I learnt a lot last Christmas about the fun and stresses of cooking for, and serving, over 10 people. It might have made a few hours on Christmas day go speeding by, as I kept times, prepped veg and carefully fluffed up my par-boiled potatoes, but I loved every minute.
There were a few things which made everything easier for myself. I’ll definitely be taking note again this year, as I take on the Christmas lunch again. So I wanted to share these with you to help you all master that Christmas lunch too!
Not enough people make lists. In fact I’m the worst at remembering to write up a list before doing a food shop. But when you’ve got so many elements to a meal, it’s totally worth being a bit excessively organised.
List out what you have, breaking up the different veg even if it’ll get cooked together so you have a checklist too. There’s nothing worse than sitting down to eat with everyone and realising you don’t have the Yorkshires or pigs in blankets.
Underneath this, you can list when different things went on to cook, as well as the approximate time for taking out/stirring/turning. This way you can truly keep on top of everything and not have to rely on memory. You might even have some mental space to have a cheeky drink with your guests then too. After all, it’s really about the family get together!
Prep, prep, prep
This pretty much goes without saying. As mentioned above, any get together should be about the people and company, food coming second. Gasp, shock, horror I said it. I know me, the foodie. But there are only so many times a year the whole family are at one table, giggling and catching up. So you should really make the most of it.
Therefore prepping as much as possible beforehand, including laying the table ready, is so helpful to free up time on the day.
Use all appliances you can
Ok, my dad is going to read this and shiver in his boots. I don’t mean make more washing up..I mean don’t worry about oven space, think outside the box (quite literally). Can something be cooked in a slow cooker? Does your microwave have a grill or oven setting? Could you cook something a bit differently so it doesn’t battle for oven space with other components.
Another good idea is to see if any of your guests could cook anything off for you, and then all you’d have to do is reheat it. We did the pigs in blankets this way at Christmas and it was so helpful!
Foil is your best friend
If all the different components can’t finish cooking at the same time due to space, use foil like there’s no tomorrow. Cover trays and crock pots in a layer, crumple the edges to keep the heat in and it’ll stay warm.
You can then pop the foil covered dishes on the table, and simply remove once everything is ready and you’re ready for everyone to start digging in.
If your meal is served with gravy, this should help keep dishes hot by the time you tuck in.
People are willing to help!
If someone asks if you need a hand, don’t be too proud to not take them up on it. It doesn’t mean you’ve done any less of an amazing job. In fact, I’m pretty sure people wouldn’t mind if you asked for a hand either! You’re still overseeing it all at the end of the day, they are just helping with a few bits to ensure you can keep a level head and enjoy it as much as everyone else. Last Christmas there were two of us in the kitchen doing the main bits, but pretty much everyone chipped in at one point or another – a proper team effort and it was fab!
Don’t panic. Take a step back.
This is easier said than done. I get it, cooking for lots of people is stressful and you do feel the pressure. But as I said earlier in the post, the most important part is actually being together. I don’t think anyone will mind if one or two parts are slightly off, dinner is served half hour late (I don’t usually specify an exact time to combat this), or you forgot the peas (I didn’t realise how many people don’t like them anyway haha). So breathe, and try not to get too hung up in the food.
And there you have it. My six tips for surviving serving up a small feast to friends and family. I hope these help in your planning for Christmas lunch – now go smash it!
Do you do anything in addition to these when cooking for a large gathering?