The world is divided into two sorts of people: those that embrace the onslaught of Christmas dinner as though it were as thrilling as a low-oxygen expedition up mount Everest and those that, quite frankly, feel more than a little overwhelmed at the prospect of spending most of the day shackled to the oven timer. The myriad of negotiations one has to pull off in order to serve this single meal is enough to rival Brexit. Will there be enough oven space? What if the turkey is too dry? Or worse, what if it is pink in the middle? I will never forget the horror of having to serve my new mother in law an under-cooked slice of turkey; it was on a par with the day I found out the truth about Father Christmas. There are still scars.
Fortunately help is at hand for those of us blanching at the mere thought of cooking. I investigate three different options to see whether Boxed Christmas dinners are as hassle-free as it claims to be:
This German-based company has been transforming our dinner routines for some time now. This year they’ve applied their formula of expertly written recipes combined with quality produce to Christmas dinner. The box starts at £12.99 a person with add-on options depending on what sort of Christmas feast you intend to cook up. The box arrives with a detailed cooking schedule and instructions for each stage, including what to do the night before to get ahead. Everything is measured out in the correct quantities according to the number of people you are cooking for – so no need to worry about guests going hungry or overcooking. There are some tasty twists on the old classics: a rosemary and lemon infused turkey, red cabbage with apple and star anise and roasted vegetables topped with parmesan. A deft way to give confidence even to the most uncertain of cooks. Best of all, there is no cheating involved: even the gravy is made from scratch.
At £169.99, Riverford is on the pricier end of the Christmas box spectrum. The box tops off its traditional Christmas ingredients with a Bishop Stilton cheese board, mince pies and clementines. There are no in-depth, stage-by-stage instructions but the entire contents of the box is grown or reared at Riverford – quite a feat. The turkey is the crowning jewel. Slow-reared and succulent, you can tuck into it safe in the knowledge it led a good life: organic, free-range and all the rest, darling.
This nifty little start-up is now Queen of the upper-middle class ready meal. With shops opening in fancy suburbs left right and centre, they also offer the easiest Christmas dinner of them all. The build-your-own Christmas dinner option on the website allows you to pick and choose what ready-made components you would like to order. So, if you’d rather pass on the Brussels, it’s perfectly possible to do so. With all the food pre-prepared the timings are the only thing you have to worry about on the day. There is a helpful download on the website to allow you to work out what needs to go in the oven when. You may well miss out on the satisfaction of having pulled it off yourself but you will also steal back all those hours of chopping and oven-watching. That means more time for board games, telly and over-talkative relations – hurrah!
A standard Cook box provides Christmas dinner for 12 at £14.75 a head.