Easy Christmas dinner ideas
Don’t you hate stressing over dinner parties? You don’t have to!
Christmas dinner with friends or family is a great opportunity to go all out in the kitchen. You don’t want to spend to much time in the kitchen while the guests are having a good time. The key to a good Christmas dinner party (or any dinner party for that matter) is; preparation (and clever shopping)!
Put food on the menu you can prepare ahead of time, even the day before, that doesn’t need much work after your guests have arrived.
In our family it is tradition that everyone makes one dish. That way the host doesn’t have to do all the work. This is usually a lot of fun (with everyone gathering in the kitchen) and practical as every family member is involved and feels responsible for the food.
I have collected a few great party food recipes over the years that I like to share with you. I’ll also give some tips for people who don’t like cooking 🙂
Jingle bells, jingle bells…
Preparation is key
Make sure you set the table with nice tableware (before the guests arrive!), polished glasses and some good fresh bread with olive oil and (salted) butter. Make it extra pretty with Christmas decorations, candles and perhaps a personal message for each guest. You could opt for a special kids table if there are many little guests attending. If it’s dinner with toddlers just make sure there is a play area and don’t keep them seated. It will be a lot less stressful if you decide they can do whatever they want and don’t force them to sit and eat.
If you fridge is to small to keep everything in, just put it outside (it’s probably cold this time of year) or in another cold place. Do cover well.
Amuses are a great way to kick of your party. They are very small bites you eat before the starter. They can be a tiny drink glass of soup, a small bite on a spoon or finger food. Presentation is very important for amuses so pay attention to details.
If you like cooking make a creamy soup and pour into shot glasses; I like the spicy pumpkin soup I made before as it has great colour. You could add a cheese wafer (grated parmesan, bit of flour, in the oven until it melts together) for a bit of extra crunch.
Smart buying make a blini; buy ready made blini’s, crème fraiche, fresh dille, smoked salmon and (fake) black caviar. All you have to do is slice some dille, mix it in the crème fraiche, add some salt and pepper. Place a blini on an amuse spoon, a dot of cream, a piece of salmon and top it off with some fish eggs.
If you’re a soup person (and didn’t do soup as an amuse) you can do it now. Serve it in nice small bowls with good bread. So even though this looks good:
- Use much smaller plates if this soup is your starter!
I have often made a salmon tartar as Christmas starter. It’s very easy and there are many varieties. You can use fresh salmon or smoked salmon (use less salt): dice it up and flavour it with capers, finely diced onion, chives, salt and pepper. I liked to spice it up a bit with a wasabi mayonaise; mix wasabi paste with a bit of water and mayonaise. You could also marinade half of the fresh salmon in Pernod (liquor) and add a pea mousse (peas cooked, pureed and some gelatine added) on top. Or add an avocado mousse: puree the avocado with some salt, pepper and lemon juice. You could also add avocado in small pieces to the salmon. Serve on nice plates using serving rings to create neat circles.
The easiest thing to do for Christmas is a big piece of meat (or fish) that you can pop into the oven and don’t have to worry about for a few hours. A glazed ham is ideal or pulled pork (see the recipe on my blog). You could also do a ‘coq au vin’ (chicken that is hard to mess up and very easy to get right). More work will be stuffed meat like pork tenderloin stuffed with pistachios and wrapped in bacon.
For vegetarian guests you can opt to make a vegetable quiche like this one:
Side dishes (where amounts are stated: for 4 p)
Smart buying: Roasted paprika salad. Use roasted paprika from a pot, drain, sprinkle some feta cheese on top and finish with some sliced almonds.
Beetroot salad: 400 gr cooked beetroot, spring onion, pickles, lemon. Slice up the beetroot, onion and pickles into thin slices. Grate the lemon until you have 1 tsp zest, squeeze half a lemon. Mix everything with some salt and pepper and place in a nice bowl.
Cooked potatoes with herbs and a drizzle of olive oil is good as a side dish or put some nice potatoes with skin on a baking tray with some herbs (rosemary or thyme), olive oil and sea salt and bake in the oven.
Celeriac-potato mash. It goes really well with big pieces of meat. I usually use 2/3 or even 3/4 celeriac and the rest potatoes and cook it together. Or even don’t add potatoes at all 🙂 You only have to boil the celeriac (cut into small pieces) with potatoes (about the same size) in water with some vegetable or herb stock for app 20 minutes than drain (save a bit of the water), mash it up, add some of the saved water, a cube of butter and if you need more moisture a bit of milk or more cooking liquid.
Homemade apple sauce: if you’re doing a homey main meal you could also go a bit old school and make apple sauce as a side dish. Most people like it and it goes beautifully with pork and game. To make apple you only have to peel some apples (depending on how much sauce you want to make), pop them in a pan, add about two cm of water and a bit of sugar (I tend to leave this out but if you like it sweet…) and cook. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon, adding water when it dries out, until the apples break apart. You can make the sauce as fine as you want by cooking it longer or passing it through a sieve. I like mine with some pieces in it as a compote. You could add a bit of cinnamon at the end for extra spice (and holiday spirit).
If you like cooking and have room in the oven; make a potato gratin. If you have no oven space make baked potatoes or trow some (fresh) fries in a deep fryer.
A great way to make your veggies a bit more special is by adding some flavourings. I like sugar snaps (200 g; or other green beans) and broccoli (200 g) with sesame seeds and sea salt. While cooking the veggies (not to long! They still need to have some bite) roast 2 tbsp sesame seeds in 1 tbsp sesame oil until light brown. Add 1 tsp coarse sea salt. Drain the veggies and pour the sesame seeds on top. Finish with 1 tbsp lemon juice.
Glazed carrots with honey and lemon: buy 1 bunch of nice carrots with leave (you can substitute this with long strips of winter carrots), remove the greenery but leave the ends (app 2 cm), wash properly. Mix together 125 g butter with 1 tbsp honey, 1 tsp mustard, 2 tbsp lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Place the carrots in a pan side by side and add the butter mixture. Stew until soft (but with a bite) for app 15 min.
Ofcourse a simple green salad with a nice vinaigrette is always a good idea. A classic vinaigrette has an oil to vinegar (or other acids) ratio of 3:1 so use that as a guideline and than go by your taste to alter it. You could use almost anything in it; anchovies, shallots, lemon, mustard, orange juice etc. Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper!
Spiraled veggie quiche: you could do this as a side dish as well. This does require a bit more work.
Tiramisu: you can make it a day in advance and serve on the table or make individual bowls.
Chocolate mousse: very easy to make ahead of time. Serve in a glass (that you keep it in) or as part of a bigger dessert
Chocolate fondant: (chocolate cake with soft, runny center) easy to make but you need to pop them in the oven just before serving
Decorated cake: a piece of (beautifully decorated) cake is always good. Or make a nice cheesecake that you serve with a nice sauce. You could place the whole cake at the table and serve there. You could make the walnut tart as dessert.
Brownies: you can make these in the morning and serve with vanilla ice cream and a chocolate or fudge sauce. See my recipe for triple choc brownies.
Panacotta: easy to prepare ahead of time and leave to set (in individual glasses) in the fridge for at least an hour. It will look and taste great with pomegranate seeds. As will a white chocolate mousse!
Cheese: you could ofcourse also opt for a cheese platter. Or do this as an extra course. This only requires good shopping to get the best cheeses. Add some bread or crackers and a nice fig chutney or jam and fig bread.
Smart buying: Make it easy for yourself. If you are low on time, just don’t like cooking or are not a dessert queen; don’t worry and buy ready made desserts. They have many options at the supermarkets during this time of the year. I already saw nice options at Lidl. Like these:
All you have to do is place them on a nice plate.
You could also fool your guests and opt for a ‘grand dessert’ which means combining a few small desserts on a plate. This will be very easy to do. I’ll give you an example for a chocolate dessert: buy a big bowl of chocolate mousse, container of good quality chocolate ice cream, good chocolate cookies, whipped cream (freshly whipped is preferred) and maybe some raspberries. Plate up a nice ball of ice cream on top of crumbled up cookies (that way the ice cream doesn’t slip off the plate), a spoonful of mousse, freshly whipped cream and a few raspberries. This will look and taste great. You could ofcourse do this with anything you like but make sure there is cohesion within the products. Easiest to do this by theme or product: f.e. caramel (caramel ice or vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, caramel cookie or caramel fudge), fruit (sorbet ice cream, fresh fruit, some crunch like a cookie and a sauce).
But; think about presentation!
Coffee and tea
Make sure you have some nice chocolates or cookies to go with the coffee and tea. If you have time, make these the day(s) before dinner or just buy them. There are many special Christmas chocolates on sale now at the supermarkets.
To keep the kids happy; don’t plan dinner to late if you want them to participate! You could also do lunch instead of dinner… Or like we will do with all the babies and toddlers that will come over; early dinner from 16-20.00 Make sure the kids will have enough things to play with, have food they like (maybe finger food) and can entertain themselves as much as possible.
Fresh herbs can make a dish look so much prettier. So get yourself some herb plants and use the leaves as decoration and seasoning in your dishes. Or make an easy pesto to go with some dishes (f.e. a drizzle in the tomato-paprika soup or with some bread before dinner, even add it to some nice cooked potatoes). You could also use mint (and lemon) to flavour a jar of table water. It looks nice and tastes the part as well.
To avoid having to clean everything the next day, make sure you already wash some dishes (run the dishwasher) between courses. If guests offer to help; let them. The kitchen is often the place to be during parties anyway so why not let them help and chat at the same time. Just because you are hosting doesn’t mean you have to do everything. It’s all about having fun and enjoying each others company. So don’t worry if dishes totally fail or something else goes wrong; you could always call for pizza or make a sandwich 😉
Enjoy the holidays!