It’s that time of the year to have standby desserts, stuffing and treats

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Christmas should be a time of getting together, celebrating, reflecting on the previous year and having fun.

In reality we’re under so much pressure to make everything perfect, that we forget the true essence of the day. This is the time of year to make friends with the freezer and have stand by desserts, stuffing and treats in there to get ahead and relieve some of the burden. It’s also great to have a clear out and live off what you defrost in the run up – a great money saver.

When I was at culinary college you had a choice of going down the hot kitchen or pastry route. I chose the former and like most chefs, pastry work is not my comfort zone. Over the years I’ve built up a repertoire of fail safe desserts that I rely on. No matter where I’m cooking, should it be a pop up, prep for a demo or dinner at home, I always get the dessert out of the way first so I can enjoy the savoury cooking! I put more effort into desserts than anything else because I’m slightly out of my comfort zone.

At Christmas if you have a good freezer friendly chocolate dessert and a cheesecake recipe, you won’t go wrong. The Christmas pudding takes care of itself – if you don’t have a family recipe there are many great home bakeries in Ulster that will have. Why strain yourself when somebody competent will do it for you?

The recipes this week are make ahead and can be frozen until you’re ready to need them. I like making my own mincemeat for a number of reasons. Firstly I don’t add candied peel because I have a personal aversion to it but if you like it add away. Secondly I use grated butter instead of suet which makes it vegetarian. Lastly it’s great way of using up all the half used dried fruit packets in the cupboard. The longer you make the mincemeat in advance the better.

The second recipe is for a chocolate terrine with cranberries and clementines. Make it now and it’ll keep for up to a month and is a deliciously decadent chocolate dessert. Most people like a wee toot of Baileys at Christmas and a Bailey’s cheesecake is something that always goes down well.