Don’t stress if you’re having Christmas at your place. We’ve got it covered. Here’s the plan. Hosting is all about the guests – it’s not about perfection and performance, it’s about making family and friends feel loved and appreciated. If you take these steps, you’ll have plenty of time to spend with your guests on Christmas Day, without feeling frazzled and exhausted. The secret to a peaceful and relaxed gathering is simple – take short cuts. Order a thoughtfully curated festive food box full of fresh ingredients or create your own mix and match dinner from a range of frozen dishes for a stress-free heat and eat option. Then ask guests to bring a plate as an edible gift – that will give you time to focus on getting the festivities started by popping a bottle of bubs and passing around the BYO nibbles.
Tips and tricks for a Christmas Day dinner that’s simple and stress free
“If you are cooking just keep it simple and go with things you enjoy eating and treat it like a Sunday roast but with a few extra treats,” says Claudia Zinzan, of Father Rabbit. “I’m not a huge turkey or ham fan so I prefer to have a roast lamb with some fancy looking salads that are easy to put together. Christmas should be about the company on the day and enjoying family and friends rather than slaving over complicated meals that you are only making because you think you have to,” she says. “To make it even easier, you could take advantage of one of the many Christmas food boxes from places like Jess’s Underground Kitchen.”
How to host Christmas dinner with minimum fuss and maximum joy
“For me, Christmas dinner is about big flavour with minimum effort – it’s feeding a crowd but taking the stress out of all the preparation and cooking,” says Jess Daniell of Jess’s Underground Kitchen. If you like the idea of a fabulous festive feast arriving with all the ingredients supplied, Jess has come up with a hamper that includes everything you need to feed a gathering of up to 10 people. “Our hampers come with the antipasto spread, meats, marinades, side dishes, dessert and chocolate. That’s a three-course meal, without any prep required. All the sauces, marinades and dressings are made, so all you need to do on the big day is cook the meat, roast the vegetables and toss it all together for serving. The best part is you can relax and enjoy your day, too,” she says.
How to create a calm kitchen and good times with your family on Christmas Day
“Christmas is all about spending time with loved ones, not traipsing around the supermarket and basting turkeys,” says FED’s Beckie Pilley. FED has a festive menu that allows customers to mix and match three mains and four side dishes. All dishes come fully prepared by FED’s team of expert chefs, which means no cooking required. Dishes only need to be heated, served and devoured.
The menu includes a show-stopping feast of festive favourites, from FED’s cranberry and apple stuffed turkey to delicious duck fat roasted potatoes, as well as side dishes including cider spiced red cabbage with apple and smoky bacon. “Christmas lunch is always the highlight of the day, but not so great for the cook who spends most of the day running back and forth to the oven checking the spuds don’t burn,” says Beckie. “We’ve done all the hard work for you, so all you need to do is whack on the Christmas tunes and sit back with a glass of sherry and a mince tart while everyone else fights the crowds at the supermarket!”
Super easy crowd pleasers that look like you’re a gourmet home chef (even when you’re not)
The key to giving yourself some chill out time to enjoy the day is serving tried and tested winners that involve minimum fuss for maximum impact. “Our cheese balls (see recipe below), crostini, and wonton cups are all quick and easy,” says Vicky Tasker, Farro’s Food Editor. “And we have a range of tart cases that absolutely look home-made, so they are a great entertaining hack!” Also popular from Farro Kitchen is the vegetarian-friendly Nut Roast and – for the beef roast purists – Yorkshire Puds. “These are both so good that a lot of our customers like to decant them into their own dishes and pretend they made them from scratch!” says Vicky.
“If you are looking for a quick and easy plate to whip up on Christmas Day, Farro is bringing out a cheese box called Platter in a Pack, specially created for the festive season. Another popular newbie is the Baked Brie topper made up of nuts, cranberries and spices. You just pack it on top of a brie or camembert wheel and pop it in the oven, then cook until the cheese is soft in the middle.”
A selection of yummy gifty bits suitable for a hamper or for last minute gift-giving
A hamper full of tasty treats is the perfect gift for the foodie in your life. If you prefer to keep it simple, go for the pre-made hamper – there’s something to suit almost every budget these days, from the simple to the lavish. There are the safe bets like chocolates and wine, or you could create something quirky and unique by putting together a DIY box of goodies. Popular foodie locales like Farro have hamper boxes in a range of sizes for this purpose. “We’ve got some interesting Opito Bay salts including a fab gin flavoured one,” says Vicky. “And some things are really picking up a cult following, like the McClures pickles range and the Torres truffle chips.”
If you are an adrenaline junkie who likes to leave shopping for presents to the last minute, here’s the solution. Keep a range of products in your pantry that look Christmassy enough to gift as-is, such as boxes of biscotti, jars of roasted nuts and hand-wrapped panforte.
“For super last-minute gift-giving, we have boxes of chocolates, jars of nuts, fancy oils and a range of sauces that you can whip out of the pantry or grab en route to a party and not have to worry about wrapping,” says Vicky.
Super easy sweet treats to make in advance, or simply assemble on the day
Farro has a fool-proof ready-made pandoro in its foodkit range – all you have to do is whip some fresh cream and mascarpone and layer it with your favourite fruit. “It’s great with a drizzle of orange syrup and a sprinkle of toasted almonds on top, but you could use any fruity sauce, or even coffee for a twist on tiramisu,” says Vicky.
Keep a secret stash of cookies up your sleeve for those unexpected visitors. It’s easy to add a festive theme to your baking beauties if you’ve got the right equipment. Invest in cookie cutters in festive shapes to add the wow factor, then go for it with white icing for a traditional Christmas vibe. Cookie dough can be made in advance, rolled out, cut into your chosen shapes, laid out (without touching) on cookie sheets or trays, and frozen. Store in the freezer until you need them, then bake from frozen. Once you’ve baked and decorated them, cookies should last up to four days when stored in an airtight container. “If they’re heavily decorated you should lay them flat in single layers with baking paper between the layers, says Liz Oldfield, of Milly’s.
“Use your freezer to make festive baking as stress-free as possible,” she says. “Cooked cakes (well wrapped) freeze very well – defrost (still wrapped) in the fridge overnight before bringing to room temperature for decorating.”
If you want to avoid hosting altogether on Christmas Day there are options. A totally carefree festive feast requires just one task – booking a table. There’s a range of places that will cook Christmas dinner for you, from swanky hotels to laidback island vineyards. If you’re in Auckland and fancy a waterfront location, The Landing Restaurant at Riverhead is doing a traditional Christmas dinner. Other Auckland options are:
- Eight, Cordis, Auckland CBD
- Esther, QT Auckland, Auckland CBD
- FISH, Hilton Auckland, Auckland CBD
- Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant, Waiheke Island
- The Sugar Club, Auckland CBD
Farro’s Mini Cheese Balls
Ready to be smeared onto a cracker, these festive cheese balls are perfect for easy Christmas entertaining. You can choose any garnish, but we like the colourful effect of a few different spices
120g Cranky Goat chevre
100g cream cheese
Herbs and spices, to garnish. We used sumac, za’atar, dukkah, dried dill, dried parsley flakes, and poppy seeds.
Whip together the chèvre and cream cheese until smooth. Using lightly oiled hands, roll teaspoon-sized balls and put onto a tray. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set. You can also keep these in a container in the fridge until ready to serve.
Put your chosen spice or herbs in a bowl and individually coat the balls in the spices. Arrange on a platter and serve with crostini or crackers.