With Christmas just around the corner, it's time to start prepping for the big day. Everything always takes longer than you think, so start scouring the shops now to make sure your Christmas Day is a complete success. It's far more important to be relaxing with a glass of bubbles in hand, than dashing out on a last-minute food shop!
So, to ensure your day runs smoothly, we asked some of Australia's most renowned chefs to give us their inside tips on Christmas entertaining. With festive tips and recipes from the likes of Mark Best (AEG ambassador), Darren Robertson (Three Blue Ducks), Brendan Pang (Masterchef), Mark Holland (Paddo Inn), Mitchell Turner (Rick Stein at Bannisters Port Stephens), Jacqui Challinor (NOMAD), and Jessi Singh (Don't Tell Aunty), we guarantee you'll be in for a bumper Christmas Day feast!
Style it Up
Take your Christmas party to the next level with beautiful styling. Keep it simple and work around a central theme or colour scheme. For a chic daytime look, be bold and go all white with a touch of metallic flare. An evening soirée wouldn't be complete without some moody black, purple or navy decorations. If you're unsure, traditional red and green never fails to capture the festive spirit.
For an alfresco affair that will set your lunch apart, Mark Best says:
"Dine outside and take advantage of the beautiful summer weather. Step it up with fairy lights in the backyard to create some ambience, but don’t forget the mozzie coils!"
The majority of the day will be spent around the dining table. Whether indoors or out, you need to put your best foot forward – from the crockery and cutlery to the napkins and centrepiece. Brendan Pang believes that making a good first impression is the most important element to the Christmas table.
"When it comes to setting the scene, it’s crucial you spend time on setting up and decorating the table. Get your nice linens out and put down your best plates, glasses and silverware. For an extra touch, I like to fill the space with small details such as fresh native flowers."
For some tips and tricks on how to bring your table setting to life, we have got you covered.
Finesse Your Menu
One of the most stressful tasks on your Christmas to-do list will be the menu. Christmas meals are enshrined in tradition and are many have tried and failed. To ensure you have a successful – and stress-free – Christmas lunch, here are a couple of things to remember:
- Keep it simple and easy. Brendan Pang suggests:"go for dishes that [you] have cooked before. Knowing what you are cooking minimises stress and guarantees your food will be delicious!"
- Avoid Christmas panic and prep early! According to Mark Best, "It’s a good idea to serve dishes that don’t need to be prepared and served immediately, this ensures you’re not stuck in the kitchen."
Here are some delicious recipes to get your creative juices flowing:
Once you've locked in your menu, you need to head to the shops and get your food orders in straight away. Make sure to map out your route, to avoid any queues and quadruple check opening times, order cut off and pick-up dates. Some of the essentials to visit:
As Mark Best puts it:
"drinks are a must!" Make sure when you are putting together your food menu that you are also considering a drink to pair with it.
When selecting wine, ensuring they will pair with the food is essential. Traditionally, white wine for white meats and seafood, and bold reds for roast beef and lamb. Don't worry yourself with thinking more expensive equals quality. There are plenty of good quality wines, that won't break the bank. Want to know which are the best of the bunch? We reveal Naked Wines and Vinomofo's top budget-friendly picks.
Essentially for any Christmas Day, your beer selection does not need to be strict, but the non-negotiable is that they must be on ice ASAP. You don't want Christmas Day 2018 to be dubbed 'warm beer-gate'. Since we're set for a scorcher, definitely opt for a lighter beer. A favourite of ours is Endeavour Brewing Co.'s new Citrus Pale Ale. A zesty new way to beat the heat, their latest brew is a fusion of their signature pale ale with tangerine and blood orange. A definite thirst quencher.
For Mark it's all about ease and seasonality: "guests can help themselves to a big jug of martini with watermelon and olives on clear ice, it goes perfectly with those relaxed Christmas afternoons. For non-drinkers, I would have some home-made kombucha or a non-alcoholic sangria."
In creating bespoke cocktails Rockpool Dining Group's National Bar Manager Ryan Gavin advises the following:
- To create a summer cocktail at home, start with a light, white spirit such as tequila or vodka. The spirit is the true hero of a summer cocktail, so use a premium brand such as Patrón to ensure top quality taste.
- Add bright, fruity and seasonal flavours reminiscent of summer such as mango, lime, lychee or orange and avoid heavy textures such as milk and chocolate.
- Ingredients can be mixed, muddled, juiced or sliced and used as a fresh garnish.
- Make sure the correct cocktail making tools are on hand, such as a measuring cup, cocktail shaker, juicer and strainer.
With this in mind, Bar Patron's Horchata Collada ticks all the boxes!
Set the Mood
You can't host Christmas day without the perfect playlist providing the soundtrack. Brendan Pang believes it's important to set the tone for the day early on.
"The atmosphere is what makes or breaks a dinner party, so choose a relaxed Christmas-themed playlist to get everyone in the festive spirit. It’s important not to have the volume up too high so conversations can still flow, and you can enjoy a sing-along, or two."
Here are some of Spotify's top playlists to get your Christmas party started:
- Christmas Classics – think Bing Crosby and The Carpenters
- Christmas Hits – think Mariah Carey and Paul McCartney
- Christmas Pop – think Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber
- Christmas Party – think Wham! and The Jackson 5
If you're looking for some tunes outside of the Christmas repertoire, Youtube's neighbourhood playlists will help set the party vibes.
Entertainment for All
Besides seeing your dad struggle to put together your niece's princess castle, there are lots of entertaining things going on during Christmas Day. From your crazy aunt discussing her many New Year's resolutions, or your sister trying to introduce her new boyfriend to the family, at times things can get a bit tense or tedious. To liven the mood during the post-meal slump, why not whip out a board game or deck of cards to get the whole family involved in some fun and games?*
If your family is not the game playing type, put on a Christmas film as the night draws in. From Love Actually and Scrooged to The Holiday and Miracle on 34th Street, there are so many amazing classics to watch over the festive season.
*Sitchu does not endorse the playing of Monopoly and take no responsibility for any all-in family fights that it may cause.
Prepare for Leftovers
One of our favourite parts of the holiday is being able to feast on lunch and dinner leftovers.
Don't Tell Aunty's Jessi Singh looks forward to his famous leftover scrambled eggs each year.
"Since I'm preparing and cooking most of the day, I end up nibbling on food throughout and by the time everyone sits down for the feast, I’m full. Because of this, I always look forward to having my famous leftover scrambled eggs the next morning.
"Basically, I use leftover turkey, ham, sliced red onions, diced plum cherry tomatoes, fresh jalapeños, turmeric and eggs and served with leftover roast veggies reheated in the leftover fat from the turkey and ham. The most satisfying brekkie to celebrate the end of Christmas."
For some more leftover inspiration, here are some of our fave recipes from Australia's best chefs: