Few meals seem as important as Christmas dinner. There's a table full of hungry people to feed, and it's impossible not to feel a certain amount of pressure when putting it all together.

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But whether you're cooking for two or 22, the rules stay the same.

Plan ahead

Sit down and think about what you're going to cook, bearing in mind cooking times, how many hobs you have and oven space. There's no point planning to roast five veg if you only have a tiny oven, for example.

Do the turkey maths

As a rule, don't think of getting a turkey larger than 12lb. Any bigger than that and by the time it's cooked it won't be worth eating. If you need more meat than that, or want to have enough for a few days' worth of turkey sandwiches, get two birds.

If you don't fancy a whole turkey, look at getting a crown - that's just the breast - or find a recipe for Turkey Wellington. The added bonus there is that you can make it the day before and just bake it on the day.

You could always throw tradition out of the window and opt for a joint of beef instead, or a goose, or poussins all round. If you don't want turkey, don't have it!

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Go gravy crazy

If you are having poultry, make your gravy in advance and freeze it. (Handy recipe: soften two chopped onions, two carrots and two sticks of celery in olive oil in a large saucepan.)

If you have giblets, add them. When softened, add a little tomato puree and flour and cook for a minute, then turn up the heat, add a glass or two of red wine.

Reduce until most of the liquid's disappeared then add two pints of chicken or vegetable stock. Simmer for 15 minutes, adjust the seasoning then strain into a container and freeze.)

Get your timings right

When you've decided on your menu, work out how long everything needs to cook for and make a plan, working backwards from what time you want to eat.

Clean as you go

When it comes to the big day, do as much chopping, peeling and prep as you can, get out all the pots, pans, roasting trays and utensils you're going to need, and - finally - clean as you go.

A tidy kitchen makes for an easy kitchen to work in, and two hours' washing up after the meal is not a suitable substitute for dessert.