Heather’s make-ahead Christmas side dishes


We all know that you can be overwhelmed with jobs at Christmas, especially if it’s your turn to host friends and loved ones. There are many lovely products on our supermarket shelves that can help take some of the burden. But if you fancy trying your hand at perhaps just one thing homemade this Christmas, I’m sharing four side dishes that are simple to make and can all be made in advance to help bring that little extra – stress-free – to your Christmas table. Heather x

PS – you can see all of last year’s Christmas baking recipes here, and don’t forget my foolproof Christmas Cake recipe – it reliably gives that delicious deep Christmassy flavour whether you make it two months or two days before Christmas.
You can find more of my Christmas recipes here, including my famous mincemeat, the easiest sausage rolls to impress and the super-Christmassy star-topped jammy biscuits.

Roasted Brussels sprouts

‘I’m not sure any Brussels sprout recipe will entirely convince me that they are a delicious vegetable, but this at least makes them edible (to me) – the actual sprout lovers in the house devour this dish!’


  • Fresh Brussels sprouts
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Salt
  • Balsamic vinegar


  • Preheat the oven to Gas 6/180º fan. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
  • Wash the Brussels sprouts, cut off the bottoms, remove the outer one or two layers of leaves and slice in half from top to bottom.
  • Place the Brussels sprouts onto the baking tray and generously drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Give the Brussels sprouts a good rub with the olive oil to make sure they are coated but make sure they finish up with their cut sides face down on the tray.
  • Bake in the oven for 17-25 minutes until they are crispy and golden brown. You can then drizzle them with a little balsamic vinegar.
  • To spice them up further, you can also add crispy bacon bits or parmesan cheese. You can also sprinkle finely grated parmesan cheese onto the tray while it is baking for an even crispier Brussels sprout.

To make ahead …
Roast the Brussels and then once cooled (and before any of the extra flavours), place in an air tight container in the fridge.
To refresh, place on a baking tray with a light sprinkle of olive oil and pop in the oven to reheat for five minutes.
Then drizzle with extra flavours (like balsamic etc).
If you wanted to add Parmesan, roast the Brussel sprouts plain and then when reheating, sprinkle with grated parmesan and cook in the oven until the cheese has melted.

Slow red cabbage

‘In our house, red cabbage isn’t just a pickled side with cold meats. It’s a hot veg dish and a favourite part of the main feast’


  • 1 red cabbage
  • 2 onions
  • 3 Bramley apples
  • juice of 2 oranges
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 5 tbs dark brown sugar
  • 25ml sherry vinegar
  • 50ml port
  • 2 tbs butter


  • Shred the red cabbage and onion and place into a slow cooker, or a casserole dish for a slow oven. Peel the apples and grate them into the mixture. Then add in everything else and give it a good stir together.
  • Leave to cook on low for four to five hours, stirring occasionally.
  • This serves at least eight people but will also freeze happily for up to three months, so it’s perfect to make in a big batch and then keep some for another meal.

Croissant bread sauce

‘My personal favourite – the croissants really elevate what is basically bread and milk to a decadent and luxurious sauce for your turkey (plus it uses up any stale croissants that you may have lying around from a festive brunch. Win-win!)


  • 500ml milk
  • 3-4 croissants (stale is fine!)
  • 1 white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • Salt and pepper
  • 50ml cream


  • In a saucepan, place the milk, thyme, onion, ground cloves, salt and plenty of black pepper (either whole peppercorns or freshly ground).
  • Place on a medium heat and bring to the boil. As soon as it begins to boil, remove from the heat and leave for 15 to 30 minutes so that the flavours infuse into the milk.
  • Strain the milk into a fresh bowl.
  • In a food processor, blitz the croissants until they are crumbs and stir these into the milk.
  • You can make this the day before and leave in the fridge at this stage.
  • To serve, gently reheat the mixture in a saucepan on a low heat. Add some cream to loosen the sauce as it may have thickened as it cooled.
  • Give it a taste and add some salt if it needs it. You can also add a small squeeze of lemon to ‘brighten’ the taste at this stage.

Homemade cranberry sauce

‘Once you’ve tasted your own, I promise you’ll never go back to the jarred stuff. It’s ridiculously easy, and tastes SO good!’


  • 100g brown sugar
  • Juice of roughly three oranges, you need 100ml
  • 400g cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Glug of sherry


  • Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and stir together. You can also add the zest of the oranges if you wish. Turn onto a high heat and leave to come to a boil, stirring occasionally to melt the sugar into the rest of the ingredients.
  • Allow the sauce to boil, enough to reduce slightly. The cranberries will begin to lose their shape and soften (after about 7-8 minutes if using frozen berries, less if fresh).
  • Take off the heat and leave to cool. Don’t worry if the mixture looks runny, it will thicken as it cools.
  • The sauce will keep for up to a week, just place in a lidded container in the fridge.


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