For most of December I hover about in a state of suppressed excitement: Christmas is a glorious way to end the year. I also love all the rituals that come with Christmas time, the entertaining of friends and family at parties, meals and all sorts of fun. I wrote about some of them in our (Gü) Girl’s Guide to a Fabulously Festive Party Season, and I have pulled together some ideas from LLG over the years for this post about Christmas entertaining.
My mother and I have been making all sort of plans for this year. One of our favourite ways to kick off the celebrations is joining the gathering on the village green for mulled wine, mince pies and carol singing around an open fire, a glorious way to start Christmas Eve, and catch up with old friends.
The absolute key part of Christmas entertaining is to prepare as much ahead as possible. (I’m going to suggest stashing your turkey or goose somewhere that your beloved hound won’t be able to monitor it. She may knows better than to try to get into the box, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t going to try to will it out.)
Experience tells me that you can never have enough Champagne. Do think about how you will keep drinks cold, when the fridge is full of food.
Wrap your presents in advance to avoid last minute Christmas Eve panics – don’t rely on any help from your furry friends.
All of these culinary tasks can be done on Christmas Eve: Peel and parboil potatoes, make cranberry sauce, prep the Brussels sprouts, make the stuffing, fry breadcrumbs for bread sauce, make the bread sauce. There can never be enough bread sauce for my liking.
I also suggest laying the festive table on Christmas Eve, if you can. In fact it’s one of my entertaining efficiency stand-bys: I pretty much always lay the table the night before any event. It makes me feel calmer knowing there is one task finished, and one that will make any early guests feel welcome. Check salt cellars and pepper mills, fill the butter dish, and fix the candles in place too.
We always bring out the lovely family pieces for Christmas lunch: Here the handmade lace cloth was bought by my grandparents in pre-war Madeira, my mother thinks about 1936. The engraved glasses are inherited family pieces, and the triangular goblets are Dartington’s Sharon. The cutlery is a mixture of family silver and David Mellor, (the Pride pattern designed in 1953, which is in the Design Museum, and which was my parents’ 1968 wedding service), and the plates are Villeroy & Boch’s Petite Fleur pattern.
On Christmas morning we always have something fizzy before lunch, whilst we open presents
We try to ring the changes with what we drink: Over the years we have variously served Prosecco with pomegranate seeds, Champagne cocktails, Kit Royale – and Kir made with creme de Mure, and Buck’s Fizz. Last year we had Californian sparking red from Domaine Chandom, which tasted like very grown up Ribena. Delicious
Scenting the house with lovely candles adds to the festive cheer. I love Diptyque’s winter candles.
I think a part of successful Christmas entertaining is to make everyone feel relaxed: and the quickest way is through laughter. We have a massive box of Christmas hats for everyone to wear, which always breaks the ice. Last year madam stole a set of antlers, and I spent a good ten minutes chasing her around the drawing room
Sometimes we go for a walk in the afternoon before the light fails, to exhaust the dogs, and eat in the early evening.
The turkey may be the star of the show, but we always have a first course of smoked salmon, which keep entertaining stress at a minimum, as it just requires plating – no cooking involved. (If you cling film it carefully, you can cut and butter the brown bread in advance.) Here the salmon is served with avocado, watercress, creme fraiche, and lumpfish roe.
If you aren’t a Christmas pudding fiend, making it months ahead, and serving it with lashings of brandy butter, don’t be embarrassed to go down the prepared pudding route. There’s always a place for a chocolate pudding.
In this case, a Gu Puds Chocolate and Vanilla Cheesecake.
And when you have finished eating all that food, I suggest climbing into a Kigu cat suit to watch Doctor Who in quite some comfort.
This post was written in association with Gu Puds, and the A (Gü) Girl’s Guide to a Fabulously Festive Party Season…