What should you cook from scratch at Christmas and what's it OK to buy? We have the answers

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Image: Roast turkey

Photograph: Maja Smend

This is how to give Christmas the homemade touch – without running around like a headless turkey.

Turkey: make it

If you cook one thing this Christmas, make it the turkey. All eyes are going to be on the big bird and you’ll probably be eating it for weeks. Avoid turkey tears by checking it fits in the oven as soon as you get it (not on Christmas morning!) and buy a disposable foil tray – no-one’s got one that big.

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Roast turkey with herb and pistachio stuffing

Photograph: Jonathan Gregson

 

Brussels sprouts: make it

Love em’ or hate ‘em, it’s just not Christmas without sprouts. Plus, buying a sprout tree is actually quite fun (they’re not around all the time, are they?). Don't bother with the crosses on the bottom – it’s an old wives' tale and makes them go soggy.

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Sprouts with chestnut crumble

Photograph: Jonathan Gregson

 

Carrots and parsnips: buy it

Splash out on miniature Chantenay carrots and baby parsnips. OK, they're slightly more expensive that normal sized veg, but it saves on all the chopping and they look dead fancy too. 

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Roast potatoes: make it

The taste of a golden, home-cooked roastie is something money can’t buy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get ahead. Spuds actually like a spell in the freezer (it makes them extra crispy), so follow Kate Titford’s easy recipe and let the compliments roll in.

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Extra crunchy freeze-ahead roast potatoes

Photograph: Tara Fisher

 

Cranberry sauce: buy it

It only takes 10 minutes but honestly, who’s got the headspace? Buy a jar of the red stuff, spoon into a bowl and add a few fresh cranberries to make it look homemade. Berrylicious.

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Cranberry and orange sauce

Photograph: Maja Smend

 

Bread sauce: buy it

Bread soaked in milk? What’s that all about? Pick up a packet, add hot water and sprinkle with ground cloves. A pretty glass bowl helps, too.

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Ultimate bread sauce

Photograph: Jonathan Gregson

 

Pigs in blankets: buy it

Unless you're stuffing your own sausages and smoking your own bacon, they're not really homemade anyway. And who wants to stand there wrapping all those sausages? Let someone else put the piggies to bed.

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Pigs in blankets

Photograph: Maja Smend

 

Gravy: buy it

"It’s lumpy." "It’s too thin." "It’s really pale so I’ll just add some red wine. Oh god ... now it’s pink!". Spare yourself the pain – granules were invented for a reason. A pot of good-quality stock (rather than a cube) is all you need to inject some instant homemade flavour.

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Get-ahead gravy

Photograph: Tara Fisher

 

Christmas pud: buy it

Even if you did make a proper pud, let's face it – nobody likes it anyway. You've got to do the whole setting-it-on-fire-thing though, so buy a token pud and bung it in the microwave. A chocolate log? Now THAT'S something we want to make ...

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Classic christmas pudding with brandy butter

Photograph: Maja Smend

 

Mince pies: fake it

OK, these are fun to make (especially with the kids) but with half the family descending on you for the day, it’s best to keep things simple. If you must make them, liven up shop-bought mincemeat with lemon zest, brandy or whisky and Medjool dates and just use ready-rolled pasty. Or, dust shop-bought ones with icing sugar and they’ll look homemade anyway.

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Mince pies

 

Christmas cake: fake it

There's nothing wrong with making it a year in advance, following Grandma's recipe and feeding it like a pet. Equally, no one's going to mind if you just buy a plain one and decorate it yourself. If you can't bring yourself to cheat completely, this 5-ingredient Christmas cake is an absolute winner (and couldn't be easier to make).

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Quick and easy christmas cake

Photograph: Dan Jones

What's your trick? We'd love to hear your secrets to cheating the perfect Christmas dinner in the comments below ...