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Dublin: 6 °C Tuesday 22 October, 2019

Help! What's an emergency gift less boring than biscuits? Your crucial Christmas food questions answered

Niamh Shields answers your questions in the first edition of Santa’s Lidl Helper.

Image: Shutterstock/Yulia Grigoryeva

Welcome to a new series: Santa’s Lidl Helper. Every week in the runup to the big day, an expert will be answering your Christmas food questions.

This week, food writer and cook Niamh Shields tackles tricky shopping issues: what to stock up on ahead of time – and what’s a turkey alternative for friends?

CHRISTMAS ALWAYS SEEMS to come crashing around the corner despite months of expectation. I was Little Miss Last Minute for many years but I have learned my lesson and now prepare as much as I can in advance, saving me the heartache and freeing up time for friends and family.

Christmas should be about fun, and I have over the years weeded out the things that cause me hassle. I don’t stress about Christmas dinner. It is a shared event in terms of the cooking and I like to focus on the sides (chorizo and pork stuffing meatballs anyone?!).

I focus on easy things that come together gently over a glass of wine and conversation. All supported by preparing in advance, both by shopping and cooking.

Source: Shutterstock/Lois GoBe

1. What foods should I be stockpiling now ahead of the Christmas rush?

Stock up on your goose fat early. It is an essential for Christmas dinner potatoes and don’t throw out your potato peelings. Toss them in goose fat and sea salt and roast them in a single layer until crisp for a snack. You will never look back.

Chutneys and preserves are great for dressing up a cheeseboard and last a long time. Lots of lovely cheese keeps everyone happy and is perfect for surprise visitors, salamis and charcuterie too.

One of my favourites is a mature Gouda, get more than one as they won’t last long. Roquefort is a favourite too and it is the perfect match for a medium to full bodied red wine.

Source: Shutterstock/cobraphotography

Q2. What one food should I have on hand for unexpected Christmas guests?

A whole leg of Spanish Jamón Serrano is a wonderful indulgence and perfect to serve to guests being both impressive and delicious. You will have the bones for broth in the New Year too and the little bits next to the bone are perfect diced and fried with your eggs for indulgent breakfasts.

Some smoked salmon on a cracker with crème fraiche is perfect for a lighter bite. For a meat and fish free alternative don’t look past my favourite ingredient this year, pumpkin seed oil. I love it drizzled on roast pumpkin wedges with toasted pumpkin seeds and some peppery greens like rocket. I love some smoked tuna too, as an alternative to Christmas ham and sure to wake up a tired palate.

Most of us give ourselves a free pass when it comes to treats over Christmas, so I would also stock up on some favourite chocolates. I adore chocolate covered Turkish Delight.

Source: Shutterstock/Nataliya Druchkova

Q3. We always buy tins of biscuits to wrap as emergency gifts. What’s something a bit less… boring?

We are so spoiled for options here. For those with a sweet tooth a gorgeous box of baklava or Belgian chocolate pralines. I love some cantuccini (Italian biscuits) and a bottle of sweet wine to accompany them, as in Italy.

Source: Shutterstock/zoryanchik

Q4. I’m hosting a big pre-Christmas dinner for my friends. What can I make that’s not turkey?

Lobster dip makes an impressive and easy starter for friends. Mix chopped cooked lobster with cream cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and some hot sauce. Finish with chives and spring onions and adjust everything to taste. Serve hot with plenty to dip in like melba toasts.

Goose or duck make a lovely alternative to turkey at Christmas. Goose for a larger gathering and duck for a smaller one. Cover your duck in sliced streaky bacon for an extra layer of indulgence and serve it with a homemade cherry sauce sharpened with a little vinegar.

From deluxe food treats to decorations and gifts – whatever you’re looking for to make your Christmas special, you’ll find it in Lidl with more for everyone this Christmas. Visit the Lidl website for full details. 

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