Christmas is a time for enjoying food, family and friendship. However, the rise of the lifestyle blogger and those seemingly perfect TV chefs, has put the pressure on us all to produce the perfect party for our Christmas guests. It is no longer enough to just pull out the Ritz crackers and a bottle of wine, now we all have to produce the perfect spread and the finest fizz, yet still manage to look like Nigella as the guests arrive!
The key to good Christmas entertaining is to be rigorous in planning and preparation. Knowing what you will offer your guests for a party well ahead, thinking about timing and preparing as much as you can in advance, will make things go much more smoothly. If you make things easier for yourself then there is a chance you might even enjoy the party too.
Sometimes it is easy with Christmas to play it safe and just stick to what you know. Certainly for the “traditional” Christmas dinner, cooking what you cook every year at least makes things straightforward. But sometimes it is good to do something a bit different to shake things up and surprise your family. In recent years we have tried alternative birds to poultry, while keeping the core meal traditional, but with new flavours. And using different game for your gravy stock can also add a depth of flavour that doesn’t come from turkey.
Our Easy Entertaining and Canapes demonstrations are a brilliant way to get some new ideas on the classic Christmas party foods. Many guests come along with friends and make an event of the session, enjoying a glass of fizz and tasting the food we have created at the end. We always emphasise what foods can be prepared in advance then frozen or chilled, so you have time to think about your party outfit as well as the food. In our canape demonstration we show how you can make some tasty canape bases in advance which are then easy to assemble at the last minute: Isle of Mull Cheddar on smoked paprika biscuits with green tapenade; broad bean and mint pate on croustade; and spelt blinis with venison fillet, horseradish cream and sweet picked red onion, are all surprisingly easy to produce – and seriously delicious.
Finding the right drinks to serve with your canapes can also be a challenge. The papers are full of “100 best wines for Christmas” features right now but, unless you can taste them in advance, it is really hard to know what wines will work for your party. Our Festive Fizz taster sessions sell out fast every year for this reason and are a good way to find what you like.
And finally, as Christmas is a time for family, encouraging your children to help with your festive spread could be fun. Our Christmas baking sessions which run after the schools break up are a great way to entertain the children, produce some presents for Grandma, or contribute to the feast. The courses are always popular and the kitchen is packed with excited chatter as the kids cook up biscuits and cakes to take home. And while they are baking, you might just find time for a bit of Christmas shopping to find your perfect party outfit!
Whatever your Christmas plans, being organised is the best way to ensure you enjoy them as much as your guests. I always love Christmas, not just for the entertaining, but also because I like it when everyone gets involved with the preparation and, of course, helping to taste the festive fizz. My only issue is making sure they help with the washing up afterwards too.