On Christmas eve (night) we tend to have a buffet for supper. Christmas eve is usually a busy time in this household. I’m usually in the kitchen trying to ensure we have everything we need for the next day. The children are usually running riot with my nieces and nephews, my husband is out buying Christmas gifts for me (the ones we agreed not to buy this year). I’m checking we have enough napkins and Prosecco, the fridge is full…a judgement call has to be made…the milk will keep cool on the back step, right? Then there’s the fun task of making beds, will the aged aunty be fine on a sofa bed in the play room, so the other couple can share the guest room? Fun fun fun.
The last thing I want to do on Christmas eve is cook a meal for millions of people to eat. Mainly because I don’t wish to load the dishwasher when I should be dragging presents into the sitting room, and getting drunk. Some people do a joint of gammon in the slow cooker on Christmas eve. This makes perfect sense, and I would recommend that. We tend to have the joint of gammon as part of the buffet, mainly because we use the left overs to make pea and ham soup, remember gammon can be frozen too.
So the buffet. Am I above buying some “ready made” buffet food? Absolutely not. I need the time to be honest. That said I make a load myself, and I find with the children being so over excited it works well for the them to graze; this especially works well for the youngest who’s a little greedy boy! Set yourself a budget, it might be there’s only three of you (two adults and a baby) in which case, fantastic, at least YOU can eat in the sitting room on the floor without the fear of satay dip soaking into your carpets…it also means your budget can be low, or you can go for the more luxurious food stuffs (I have a tin of Fois Gras I cannot open because my mother insists I’m a horrific human being, so I’m still saving it … second Christmas and counting…). I’ve written a list of two buffet types, ones for smaller families (perhaps 2-4 adults and under threes) and then the bigger one, perhaps a more stretched budget as you’re feeding more people. I shop at Tesco mainly so some of the food stuffs will be from there, but mostly generic so you can buy from anywhere.
Remember it isn’t always what you serve but the way you present it … don’t be scared of buying cheap food. It’s an expensive time of year and there is NO time!
For the smaller household.
Blinis aren’t cheap to buy … that said, you can make them. However, if you’re strapped for time, and individually flipping over 24 little pancakes isn’t high up on your urgent list of things to do then try using rye bread. Buy it by the loaf and slice (freeze any leftovers). Roll it slightly with a rolling pin and cut out small circles using a small cookie cutter. Stick the said circles under the grill. Once toasted (and turned) add a dollop of sour cream or cream cheese (preference) and add some smoked salmon (you can buy the value pack of rough cuttings) and a tiny sprig of dill. Not keen on salmon? Add salsa and guacamole to each one with soured cream. You can make as many as you need as you’re in control with how much bread you use. Of course you can use roe or caviar … good luck getting your kids to eat that.
Cheese Straws and Dip
These can be bought in. Very little faff. Buy a packet of cheese straws and one of the multi packs of dip (found near the ready made hummus and sandwich fillers in the supermarket). The way to cheat is this; scrape the ready bought dips into individual pots/containers/ramekins and sprinkle ground black pepper or paprika on. It gives it added flavour and gives the illusion you made it yourself. Don’t forget to add to store bought hummus some olive oil, paprika or herbs. Remember to add vegetable sticks, which children are good at half eating and leaving lying around. You may wish to purchase a packet of Ritz cheese crackers or tortilla chips (value is fine) for dipping. At the time of writing, these straws were just £1 at Tesco:
Wrap it up!
We use wraps to save time, a novelty and of course they’re a bit kinder on the hips. Fill them with prawn cocktail (prawns, garlic, ketchup and mayonnaise, mix mix mix, serve with lettuce), or chicken and mayonnaise, tuna, egg, or leave them blank and let the children fill them or eat them plain. If you’re just adults, or your children are well versed on the taste buds, why not try mozarella, basil leaves and tomato with a drizzle of pesto? Make only three up and cut them in half, you don’t want to be eating them for breakfast on Christmas day!
Something warm? Buy a half baguette, or the rolls you cook yourself in the oven (you can freeze what you don’t use). Slice it into discs, slice up some Brie and grill it. You can add cranberry sauce once grilled and serve hot. Delicious, Christmassey and warm.
We serve pigs in blankets on Christmas eve as well as Christmas day. Mini sausages work for us, but my parents do full sized sausages, and Nigella serves them with dates. They’re warm and always a crowd pleaser with children! If you wanted to be super suave, leave the cocktail sticks in the cupboard and provide a serving spoon
Larger families might benefit from making a tray bake. Something you can pop in the oven and cook all together. Slow cook a bigger piece of gammon, use full sized sausages, add a pizza (you can slice for individual portions). You could make a large dish like a paella or a stew.
We sometimes do chilli when there’s lots of us, and serve with tacos or wraps and a range of dips and tortillas, that way the little food is just picked up and the majority of people are full up.
You can always roast a chicken and serve with baguettes, salad and hummus and let people make their own thing up.
Most people are usually more interested in sitting down and having a drink, so a bowl of something hot will go down well. Remember to freeze what’s left, you don’t want to be knackered and hungry on the 27th and have nothing but turkey to eat.
Of course you can then bulk either of these out with the multibuys of “party food” from supermarkets. Last year Tesco did a 60 piece chicken platter for just £4. It wasn’t great quality meat, it wasn’t the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen or tasted, but the children picked at it, and it saved me standing over the hob for ten hours the night before Christmas.
Don’t forget a gammon, a salad and a cheese board. If you can stretch to a Camembert you can bake that and offer rustic ripped bread to dip it in. Delicious.
Don’t forget drinks. I’ll be blogging about home made mulled wine and fool proof slow cooker cider!
Relax. Be prepared, and chill out. It’s Christmas!