Christmas is a time of celebration with family and friends, but playing host on the big day also comes with a fair share of responsibility and pressure.
A lot goes into preparing the spectacular family feast, but staying calm and organised will help you pull off a successful day and enable you to embrace and enjoy the experience.
Adam Liaw is a big believer in creating a relaxed mood from the start. The Australian cook, writer and TV presenter (currently starring on SBS’s Destination Flavour: Chi na) suggests serving something like oysters as an icebreaker.
“Ask some guests to arrange them on a platter rather than having them laid out and ready when they arrive. It gives them something to do and makes them feel at home,” Liaw said.
The 2010 MasterChef Australia winner recently presented a masterclass on Christmas entertaining for Porter Davis where he demonstrated how to make dishes including an easy Christmas trifle.
The trifle recipe can be found at www.porterdavis.com.au/blog/posts/2018/12/in-conversation-with-adam-liaw.
Here, Liaw shares his top tips for panic-free Christmas entertaining:
Make a list
This should not only include what you’ll be serving but every step involved. Get specific!
“If you need herbs for a salad, the list should say, pick herbs. If you need prawns peeled, add that to the list as well. Don’t just say, make prawn cocktail or make prawn salad,” Liaw said.
Tape the list to the fridge, a bench or cupboard rather than using a magnet so you can be sure it won’t get lost.
Never refuse help
How many times have you heard guests say, “Anything I can do to help?” as they mill about your kitchen.
This is where your list comes in handy. Because specific tasks have been written down, you can just pick one without too much thought and ask someone to do it.
“If there’s nothing on the list that suits that person, simply have them wash dishes for five minutes. Trust me, it will change your Christmas!” Liaw said.
Set achievable goals
Don’t be overly ambitious. Stay within the limits of what you feel comfortable making.
“If you’re not a confident cook, then turkey can be a struggle. Go for ham instead, which is much easier as it’s already cooked; you just have to warm it through,” Liaw said.
When choosing the menu, consider how the food needs to be stored and cooked, not just what you want to eat. This way, everything will be served when it’s at its best.
“Think about what will work in your kitchen. This is really important when you’re dealing with volume, otherwise you’ll get to lunchtime and find you have six things that need to go in the oven at the same time and that’s just not going to work,” Liaw said.
“If you can spread preparing the dishes out across all the things you have to cook with — the oven, the stove, a portable cooktop, the barbecue — you’ll find it much easier to manage getting things on the table.”
Clean as you go
There’s nothing more frustrating than being surrounded by mess as you cook.
“Cleaning up afterwards is OK if you’re cooking for four people, but if you’re cooking for 20, clean as you go to make sure you have enough room to cook and enough spoons in the drawer when you need them,” Liaw said. “Otherwise, the mess builds up and stops you from cooking efficiently.”
Plan for leftovers
Most people over-cater at Christmas, and Liaw encouraged this.
“Buy some extra rolls so you can have the meats and salad in them the next day for lunch,” he said.
“My mum used to make burgers with the leftover turkey and stuffing. I use the turkey to make a red curry. All you need is some coconut milk, curry paste and maybe a tin of lychees and you’re set.
“One of the best things about Christmas is that you have food for two or three days afterwards, so you can relax a bit.”
Christmas entertaining tips
Celebrity chef and 2014 MasterChef Australia contestant Sarah Todd hosted a festive entertaining masterclass with Metricon last month. Here are some of her top tips:
• Have a colour theme for your table. It adds a polished look and ties everything together.
• Consider buffet dining for small spaces. Set up the main meal on a kitchen table and use a side station for desserts.
• For a point of difference, bring in global flavours, such as a delicious Spanish paella, or create a charcuterie table.
• Elevate dishes using serving rings. This allows them to really shine and provides room on the table for all the food.