Just because it’s your turn to entertain the troops this Christmas doesn’t mean you don’t get to enjoy it. DIY Woman tells you how it’s done.
‘Delegate delegate delegate: give the rellies a mission.’
If they can cook:
- Specify what you want them to prepare and give them the most time-consuming dishes. You’ll have enough to do with the table-setting, the turkey and the roast veggies. That Ottolenghi salad with the roasted cauliflower (and about 5000 other ingredients) is a good one. Offer to email them the recipe.
- Ask one of them to make the pudding—an overrated menu item that can always be drowned in brandy cream if it’s not up to grandma’s standards.
If they can’t cook:
- Ask for a volunteer to bring the cheese platter—maximum two cheeses—no one will eat them anyway but you get to keep them so make sure they’re good quality.
- Ask another guest to bring fresh fruit platter—no, NOT fruit salad—gorgeous expensive summer berries. And never wash raspberries, blackberries or strawberries. A wipe with paper towel is fine and take your chances with the DDT.
- You’ll need someone to provide liquid refreshments! If your family is like mine, this job may have to be shared between a good few. Whoever gets this task doesn’t have to spend lots. Aldi has a surprisingly good range of beers and wines.
When the time comes to serve the meal, let the rellies do the work. Get hold of one of those folding trestle tables or use your island bench to set up the meal buffet-style with plates at one end. That way, everyone gets to serve themselves. They can eat what they like and go back for seconds. On their own legs.
Don’t forget the washing up:
These days, washing up usually just means stacking and unstacking. If Christmas dinner lasts more than one washing cycle, have the roster ready. If you have one of those dishwashers with a four hour cycle, introduce your nearest and dearest to the concept of the washing up brush.
This before and after shot will help demonstrate the amount of effort required for a truly clean Christmas wash up.
‘Relegate, relegate, relegate: give yourself a minor role in the Christmas drill.’
Service of drinks:
What service? Open a few bottles and plonk them on the dining table. Or you could try my family’s infamous Lazy Susan style of service: place your Lazy Susan (circular spinning platform) in the centre of the table and place bottles at regular intervals around it. That way you can see what’s on offer and make your choice. A ruby red tablecloth is recommended for this method, as chances are you will choose a bottle on the far side of the turntable. This will require a healthy spin. You will inevitably misjudge the strength required and send at least one bottle of red flying. If you have been silly enough to leave any objects jutting out from the platform, they will collect anything they pass on their way around. This method is strictly only for thrill-seekers.
Roast your vegetables in advance:
- Prepare pumpkin, sweet potato, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, whole garlic and throw into a baking dish. Drizzle some good olive oil over the top (I use the leftover oil from Meredith marinaded goat cheese if I have any.) Roast till not quite done. Garlic and mushrooms won’t take as long as the others. Use roast garlic in everything, but especially with a good mayo to serve with the vegetables as aioli for those who like it. If finishing off the next day, allow to cool then place a clean tea towel over the baking dishes overnight. Or roast to completion and reheat in the microwave when required. This is helpful if the oven is full.
- For perfect roast potatoes, use daggy old brushed potatoes. Nothing fancy or they won’t fluff up. Allow at least 1 large potato per person—they ALWAYS get eaten. Place a baking tray with a generous amount of olive oil (NOT extra virgin) in a 180 degree oven to heat up oil. Peel and quarter potatoes, place in a pot of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 6 minutes. Drain, place lid on pot and shake until potatoes are fluffy but not disintegrating. Tip onto hot oil in baking tray and par-bake for around 25 minutes. Make sure the potatoes are turned at least once during cooking time. Cover with a clean tea towel and finish off the next day.
At meal’s end, take yourself and your glass of wine to a comfortable chair as far from the kitchen as possible and put your feet up. If your guests are showing no sign of leaving, feel free to put on your pyjamas. Job done.