So you’ve decided to cook Christmas dinner this year? Congratulations, it’s a fun, rewarding project. If it’s your first time it can seem a little intimidating but it needn’t be. The secret is to plan ahead so that a lot of the ground work has been put in place well in advance. Cooking dishes that suit your cooking ability is another good idea. Christmas dinner is not the time to experiment with new advanced recipes that you’ve never tried. Keep it simple.

This article provides you with a delicious three course feast – three entrees, mains and desserts. They have been favorites for many, many years for good reason. They’re simple and taste amazing. From shrimp cocktails and mushroom tarts, through to roast turkey and potatoes, followed by brandy snaps and trifle. I’ve included these recipes and more below!

You’ll also get some helpful tips for planning out your entire Christmas weeks in advance so that the stress levels can be kept to a minimum. Let’s get started by firstly looking at some ideas to plan out the perfect, trouble free Xmas.

Tips to survive (and enjoy) Christmas

There’s a saying that Christmas is a race to see which will give out first – your feet or your wallet. To make it more enjoyable, follow these steps:

  • Try to avoid being too ambitious when choosing presents
  • Consider buy online to avoid the rush
  • Establish your own traditions instead of doing what everyone else does
  • Avoid family conflicts by calling a truce in advance
  • Share the workload by inviting guests to bring a dish. Make sure everyone brings something different.
  • Have a break, don’t be a hero

Did you know? The carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was supposedly created to keep the Catholic faith alive during a time of religious persecution. For example, the partridge was Jesus and the ten lords were the ten commandments. But it’s more likely that it was just sung as an aid to help young children learn to count.

Christmas Checklist

Week 1 (Early December)

  • Set budget
  • Write Xmas card list
  • Write gift list and start buying
  • Send overseas cards and gifts
  • Plan parties and other activities

Week 2 (Mid Dec)

  • Presents – buy the biggest ones first so you don’t overspend on the small ones
  • Make your own Christmas cards and decorations
  • Get the decorations out of the attic

Week 3 (Mid Dec)

  • Send off cards within enough time to ensure they get there before Xmas day
  • Finalize Christmas day menu
  • Buy wrapping paper and tape and start wrapping
  • Start a detailed grocery shopping list
  • Get out the tree and decorate it

Christmas Week

  • Tidy household
  • Hang decorations
  • Put presents under tree
  • Do the big Christmas food shopping

Christmas Eve

  • Peel and cut all vegetables and store in sealed containers in the fridge
  • Prepare and chill desserts
  • Defrost the turkey
  • Make seasoning mixes and sauces
  • Hang up the Christmas stocking
  • Relax and have a glass of wine.

Christmas dessert on the tablePlanning a party?

If you’re looking to host a party for more that 5 people, you’ll need to put some thought into how to make it a day that’s talked about for years to come (for good reasons). Some $5 part crackers and a cheap Xmas ham won’t cut it; you need to bring your A Game.

Organize everything in advance with a detailed checklist and timetable so you stay on track. Keep it updated and as detailed as possible so that you can use it for future parties.

Setting a budget is essential. Decide what you can afford and plan accordingly. If your budget is small then downsize the party and invite only your closest family and friends. If a large party is a must, then consider asking everyone to bring a dish to lighten the costs.

Half the battle will be making good tasting food, the other half involves making it look amazing. Check if any guests have special dietary requirements: vegan, coeliac, vegetarian, nut allergies etc.

Not everything has to be homemade. Bulk out the menu with store bought breads, dips, cheeses, and a fruit platter.

When possible, try to have everything cooked by the time your guests arrive so that you can actually enjoy the festivities and not have to slave over the stove all day.

Tips for the ultimate Xmas feast

  • Choose dishes that taste amazing but are simple, fail-safe recipes.
  • Don’t experiment with new dishes on the big day. Stick with tried and tested.
  • Empty the refrigerator as much as possible in advance.
  • Buy the groceries a few days in advance to avoid out-of-stocks. Buy the fruit, veges and meat the day before so that it’s fresh.
  • A buffet is much easier and more relaxed than a sit down meal.
  • Have a good mix of cooked and uncooked food to take the pressure off valuable oven space.

How to cook the perfect turkey

Turkey cooking tipsIf you have a frozen bird, defrost it in the refrigerator. Allow 18 hours/2 pounds. If you defrost at room temperature, allow 7 hours per 2 pounds.

It is best to cook the turkey at least an hour in advance then wrap it with two layers of foil and cover with a tea towel. This is a much better option that desperately hoping the turkey will cook in time and stressing when it doesn’t!

Turkey SizeEnough to feed
Small4-6
Medium7-10
Large11-15
Extra LargeUp to 18

A Christmas menu everyone will love

There are a huge number of dishes that are suitable for the Xmas dinner table. This can sometimes be a problem though – all those options create indecision. The good news is we’ve compiled the bulk of the dishes below; they’re all tried and tested classics that never let you down on the big day.

Entrees

The secret with entree is getting the portion size right. Your guests will already be filling up on pre-dinner snacks so keep the entrees on the small side. Just enough to whet their appetite before the main attraction.

Prawn cocktail

Shrimp Cocktail

The humble prawn cocktail was a crowd favorite back in the 70s and 80s, then something happened. They fell out of favor with the masses. In recent years they’ve begun their come-back so get on board! They’re a lovely light meal that’s full of colour and fun to eat.

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Cheese souffles

Cheese Souffle

If you’ve never (successfully) cooked a souffle then this may not be the best time to trial a new dish. They are notorious for not rising. However, if you like a challenge and you want to impress, make a batch of souffles. Do not attempt these if you are entertaining more than 10 guests.

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Mushroom tarts

Mushroom Tarts

The heart warming, earthy combination of creamy mushrooms and pastry are divine. Buy the pastry if you’re concerned about time, otherwise make your own.

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Main Course

This is your chance to really impress your guests. Try to put some extra effort into at least one of the mains. It needs to be a show-stopper!

Roast turkey

Roast Turkey

The beauty about turkey is that they can grow massive. So if you have plenty of guests this is one way to feed them without having to cook loads of other mains.

Spend a little extra time on finessing that bird. Slide some tasty seasoning under the skin and it’ll be packed with extra flavor.

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Honey glazed ham

Honey Glazed Ham

Christmas ham has always, and will always, be a favorite at the dinner table. The combination of salty meat with a sweet glaze is hard to beat. Decide what size ham you want and then go for something bigger. That way, you’ll have lunches sorted for the next two weeks over the festive holidays.

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Crispy duck fat roast potatoes

Roast Potatoes

There are so many ways you can cook potatoes but this is one of the best ways I know. Pre-boiling the potatoes then roasting in salted duck fat results in a soft interior and crispy golden exterior. These potatoes need to be eaten soon after cooking, which shouldn’t be a problem.

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Desserts

Desserts allow you to bring out your creative side. The best part about preparing desserts for Christmas is that you can make them before the guest arrive, sometimes days in advance. That means there’s more time to sip on that champagne and less time stressing in the kitchen.

Brandy snaps

Brandy Snaps

That crisp biscuit-like tube filled with cream, who can say no to that? Make the snaps several days in advance and keep them in an airtight container. Easy!

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Trifle

Trifle Recipe

Those layers crease a visual symphony. Fruit, berries, sponge, and if you feel like it, Jell-O!

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Christmas Tree Cookies

Christmas Tree Cookies

These are a fun activity for the kids, or kids at heart. Use a cookie cutter or if you love perfectly shaped cookies, get yourself a cookie press. I reviewed the best cookie presses currently available so if you’re considering getting one, be sure to check it out. We did a lot of testing to find the best one!

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Final words

So there it is, my complete guide to entertaining on Christmas Day. The cooking part can seem daunting, especially if it’s your first time. The secret to a stress free day is lots of planning and, if necessary, delegation. For extra large events, enlist the help of others to bring a dish. People are more than happy to do that – in fact, some guests relish the opportunity to showcase their favorite dessert.

Merry Christmas to you all and Bon Appetit!

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