With the festive season drawing ever closer, chefs around the country will be preparing themselves for what is arguably the busiest period in the industry’s calendar, Christmas. With many of us having had countless Christmas lunches, expectations are high and it can be difficult to offer something which both meets and exceeds expectations. These three tips will help ensure your festive menu is both traditional and uniquely yours by rewriting the rules of Christmas catering.
Keep it seasonal
Ever wondered why so many ingredients only appear on menus around the holidays? It’s usually because of their seasonality, and December is a fantastic month for a selection of renowned Christmas classics. Essential veg such as beetroot, Brussels sprouts, kale, parsnips, potatoes, swede and turnips reach the pinnacle of their seasonality in the colder months, so you’re spoilt for choice when selecting the accompaniment to your dish.
Turkey is a classic and certainly shouldn’t be limited to just the Christmas period. It isn’t, however the best choice when catering for large numbers, as it has the tendency to dry out rather quickly. Remember, it’s also not the only available choice for your Christmas lunch; duck, goose, guinea fowl, partridge or pheasant are fantastic birds to mix things up while hitting those sustainability targets. Alternative options that are both sustainable and full of flavour include hare, rabbit and venison, and can be used to replace beef.
Tradition can always be rewritten
When deciding what to include on your festive menu, be wary that although patrons will expect some level of tradition, yours may not be the only Christmas meal they will be attending, so it’s a good idea to ensure you add a personal twist on the classics. Why not try a velvety chestnut soup with crispy bacon lardons. This warming starter is sure to go down a treat and offers all the classic Christmas flavours and smells while giving you the option to prepare it in advance, giving you one less job to do on the day.
Another great tactic for adding an extra special twist to your menu is utilising off cuts from main dishes and turning them into bite sized Christmas canapés. How about individual beef wellington bites or turkey and cranberry sauce in mini Yorkshire puddings? If you’re looking for a vegetarian option, consider mini butternut squash, feta and walnut tarts with a balsamic glaze. These artistic little parcels really pack a punch and will leave your guests with a smile on their face while whetting their appetite for the main meal.
Don’t forget those accompanying drinks!
Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a drink or two, and the festive season offers the perfect excuse to treat ourselves. Mulled wine, one of the drinks of the winter season, is especially delicious when made with cinnamon sticks, and is the ultimate winter warmer. It’s crucial to remember not all guests will be drinking. Offering a non-alcoholic option is essential to ensure all guests are taken care of while also showing off your flair and creativity. For an easy alternative, replace the wine with good quality apple juice, and simmer with an orange peel, cinnamon stick, a few cloves and a table spoon of honey, until all the flavours have fully infused. This makes for the perfect Christmas mocktail for non-drinkers and is sure to go down a treat with the kids.
The key to catering Christmas is to pin down the classic elements that people love, while adding your own personal twist to the occasion. Using the finest seasonal ingredients will give guests the festive fix they’re expecting, while a few of your own personal touches will provide the unique experience they weren’t.
Written by Tom Gore
Heavily influenced by his global culinary experiences, from working in kitchens all over the world, Tom’s ethos is to keep the basis of his dishes simple and use classic flavours, to create recipes with unusual combinations to a fine-dining standard.
Bringing his vitality and passion to the kitchen, Tom has pushed the boundaries of clients’ expectations for conferences and events, and working with his brigade of chefs, cater for all in-house events from private parties to award ceremonies and conferences for up to 1,000.