A guide to Christmas entertaining
Tuesday, 29th November 2016, Paul Dore
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so they say, but if you’re hosting the festivities this time around, now is about the time the nerves kick in. After all, there’s a lot of pressure on your plate: for some people, Christmas is the most important day of the year and there’s a lot to consider when it comes to hosting the perfect party.
Fear not, though, as our guide will help you plan a Christmas Day to remember, whether yours is family-focused or a grown-up affair.
Prepare your home
The 25th might be a few weeks away yet, but you want to get your decorations up and perfectly arranged well in advance, so all you’ll have to do on the day is give them a quick tidy. For the perfect look, we recommend picking a theme for your Christmas decorations and sticking to it. If your Christmas is all about the younger members of the family, you’ll want to opt for bright, cute decorations. For those whose Christmas is strictly adult, you may prefer a simple but classy look with gold and silver ornaments.
Naturally, your biggest focus will be the living room, where the tree resides. If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace, there are lots of ways to make this focal point stand out. Check out our handy guides below:
Plan your menus
There’s now a greater choice than ever before of the food you can serve on Christmas Day so you need to be having a think about this in advance. Are you going down the traditional turkey route or do you want to surprise your guests with something a bit different? Knowing your audience here is key!
Speaking of which, make sure that anyone with a special diet is catered for. The last thing you want to do is end up with miserable guests because you forgot Uncle Bob and Aunt Sue are now vegetarians.
There are some fantastic alternatives out there for those who are intolerant to wheat, egg and dairy. Why not serve up a spiced roast beef with red wine gravy and caramel chocolate log for the gluten-free crowd? The BBC Good Food website has lots of ideas to keep coeliacs happy.
If you have vegans coming over, try Jamie Oliver’s whole roasted cauliflower or Christmas curry and if anyone has room for pudding, his dairy-free chocolate truffles are sure to go down a treat with all your guests. See the Jamie Oliver website for more recipes.
Set the table
Once you know how many guests are coming, you can start thinking about how you want the Christmas table to look. The design and decoration should correspond with your theme throughout your home. However, whatever colours or decorations you go with, you must keep it simple.
If you’re all sitting down for dinner and therefore wish to create a centrepiece, make sure it doesn’t dominate the table – otherwise people will struggle to see and therefore talk to each other. Try a small Poinsettia or a clutter of Christmas candles. You can then sprinkle smaller decorations across the rest of the table, such as pinecones sprayed with glitter, baubles and Christmas crackers. Remember, you’ll still need to leave room for the all-important food and drink!
Give your guests a warm, merry welcome
When it’s time for your guests to arrive, make sure the festive playlist is on and the drinks are ready. You could choose to greet your guests with a Christmas cocktail, glass of prosecco or mulled wine. Remember to provide mocktails, fruit juices and other non-alcoholic options for any little ones or non-drinkers.
Tips for perfecting your Christmas dinner cooking schedule
Even the best cooks and hosts can struggle to get the timing of a Christmas dinner right, because we all know that our guests expect it to be perfect. It’s a high bar to reach, but so long as you prepare beforehand, it is possible to create a Christmas dinner that friends and family will be talking about for years to come.
Follow these tips and you shouldn’t put a foot wrong:
- - Don’t cook loads of vegetables – Every guest has a ‘favourite’ vegetable they want you to cook, but remember you can’t please everyone. For your sake, just pick three popular choices.
- - Prepare the veggies 24 hours before – Get your whole family involved in the peeling and cutting process to make this task much less laborious.
- - Part-roast the veggies before the big day – Christmas Eve afternoon is a good time to do this
- - Make as much as you can in advance – This includes puddings, pigs in blankets and sauces.
- - Don’t forget to chill the drinks – No room in the fridge? Put them outside or in the garage!
- - Before cooking the meat on Christmas Day, take it out of the fridge and allow it to warm to room temperature.
Clean up as you go along
Finally, to avoid any mistakes or cross-contamination in the kitchen, it’s best to clean as you cook. Not only will it make cooking your Christmas dinner so much easier, let’s face it, when you are finished you are going to want to just put your feet up! Plus, you just know that Grandma is going to come wandering into the kitchen at some point to offer her ‘help’ – you don’t want her seeing the kitchen in that state!
Whatever type of Christmas party you’re planning, we hope it is one to remember. Got a taste for hosting and want to do more? Check out our guide to summer entertaining.