1. Write your guest list
This will help you decide on the amount of food that you’ll require for your guests. Don't forget to bump up the numbers just a little, to account for any last-minute invitees (or drop-ins!). A little too much food is better than not enough – with a little creativity you can always create a new dish from your leftovers.
2. Decide on your format
Is it going to be a formal dinner, relaxed barbecue or stand up buffet? A buffet is a great way of solving the fussy eater issue and catering to guests with allergies, allowing guests to choose what food they put on their plate. My favourite recipes for the perfect buffet are mixed tomato salad with white balsamic dressing, green salad, crisp roasted potatoes, roasted pumpkin and a selection of meats like glazed ham, turkey, chicken, pork or roast beef.
3. Plan ahead
One of the biggest mistakes people make is choosing too many dishes that need a lot of last-minute attention, so put some thought into planning your menu. It is much more worthwhile to do a few different dishes well than to spread yourself too thin. Quality over quantity!
4. Pre-order Christmas meat and seafood
Christmas is a busy time of year for specialty fresh food retailers, so if you’re planning on having a leg of ham, pork, turkey or seafood make sure you place an order well in advance to avoid disappointment.
5. Cook the day before
Prepare as many ingredients ahead of time as possible – desserts can usually be made the day before, and sometimes even a month or two earlier if you are serving a Christmas pudding or cake. Trifles and custards also taste better when the flavours have had time to develop.
6. Share the load
Ask other family members to bring something. Delegating and not taking on all the responsibility of the food will help you enjoy your Christmas too.
7. Work with a theme
Choose simple colours or themes when decorating your table and tree. I prefer traditional red and white or frosted greens and silver. For the Christmas table, light candles and run a table cloth down the length of the table to the ground - this will create a dramatic look and a beautiful ambience.
8. Keep the kids busy
Remember to make the day special for the kids. They will get restless sitting around the table for hours, so have some fun activities planned for them. Try giving them cookies or cupcakes to decorate, or even plan a scavenger hunt to keep them entertained.
9. Expect the unexpected
I always make sure I have some small gifts at the ready just in case any unexpected guests pop by. Most good local delis stock fantastic little treats like shortbread, Vienna almonds and mini Christmas puddings – which make the perfect last-minute gift!
10. Christmas is supposed to be fun
Remember Christmas is a time to celebrate and have fun with family and friends. Pre-plan where you can, stick to your budget, get everyone involved and make this the best Christmas ever!
For more of Emma’s great Christmas tips and delicious recipes, visit www.westfield.com.au
and click on Fresh Food.