Ok, so I’ve got a little experience in hosting Christmas but I’m always open to new ideas. Rather than assuming people wouldn’t be interested, I’m going to share a few food related Christmas hacks that you might want to keep under your hat this festive season.
I only discovered this a few weeks back but it’s so brilliantly basic that it has to go on the list. Served as a snack a friend’s gathering, I questioned her about it and couldn’t help but giggle at its simplicity. There are just three components; a share bag of Doritos tortilla chips, a pack of Philadelphia cream cheese and some sweet chilli sauce. To prepare (ready for this?) tip the cheese out onto a large plate, smother with sweet chilli sauce and scatter the chips around the molten mass. That’s it. Obviously you can buy budget versions of all the ingredients to make it cheaper, or pimp it up with fancy brands but either way it tastes bloody great. Honestly, try it. And the best thing is you can keep all these things in your fridge/cupboard, so you can crack it out at the drop of a hat when those unexpected visitors descend!
Cheesy chuffin’ heaven
I can take no credit for this either, I didn’t even prepare it, my brother-in-law did. But this cheese recipe is the epitome of Christmas indulgence. It’s one of those fabulous finds that make being on Facebook all worthwhile as far as I’m concerned. The folks at Twisted shared this Camembert Snowflake this time last year and it’s become a family staple at our parties. Pastry…gooood, bacon…gooood, creamy stinky cheese…goooood. Plus it looks amazing and makes the perfect centrepiece for any buffet.
Food even features in some of our favourite games and let me tell you, despite the kids getting a majillion gifts, they ALWAYS want to play these games. First favourite that has us all in tears is “poop the potato”. Just the word poop has the kids in fits of laughter. Add to that adults making absolute tits of themselves, and every guest will be belly laughing. There is always plenty of spuds around at Christmas so it costs absolutely nothing. Just split your party people into teams, allocate each a pile of spuds and put a bucket for each team at the opposite end of the room. (If you want to be really mean just put one bucket and they have to fight it out.) They can only carry the potatoes between their thighs, and dropping one means they have to return to the start line. Winners are the first team to poop all their potatoes.
The next one involves chocolate. It’s basically a suck and blow game, which adults are always up for (!). Two bowls, one straw and massive sharing bag of Maltesers. Each person gets 30 seconds to move as many Maltesers from one bowl to the other, using only the straw. NO HANDS!
Sausage rolls are such a crowd pleaser, its unreal. Plus they keep really well in airtight containers, so while you can get cheap shop bought ones, there is something super satisfying about creating your own and cracking them out for guests. They are ridiculously simple to prepare. Firstly, I don’t know of one single person – let alone working Mum – that makes their own puff pastry. Just buy it. It’s fabulous. Then buy some good quality sausagemeat. And if you can’t get any, buy good quality sausages and take the skin off them. Place the sausagemeat in the pastry and roll. Overlap the pastry slightly so the sausagemeat is properly encased and use a little egg wash to seal. Chop into 2cm pieces and space them on a lined baking tray. Don’t crowd them, they grow a lot! I then like to egg wash the tops and sprinkle with cracked black pepper and sea salt. That little touch really elevates them.
For a fancy twist there a couple of extras you could add along side your sausagemeat. My favourite is a little onion chutney. Stuffing is also a good one. Just prepare a little packet stuffing (yes shop bought, yes I’m a heathen, yes they taste good!) and lay it along side the sausage meat. I’d day 2/3 sausage, 1/3 stuffing is a good ratio but it all depends how much you like stuffing. Then bake at about 160fan/180c/gas 4 for around 15 minutes until the are crispy and golden.
No hacks here please
Of course there are some things that I absolutely do not think you should hack. Like meat. Please, please, for the love of all things foodie, use a good butcher. It makes a huge difference and when it’s the centre piece of your roast dinner, YOU deserve for it to be superb. Meat eaters will forget fancy cabbage and glazed carrots but the meat? That will make your meal. Case in point was dinner a few years back when I served roast fore rib of beef. It. Was. Perfect. My brother still talks about it now and it stands out as one of my biggest home-cook moments. I’ve got a few more tips for roast dinners, specifically a fail-proof yorkshire pudding recipe, which you might find useful too.
And on that note I will sign off for 2017 by wishing you all a very merry Christmas. Particularly all the hosts this season, who deserve the biggest round of applause. Get yourself a glass of fizz and toast to the wonder that is home cooking.