It’s that time of year when our social lives are thriving, from office parties and family get-togethers to entertaining friends and hosting the big day itself. That’s why we asked Laura Scott, host of The Epsom Supper Club, for her top tips on how to survive the festive season without inducing an anxiety-ridden breakdown during the countdown to Christmas.
How to be the perfect host
If it’s your turn to host Christmas this year, then the best way to survive is to see it as no more stressful than cooking a Sunday roast. Don’t try to be perfect, none of us are able to achieve perfection – that’s something best left to the professional who gets paid for it. To expect someone to cook single handedly for a large group of guests of varying ages with multiple needs is hard even for a pro, so don’t try too hard to impress. It’s more important to have fun, remember it’s Christmas – enjoy a glass of fizz and get everyone involved in helping out so that they feel useful. Have a checklist and give people roles to do e.g. lay the table, get the water jugs filled, pour out drinks for guests, offer canapés, warm the dishes…and tick off the tasks as you go. Big events such as Christmas lunch can be daunting so the more relaxed and prepared you are, the happier everyone will be. Do as much of the prep as possible ahead of the day itself, so you too can enjoy the festivities instead of being tied to the kitchen from the crack of dawn.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Most of the food we eat on Christmas Day can be prepped in advance and even frozen. With a bit of time spent planning and cooking in advance, the stress of the kitchen will be vastly reduced by some forward thinking. Remember the shops will become very busy throughout December, so if you can get some things ready in advance you will feel so much more relaxed when it comes to feeding the crowds.
What can you make ahead and freeze?
Gravy, braised red cabbage, stuffing, mince pies, bacon wrapped sausages, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, honey roasted parsnips…You can also roast off a tray of potatoes the night before so that they only need re-heating once the turkey comes out of the oven to rest. Remember you can leave a turkey to rest for up to an hour to allow the juices to rest, so this gives you plenty of time to then use the oven to heat up all of the trimmings!
Christmas is a time of over indulgence and sometimes we feel full before we have even sat down to Christmas lunch. If you are having friends and family over to entertain then remember that if you offer canapés with drinks before sitting down to lunch, make them small and light so as not to ruin everyone’s appetite.
Some good options include: Smoked salmon on rye mini crisp bread, Prawn skewers with a creme fraiche & dill dip, Fig & goats cheese puff pasty tartlets, Whipped Stilton on cucumber, Mini crab & chive filo tarts, Parmesan shortbreads, Smoked trout pate on chicory leaves/baby gem hearts and Baby mozzarella, roasted cherry tomato & olive skewers.
The lowdown on food restricted diets
Plan for any dietary restrictions well before the day. Nowadays there are so many choices available for plant based vegan diets, allergies, gluten intolerances and sugar free diets too. If you aren’t sure where to start, then why not visit a local health store and get their advice. Fetch’em in the cupboard stocks many alternative supplies and may be able to help you with recipe ideas or specific ingredients. Remember to always read food labels carefully and keep the food simple but tasty.
Festive Food Shopping & Gifts
Why not visit some of the independent shops this year for your foodie inspired Christmas gifts?
Gin & Whiskey lovers will find a huge range to choose from at Liquid Gold Whisky Co. in Ashtead. They offer gift vouchers and tasting nights as well as an extensive range of spirits.
Award winning Brighton Blue Cheeseproduced in Sussex at High Weald Dairy will make a great addition to the annual cheese board, especially when accompanied by Jam Packed Preserve’schutney which is produced in Stoneleigh.
If you’re looking for a chocolate themed gift, then check out handmade and artisanal Kokoh Chocolate by Joanna Marshall based in Surrey Hills. Flavours such as Himalayan Pink Salt and Wattleseed & Hazelnut have won a lot of praise.
For all of your Christmas cake and sweet treats, take a look at Velvet Fig. A specialist cake maker based in Dorking, Emma Fuller offers a range of festive cakes, gingerbread houses and festive cookies, as well as bespoke cakes for all occasions.
Laura Scott hosts regular supper clubs, check her website here to find the latest dates.
She also teaches us how to bake the perfect loaf in her Sourdough Demos; the next workshops will be held on 1 and 29 February 2020. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your space.