Preparation is the key

TO ensure your festive meals come out perfect, Ben O'Donoghue said the best thing to do was: be prepared.

"Make sure you have all the equipment you need like roasting trays and baking dishes and any other bits and bobs ahead of cooking time, and don't be put off by cooking tough cleaning challenges as Fairy will remove the stubborn baked-on food," he said.

Ben has been a chef for 22 years, and worked for 13 years in the UK where he had the chance to work with and get to know Jamie Oliver on many TV shows.

He said the most important thing about cooking for a large group was to keep it simple and fresh.

"I always like to spend money on one great quality protein and build a few accompanying dishes to support it," he said. "Also, it always works well to choose a theme and run with it. For instance, think Thai and do a great curry pork or beef and build two or three dishes, salad, vegetables, and rice, to fill it out."

He said he enjoyed cooking whole joints of meat or fish as a centre piece to the meal.

"It creates a wow factor with minimum effort," he said. "The washing up will always be there so make sure you have the right tool to make it as easy and as pain-free as possible. You don't want to spend your time scrubbing when you should be relaxing with your friends."

Ben said a large ham with a fantastic glaze was sure to be a Christmas favourite.

"It's something you can always prepare early in the day and enjoy warm for Christmas lunch," he said. "The best bit is that you have ham for about seven days so it's like Christmas for an entire week."

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