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A mini moment on our favourite Christmas tips and recipes .....

I was beyond lucky to grow up in a very loving and fun filled house with lots of space in the English countryside, where, every Christmas our home was filled with our entire family. My Mama would always cook the most incredible food and that’s where my love of cooking started, growing up watching my grandmother and Mama cook.


We can’t host a big family Christmas in our London home as we don’t have the space, so it is our little family of four (5 of course with Bear!) plus both sets of grandparents.



So, most importantly plan a Christmas that works for you, everyone’s will look different. Always remember it is often the little things that make the biggest difference, it doesn’t need to be overly complicated or expensive to be lovely and planning ahead is so helpful as you feel less daunted and overwhelmed plus more in control which is always helpful!


Firstly, always carefully think through the timing, it doesn’t matter how much you spend on entertaining, if the timing is off it is often what people remember. Be mindful of all ages and keep drinks before lunch to no longer than an hour, make the space cosy and warm (unless you are overseas!) music (not too loud), candles and seating with lovely food and drinks.


Some of my favourite drinks and canapes:


Homemade cocktails and mocktails: this year I am going to try Claridge’s cocktails -https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-best-christmas-cocktail-recipes-from-claridges-606vg9sh0



Lock Down Liquor: fun cocktails and really yummy mocktails, plus they can personalise the bottles with your guests names - https://lockdown-liquor.com



Funkin Juice: great to add to Prosecco which works out more cost effective than Champagne.


I rarely drink anymore (6 months ago I made a lifestyle choice to cut right down so I can feel the best I possibly can) so my tipple of choice these days is Pelegrino water (it has the perfect amount of bubbles!) and kombucha (Daylesford and Remedy are my favourites) - always offer the choice of both non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks to your guests at the same time (amazing how many people don’t!) and always serve both in equally lovely glasses.



Personally, I prefer to serve canapés to starters - below are some of my super-fast favourites and if you don’t enjoy cooking, I have suggested some short cuts that work well ...


Croustades: (either home-made or Rahms Croustades are great) pop some truffle brie and honey in and then warm through in the oven for a few minutes.


Crostini: (either home-made or Crosta & Mollica ones are good) with whipped feta/Boursin and a slow roasted tomato on top or Donna Hay's prosciutto, brie and cherry crostini recipe is so good - I sometimes swap and use Roquefort and pears https://www.donnahay.com.au/recipes/tags/cherries


Filo Rolls: Mary Berry’s recipe using filo pastry, asparagus, goats’ cheese and Palma ham is an absolute favourite. I cannot find the recipe online but its super easy. Lay a sheet of filo pastry out, add a little melted butter top and bottom, then lay Palma ham along the top edge (you can leave out Palma ham for vegetarians) then add some soft goats’ cheese on top, then a line of cooked asparagus, salt and pepper and tightly roll into a long sausage shape and cut into bite sized pieces. Pop into fan 180 for about 15/20 minutes.


Cocktail sausages: always popular, I love to add honey and grainy mustard to mine.


Crudités: I know it’s quite summery, but I love them all year round plus it feels healthy! I like to put crudites into little pots or baskets and the dips in pretty little bowls, so each guest has their own - plus no chance of anyone double dipping! Serve with homemade guacamole, humous or a whipped feta and herb dip.




Little soup shots: leek soup with a little grated stilton on top is a favourite.


Main courses:


Turkey: which this year we plan to cook on our Green Egg - any tips please let me know!


Roast potatoes: I always par boil ours, give them a good shake to fluff, add garlic oil, rosemary and salt and then cook in a hot oven until really crispy.



Sprouts: I love Diana Henry's cookbooks and always use her recipe from her 'From The Oven To The Table' book - https://nationalpost.com/life/holiday-gift-guides/special-sheet-pan-dishes-fit-for-a-holiday-feast-from-diana-henrys-from-the-oven-to-the-table - just leave the pancetta out for vegetarians.


Carrots and parsnips: par boiled ahead of time and then pop in the oven with a little maple syrup, thyme and garlic butter


Red cabbage: great to cook ahead of time - I love Mary Berry’s recipe but I leave out the cider https://thehappyfoodie.co.uk/recipes/mary-berrys-simmered-red-cabbage-and-cider



Bread and cranberry sauce of course!


Nut Roast: which is so so good for vegetarians and doubles up as stuffing for everyone - again a Mary Berry recipe for me ... although if I am in a rush I often leave out the aubergine (sorry Mary!) - https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2240461/Mary-Christmas-Aubergine-nut-roast-recipe.html



Gammon: first I boil in apple juice (takes hours, so good to do in advance), take the skin off, score the fat, baste in redcurrant jelly, Dijon and brown sugar and then pop in the oven for 20 minutes until its golden.



Dauphinoise potatoes:  always such a winner - I adore making these little mini ones from Mary Berry’s 'Make It Easy' book -  https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/mini_dauphinoise_15900



Cauliflower cheese:  so good with with baked ham, I like to use mini cauliflowers and add gruyere and Dijon mustard to my sauce with a little nutmeg and a sprinkling of gruyere on top just before cooking.



Cherry Relish: is a yummy alternative to Cumberland sauce. I made a Donna Hay's recipe from her Christmas book recently, it was so good - sadly I can't find the recipe online but its super simple ...

Add a little oil to a pan, one finely chopped onion and some thyme and cook until golden. Add 500 grams of frozen cherries, orange zest, a splash of orange liqueur, splash of red wine vinegar, a little sugar, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Bring to the boil and cook for 30-35 minutes or until reduced.



Puddings:


Chocolate roulade: always a favourite - I made this recently and it was super easy and looks really pretty - https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/chocolate_roulade_79152



Mary Berry's spiced ginger cake: always popular in our home -https://www.cookingwithmykids.co.uk/ginger-cake



I love an old-fashioned fruit pie too and mostly use fresh pre-rolled shortcrust pastry - this was an apple and blackberry pie I made last year, I loved using Christmas cookie cutters too ...



Mince Pies: There are so many lovely ones in the shops - these were from Daylesford ..



I adore Emma Dodi's incredible macaroons, she has wonderful designs that you can add your guests’ names to (below are some Emma made for me last year). Emma can also make them entirely bespoke for you - which takes more time but very special - https://emmadodicakes.com 



I always love to do a cheese board - often grazed early evening after lunch has gone down and I love using a cookie cutter for the butter .... 




I have been collecting cookbooks for many years, if you are looking to add to your collection here are some of my favourites ...


Mary Berry: every one is a total winner, 'Christmas Collection' and 'Cooking Up A Feast' are two favourites


Diana Henry: especially From 'The Oven To The Table', 'Simple' and 'A Bird In the Hand'


Donna Hay: love them all especially her new 'Even More Basics To Brilliance' book


Ottolenghi: they are all just wonderful, 'Simple', 'Flavour' and 'Plenty' are brilliant


Sabrina Ghayour: especially 'Simply', 'Everyday' and 'Persiana'


Carole Bamford: 'Daylesford A Love For Food'


Tart London: 'A Love Of Eating'



We tend to eat just twice a day over the holidays, brunch on Christmas Day and Boxing Day (usually smoked salmon bagels or pancakes) and then we eat around 4pm. 


I have loved beauty for as long as I remember and my passion is to create beauty that brings joy to others, not just aesthetically (even though that is so good for the soul) but also how I can make moments feel.



As we all age, the biggest gift we can give our families and friends is our time, making memories that last forever. Getting older is a privilege, I am grateful to be 51 and the only time I mention my age is because I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone (in my head I still feel 30!), one of my favourite sayings is the Japanese phrase ‘ichigo ichie’ which means ‘treasuring the unrepeatable nature of a moment’, it resonated with me so much that it is the essence behind my company.



Hopefully, some of these recipes may be of interest to you, many of them can be done ahead of time so there is less to juggle all at once and more time to spend with your guests and if you don’t love cooking just keep it really simple, it’s your Christmas too and there are so many amazing ready prepared options available now.


Above all, have fun, make those memories and remember the wise words of Dr Seuss ... “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory.”


Wishing everyone a very very happy, healthy, joyful and peaceful Christmas,



All images taken by CFB&D







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