pour milk (any kind so maybe Jews or Vegans could use oatmilk) over the studded onion and bring to the boil then leave to cool. You can do this the night before you make the sauce and store the infused milk in the fridge but don’t take the onion out till you’re about to make the sauce.

Tear the bread roughly. Heat the infused milk and stir in the bread which should gradually turn into a mushy sauce mixture.


The kind you serve separately, either in a dish or in little balls, not the kind you put inside a roast.

Breadcrumbs. You need lots and the easiest way is to let half a loaf go a bit stale then whizz it in a food processor. (Tear it up first.) Add herbs – your choice. Sage is traditional with some meats, but other herbs work well. Thyme is popular. Also add things like sultanas and chopped dried apricots to make a more celebratory dish. You can create this mix well in advance.

Chop an onion very finely and cook by boiling in water then when the onion is translucent and glossy, add your mix, a little at a time, till you have the right consistency.

You can then make balls which are fiddly but give a crust that some people like, or just put the mix in a dish, dot with butter and bake on the bottom of the oven for about half an hour. (That’s what I do.) If you’re making the balls you’ll need a firmer initial consistency and you can use flour for rolling otherwise you’ll have ended up stuffing your hands and fingernails… I prefer the dish format, because I like the texture – more of the stuffing remains soft.

Dressing for e.g. shredded red cabbage, salad potatoes, etc.

I use half and half mayo and greek style yoghurt. You can also add a little mustard and/or lemon juice. This gives a good dressing that works better than either mayo or yoghurt alone. It clings nicely to the salad. My mother in law used soured cream instead of yoghurt but I think that was a question of what used to be available.

This actually goes well with fish e.g. salmon fillets

You might notice that I don’t mention seasoning i.e. salt and pepper. I use very little salt in cooking because nowadays a lot of people prefer to control the amount they add, at table. However, most dishes gain flavour if you add a pinch of salt when you start cooking. It’s up to you. Pepper, I prefer fresh ground and served at table though it can be a nice addition to dressing.

Don’t forget:

You can prepare all your veg in advance but make sure you put root veg like potatoes and parsnips in cold water to stop them discolouring. It really does make all the difference on the day of the big meal if half the work is already done.

Brandy butter

Intended to go with mince pies but I’m not wild about mince pies, or about custard or white sauce which traditionally go with plum pudding. So I have the pudding with brandy butter and very good it is too. (Indigestion tablets are recommended as a follow-up.) Leftover brandy butter tastes really good on toast, by the way. Just saying.

You can buy this and sometimes I do because I run out of cooking space and time, but really, all you need is butter, icing sugar, and brandy. Mix and then store in the fridge. The brandy might make it a bit sloppy but it should firm up in the fridge. Still, don’t use too much liquid!

As I’m posting this on the solstice I thought I’d share the card I made for my daughter’s birthday, which is on the solstice. I enjoy doing 3D decoupage (as well as cooking!) and this time made my own design using the inner sides of envelopes. It’s dead easy, and only needs sharp scissors, those little sticky fixers, and patience.

6 thoughts on “Trimmings: recipes in time for the holiday

  1. I might try your variation on the stuffing. I usually just throw a quartered raw onion in the food processor with the torn up bread and the herbs. I blitz the lot and put in a dish to cook – stuffing balls are easier to serve but I don’t like the stuffed fingernails to produce them! I think it is just the two of us for dinner on Saturday so it shouldn’t take too much prep. May all your cooking turn out well.

  2. Only two of us here, too! Daughter and partner are veggie (grandson isn’t) and we decided years ago not to try doing Christmas dinner together (in an ordinary kitchen with an ordinary oven it’s a recipe for disaster and heated arguments). So they’re coming on Sunday and I’ll make a veggie feast. Husband and grandson can accompany it with leftover bird… I’m going to try tomato tatin for the first time – should be as easy as apple or pear – famous last words.

  3. Oh how clever, I didn’t realise they were envelope innards (although I can see it now!) but they look very pretty and silvery, it’s a lovely card. I concur with all your ‘pros’ for home made sauces, the only issue really is that you still need to make time to prepare them in advance (and you know what I’m like between my birthday and Christmas!) and then have space to store them in the fridge… Christmas dinner with trimmings tends to overwhelm me a little so I’m minimising how much I make this year – we had veggie pigs in blankets last night, as we’re having fake ham anyway on the day, and I bought my usual Schwartz luxury bread sauce, which is very nice, although not as good as yours I’m sure, but above the usual packet brands. The cranberry sauce does sound worth making and if you could remind me next year when cranberries are around (not that I remember seeing any…) I will give it a go! Your fuzzy sprouts look like pesto balls, by the way…

  4. My sprouts truly weren’t fuzzy but Photoshop disagreed. Remind me next year and I’ll make you some cranberry sauce in advance. It keeps well. I think you have a double helping of trouble having your birthday so close to Christmas and I’m responsible so I’m sorry!

  5. Good to see more stuffing recipes… we are now down to making our own due to kind Boris taking UK out of Europe and creating customs charges on things from UK,unless marked ” gift ” which no shop will do !

  6. I recall sending you some one year!! Or bringing it – can’t remember which! But it’s easy provided you can get hold of the sage. Grow it?? And yes, Brexit has changed our lives with a bang – and not for the better!!

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