This holiday season, make your next festive feast a memorable one with an array of tasty offerings that are as crowd-pleasing as they are simple to prepare.
If the thought of Christmas dinner ‘round your place makes you break out into a cold sweat, then this is the article for you.
Hosting a festive feast should be a delicious – and enjoyable – experience with something for everyone. Enjoyable for who, exactly? Well, your guests of course…but also the host or hostess extraordinaire.
A little planning in advance will help you make sure you’re not run ragged and stressed to the max by the time the turkey’s served. Do your research and play around with menu planning. There are loads of simple, yet tasty recipes out there that won’t have you running a marathon to make. Or, better yet, can easily be prepared ahead of time – this is especially true of desserts.
But before we jump into some of our favourite festive recipes that will help you do just that, here are few top tips to help you on your way to making your next Christmas dinner with family and friends a delectable one.
1. Get a head start – From stuffing, fruit cakes, and even cranberry sauce, there are loads of items that you can prepare ahead of time, a day or two before the main event to help cut down on your Christmas Day workload in the kitchen.
2. Keep it simple – If you’ve done your prep ahead of time then, on the day of, it’s just a matter of getting the turkey in the oven and putting together those items you’ve made ahead of time. Which means…more time for you to put your feet up and enjoy!
3. Smile and delegate – Don’t think you have to do it all on your own – that’s what children, spouses, and close family are for! Need help getting the table settings in place? Or transferring items to serving dishes? Or (especially!) the washing up afterwards? There’s a family member for that.
Now, here are some flavourful festive recipes to help you on your way!
Forgo the massive turkey this year for a simpler – yet no less tasty roast chicken. We’re adding this succulent bird with an earthy mixed mushroom stuffing courtesy of celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver to our festive menu wish-list!
• Olive oil
• 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
• 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• 500 grams mixed, interesting mushrooms (such as shiitake, oyster, chestnut etc.), cleaned – large ones chopped up, small ones ripped up
• 1 bunch fresh thyme
• 1 lemon
• Sea salt
• Freshly-ground black pepper
• 1 large handful pine nuts
• 2 large handfuls fresh white breadcrumbs
• 1 free-range egg, beaten
• 1 whole chicken, approximately 1.5 kg
• Preheat your oven to 240°C/475°F/gas 9. Heat a good lug of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add your onion and garlic and cook for about ten minutes until soft, but not coloured. Add the mushrooms with the leaves from a few of your thyme sprigs. Turn the heat up to high and fry for five to ten minutes until the mushrooms go slightly crispy. Remove from the heat, grate in the zest of the lemon, and season well. Tip into a bowl and leave to one side to cool.
• Once the mixture has cooled, use clean hands to mix in the pine nuts and breadcrumbs, then add the egg. Carefully push your fingers between the meat and skin on the top of the chicken then gently create a pocket for the stuffing. Push a quarter of the stuffing into this pocket and roll the remaining mixture into balls and pop to one side. Cut your zested lemon in half and place in the chicken cavity with the remaining thyme sprigs. Pop your chicken in a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
• Place in the pre-heated oven and turn the heat down to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Cook for 40 minutes, then add your mushroom stuffing balls to the tray. Return to the oven and cook for a further 35 minutes until gorgeous and golden. To check your chicken is cooked, stick a skewer into the fattest part of the thigh – if the juices run clear, your chicken is done. Leave to rest for ten to 15 minutes, covered loosely with tin foil, then serve with fluffy roast potatoes and seasonal greens.
Need a simple starter that’s both comforting and savoury? There’s nothing quite so simple and chic as a luscious cheeseboard replete with textures and bolstered with dried fruits, olives, nuts, and sticky-sweet chutneys!
• Goat’s cheese, one block
• Cheddar cheese, one block
• Red Leicester cheese, one block
• Blue cheese or gorgonzola, one block
• Brie cheese, one block
• Havarti cheese, one block
• Roasted cashews, pecans, and smoked almonds
• A variety of crackers and/or breadsticks
• Fresh grapes and apples slices
• Dried apricots and figs
• Marinated olives
• Chutney or chili jam
• Space out the cheeses on a large board or platter, leaving plenty of room around them.
• Fill in smaller gaps with roasted cashews, pecans, and smoked almonds.
• Chill goat’s cheese before cutting into discs.
• Slice block cheeses like cheddar and red Leicester into rectangles, then across diagonally to make smart wedges, or cut into little cubes.
• Add piles of different shaped biscuits, crackers, and breadsticks.
• Use small bowls for chutney, mustard, olives, and honey or chili jam.
• Leave softer cheeses (such as brie and creamy or crumbly blue) whole.
Pepper the platter with bunches of grapes, figs and apple slices.
Grain- and gluten-free, this sweet Christmas classic gets a guilt-free upgrade – without skimping on taste!
• 500 grams mixed dried fruits
• 75 grams walnuts (3/4 cup)
• 1 orange
• 125 grams almond flour/meal (1 ¼ cups)
• 67 grams coconut flour (½ cup)
• ½ tsp bicarb soda
• ½ tsp salt
• 3 tsp mixed all-spice
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• 5 eggs
• 50 grams butter or coconut oil, melted (¼ cup)
• 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
• Start by soaking the fruit. Fill your kettle and pop it on to boil while you organise all the dried fruit into a large bowl. If you’re using larger fruit like dates and apricots, roughly chop them up first. Pour the hot water over the fruit and allow to sit for ten to 15 minutes to soften and then drain and allow to cool to room temperature.
• Preheat your oven to 150 Celsius. Line a 20cm cake tin (preferably spring-form) with baking paper along the base and sides.
• Combine the almond flour, coconut flour, bicarb, salt, all-spice and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Zest the orange, roughly chop the walnuts, and add the zest and walnuts to the bowl. Keep the orange.
• In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, melted butter (or coconut oil), and vanilla. Squeeze in the juice of the orange (it doesn’t matter if some pulp goes in).
• Create a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and gradually stir in the wet mixture, stirring as you go (coconut flour is very absorbent so it’s better to add it gradually). You should end up with a very thick batter, almost like a wet crumbly dough.
• Make sure your soaked fruit is well drained, and then add this to the cake batter. Fold it in with a spoon until combined evenly.
• Scoop the cake batter into your lined baking tin and press down with your fingers or the back of a spoon until there are no gaps and the top is smooth.
• Bake the cake for between 60 – 70 minutes, or until the top is well browned and the centre feels firm to touch.
• If you’re going to glaze the cake, do so immediately while the cake is hot, brushing on your glaze of choice with a pastry brush. You can also poke a few holes in the cake and then drizzle it over.
• Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 30 minutes and then place on a wire rack to cool to room temperature. (Store in the fridge for about one week, or freeze for a longer life.)