Tis the season to be jolly

As Christmas weekend approaches, it’s beginning to kick in that one of the things I miss most about London is having a group of friends over and cooking a feast. Having your own space makes things easier and more personal (no worry of parents freaking out when the night has evolved to playing ‘i have never’) My parents are cool and open-minded but when I entertain I like to run things my way. My lovely mother has a tendency to input one too many suggestions on how I should arrange the table, change up my recipe because her way will make it better, and god forbid, the proper onion chopping techniques. Apparently I am not daughter-in-law material because I don’t chop onions correctly. Oh, so that’s why I’m still single. Right.

Moving on swiftly past a subject that I will save for another day, one of the best Christmas celebrations I had was in 2008 when I hosted my first official Christmas lunch. I was ecstatic and started planning the menu a month ahead. People were trusting ME, a semi-vegetarian who does not even eat turkey, to cook a hearty Christmas meal. Though I did have to promise that I would stick to tradition and not surprise (or scare) my guests with a new age spread of tofu turkey and cous cous, with a drizzling of goji berry dressing (though that does sound pretty yum).

Despite reading numerous articles on ‘how not to kill yourself while enduring the pressure of cooking Xmas lunch’, I went through a few panic attacks fearing that I would scar the festive traditions of the nine poor London stragglers who were already facing the sad fact of not spending Christmas with their families. A colleague recommended that I visit Marks & Spencer for  party food inspiration. Thank god for M&S, I not only left with ideas, but with my actual turkey and holy trinity of sauces all ready to go. Yes I did cheat. However, with turkey being the centre stage of all Christmas lunches, you can’t trust someone who is nauseated by big chunks of meat to clean and prep a dead bird. So I left it to the experts. All that was required on my part was unwrap bird and sauces from packaging, stick in oven/on stove, knock back a few glasses of vino, and tadaaaa Christmas feast for 9 ready to go. Oh and there was some prep work involved for the fifty million other dishes I decided should accompany the meal.

True to tradition, there was the usual mad rush Christmas morning, the pain slightly dulled by having Prosecco for brekkie while cooking (always recommended, thanks Phil). The pinnacle of it all was when I freaked out screaming ‘Why does the turkey stink?’ to which my friend Phil calmly replied ‘Because that’s how a giant turkey is supposed to smell!’ Despite the chaos, the meal went down very well. I love the way food brings people together – in that moment the outside world is forgotten as you lose yourself to tastes, flavours, (new) friends, sparks, and laughter.

Because I’m fully aware of my lack of timing and multi-tasking skills, rather than have a traditional 3 course sit down meal, I had informal standing canapes and drinks in the kitchen, followed by the sit down grand show (and more drinks), and then adjourning to the living room for dessert, games, and you guessed it, even more drinks! Christmas meals  are very personal since everyone has their own spin to them. So instead of listing down full on recipes, I’ve compiled a list of dishes that I rely on for my festive gatherings. The only recipe I’ve elaborated is Nigella Lawson’s Grilled Halloumi, which is probably one of the tastiest and easiest party snacks to prepare.

Here’s wishing everyone a beautiful Christmas filled with lots of family, friends, food, drinks, and laughter. Love, light and peace. x

All I want for Christmas is….
Start the party with 1) Bruschetta with chopped tomatoes, onions, basil, and buffalo mozzarella 2) Bruschetta with chopped mixed mushrooms, garlic, and cream 3) Smoked salmon bellinis made from pre bought bellinis topped with chopped smoked salmon, creme fraiche, chives, and horseradish 4) Nigella Lawson’s Grilled Halloumi (see recipe below) 5) Bowl of olives 6) Tortilla chips with guacomole, hummous and sour cream.

The main show 1) Turkey accompanied by the holy trinity of bread sauce, cranberry sauce and gravy 2) Stuffing balls 3) Roast potatoes and parsnips with goose fat, the way roast potatoes should be made 4) Potato Dauphinoise because you can never have enough potatoes and cheese at a festive meal  5) Glazed carrots with honey  6) Steamed brocolli with a drizzling of olive oil and a generous shaving of parmesan 7) Mashed sweet potatoes with A LOT of butter 8) All served with good company if possible.

Nigella Lawson’s Grilled Halloumi
Pan fry halloumi until it’s golden brown. Top with a dressing made from whisking olive oil, lemon juice, sliced red chillies, and pepper. Garnish with chopped coriander. It’s that simple folks and can easily be put together even when the prosecco has kicked in.