HOSTING Christmas Day always seems like a great idea in July.
But as the day looms, you might well come to dread it – especially if you have never been on hosting duties before.
The Organised Mum Method, by Gemma Bray, is full of great tips to make sure you will be the hostess with the mostest come Christmas Day.
Gemma says: “Christmas dinner has been made out to be a mythical beast. It has an over-inflated ego.
“If you believe the hype, you might think it should come with a health warning as the most stressful meal you will ever make. The trick is not to give in to the self-doubt and to boss your own Christmas dinner.”
Here, Natasha Harding picks out some of Gemma’s best tips for first-timers:
Keep your meal plan simple. If you are not confident about having lots of things cooking at the same time, go with quality over quantity.
Do not feel the pressure to have a starter.
Try not to have too many side dishes or festive trimmings. Not only will it create extra effort for you, but you will also be gutted when no one eats everything.
It will be far better for you to pick your two favourite vegetable side dishes and then put everything you have into them.
Do not feel under pressure to make all your relishes. I always buy the cranberry sauce and apple sauce. If you want to buy your gravy ready-made, do so.
Make sure your turkey fits into the oven. This is crucial as you can’t have your dinner falling at the first hurdle. If there are not many of you, consider buying a turkey crown instead.
Try to stay as relaxed as possible. If it is all getting a bit much, head upstairs or outside for a few minutes and take some deep breaths. Better still, confide in someone who is close to you and tell them that you are nervous and ask them to be your wingman.
If it is the timings that are worrying you, then work backwards. Tell people the rough time that you are going to eat. Then work out how long everything will take to cook and what time you will need to start cooking it. Write it all down and it will stop the overwhelming feeling from taking over.
Make sure you have enough oven space for everything that you plan to cook.
Make use of your microwave and, if you can, try to prepare some bits in advance.
Do some prep work before the guests arrive. Peel your potatoes and vegetables and put them in cold water until you are ready to cook them.
If you are not used to serving up, ask someone else to carve the meat. Make someone else drinks monitor and task them with making sure that glasses are charged.
Put as much food as you can on the table so that people can help themselves. This way you will not be stuck in the kitchen serving up the last few plates while half the guests are waiting with their food going cold.
Serve your food on to warm plates by placing your plates in a sink of hot, clean water before you serve up. Try not to serve on to cold plates as the food goes cold quicker.
Wear something comfortable that you will not overheat in.
Make sure that you have enough chairs for everyone.
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Set the table the night before so that you can really make sure you have it looking just as you want it. And make sure that you are sitting in a spot where you can exit quickly and get into the kitchen.
If you are having a centrepiece, keep it low so you can see everyone across the table.
Keep place settings as simple as possible — people are going to want to be able to move their elbows and also be able to reach for sauces and extra food.
The Organised Mum Method by Gemma Bray (Piatkus, £12.99) is out now.