How we organised Christmas dinner - mo'adore: cruelty-free beauty ∙ vegan food ∙ glasgow/dundee lifestyle

26 December 2016

How we organised Christmas dinner



Christmas Day has come and went, so now it's time to pack up everything and start writing about our latest rose gold purchases and the best way to hide dark circles.

But wait, I still have another xmas blog post - about how to organise a gigantic Christmas dinner. Like, I know most of you would have benefited from this prior to Christmas Day but it wouldn't have been as authentic and I would have been making assumptions and talking out my behind. So erm, bookmark this for next year please? 

To start with, let's illustrate what me and my parents were trying to pull off here. There were 11 people on the day, two of whom have (different) dietary restrictions and my mum who hates onions. Plus, it was the first Christmas Dinner held in our house in years, with a brand new kitchen that nobody really knew how to work. And while me and mum share similar DNA, our attitudes towards organisation differs widely - my mum was still perusing recipes on Christmas morning as if it was no big deal whereas I was standing in the kitchen on the 22nd telling my parents off for not having a plan.

But my mum loves hosting and I love cooking so the challenge was on. And here's how we did it, and what our advice is for other people. 

1. First off, look at logistics
My parents' new kitchen has two ovens, a steamer, a hob, a deep fat fryer and a microwave. I also have an uncle who lives in the same street so we can use his oven and hobs. I was also arriving home on the 22nd and wouldn't be working so I could also cook in advance. These are luxuries I appreciate not everyone has, but if you do have relatives who live in the same street and you have time off work, make use of them/it. 

2. Remember it's about your guests, not you
When hosting any dinner party it is tempting to put on a spread of only foods you love. Believe me, I'd love to cook a 100% vegan Christmas Dinner with chilli and tangy flavours but alas everyone else in family eats meat and prefer their food to be straight forward and traditional. So those Brussels sprouts infused with chilli oil will have to make-do for another time.

Some questions to ask yourself include who is driving and can't drink (so you can buy in the appropriate number of soft drinks), who eats meat and who doesn't, who has a food allergy, are there any foods someone in your family hates (like my mum and onions), who has a big appetite and who has a small appetite and would your family prefer a quirky take on Christmas cuisine or would they prefer a traditional Sunday roast-esque affair?

3. Research and plan your menu
Now that your know who your guests are, have double checked any allergies and have had a look at the logistics, now you can start planning your menu. Because we had quite a few stoves and ovens at our disposal we were able to go a bit crazy (which was great, considering there were 11 people and 2 had dietary restrictions). In the end we ended up picking a home-made tomato soup for starters, a ham, turkey and vegan dish for mains, god knows how many roast vegetables and two gravies. While dessert was a buffet selection of sorbets (store-bought and homemade), banana-based chocolate ice-cream and a cheese board. We also bought in plenty of soft drinks and a few new wine bottles.

4. Cook some dishes in advance
On the 23rd I prepared some vegan truffles....that went wrong. So we had time to come up with something else, which ended up being the banana-based chocolate ice-cream. Then on Christmas Eve my dad prepared the tomato soup while I made the filling for my vegan main. So on Christmas Eve all that was left was for me to wrap mine in pastry and leave in the oven, roast the aforementioned god knows how many vegetables, plus cook the turkey and ham.

5. Think about what time to invite everyone round
We went for 3pm which would allow us to finish up everything but isn't late enough in the day that we only get a few hours with our family (which is what this get together is meant to be about after all).

6. Ask people to bring dishes (but co-ordinate) 
Obviously my uncle (and cousins) brought stuff round from their house, however my aunt who lives a few towns away brought a pavlova cake with her. But remember to check what everyone is bringing - when we held Christmas at my uncle's one year there were double the amount of roast potatoes than planned.

7. What can be cooked together
Not all of our roast vegetables went in separately. The asparagus, broccoli, green beans and some brussel sprouts were roasted together in an olive oil and garlic mix. While the roast potatoes were all roasted by themselves. Some brussel spouts were also cooked in the steamer.

8. How to present it
My parents new kitchen has a breakfast bar which is where the carvery took place. They also have a new cabinet just outside the kitchen which is where drinks (and later, desserts) were found. The vegetables were all served on the table where everyone was sitting.

You might have a big enough dining table that allows enough room for a turkey or you might have to ask people for their order and fill all the plates in the kitchen. But thinking about this in advance can save a lot of time.

9. Decorate the night before
Don't make cooking harder for yourself by also having to decorate that morning. Get that sshhhh done the night before. Fairy lights? Check. Table out? Check. Table cloths? Check. Place settings? Check. All cutlery clean and polished? Check. Floor clean? Check.

10. Remember your leftovers
Christmas is awful for food waste and it's difficult to avoid if you're wanting to ensure your guests don't run out of things to eat. When planning your menu, also think about foods that store easily. Cooked vegetables don't if I am honest, but cooked meat stores easily and frozen desserts can last a while (but a fruit salad will need to be eaten that day).

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