Avoid a Festive Freakout – how to keep Christmas Eating Low Key

Avoid a Festive Freakout – how to keep Christmas Eating Low Key
Post lunch nap > Post lunch dishes

A family I know had a Christmas breakfast tradition - each year the mum of the family got out the 'good' china and silverware, and cooked up a breakfast feast of croissants with bacon and melty cheese. They were served alongside glasses of OJ, which turned into bucks fizz as the kids grew up. The final two years of this tradition saw bucks fizz spilt over the hot food, china plates broken, and one frustrated mum who was just trying to create a nice tradition for her family (and enjoy some festive bacon). And that was just the 'relaxing' start of the day.

We put so much pressure on one day of the year, on one meal of the day, and that pressure typically falls to one person. Doesn't seem fair, or much fun. So let's skip that this year, and make the day low key for all involved.

Low key doesn't need to mean low flavour

There are heaps of ways to reduce, or remove, the stress of your Christmas meal. From prepping what you can in the days ahead, to saying no to the traditional Northern Hemisphere roast feast, we've got plenty of ideas to get you the good stuff, without the stressy stuff.

Glaze the day before

Christmas day in Aotearoa could mean heatwave, or a chilly breeze. Either way, commit yourself to a cold ham, and glaze it up a day or two before the big meal. That means on the day the only item on the ham to do list is to slice it up. You'll have delicious juicy ham, full of flavour and you won't have broken a sweat.

Plan a picnic

Whether you actually head outdoors for a picnic, or just have a grazing picnic table set up at home, the food can be pre-prepared and delicious. And there are still plenty of ways to bring some festive cheer and special event energy to a picnic spread, so consider:

  • Baking a few foccacia for that ultimate fresh bread/vehicle for flavour. Grab a few Automatic Bakery ones and the job is already half done!
  • Salmon gravlax is surprisingly easy to prepare, requires you to make it days in advance, and has massive wow factor. Martha Stewart's juniper and gin gravlax recipe looks 🤌
  • Any classic picnic recipe can be levelled up for festive energy with high quality ingredients - and Christmas can be a time to go a little extra if it's within your budget. Make the humble bacon & egg pie, but spruce it up with some out of this world relish, roasted red peppers and topped off with everything but the bagel seasoning on top of the pastry lid and egg wash.
  • Salads - easy to prepare in advance (package dressing separately and do at the last minute), there are so many options - we dare you to try one that doesn't involve lettuce and tomatoes!
  • Grab a few Christmas kits from the Jellyologist for a portable dessert (hopefully it goes without saying that you shouldn't un-mold these until serving time).

Go large, but delegate

If you really want to have the traditional feast, but get a bit agitated even thinking about it, we've got your back. Here's how to deliver a top notch spread while still having control, without the side of 'hiding in the pantry with the bottle of brandy'.

  • Plan the meal and everything that needs to be done for the day. If having the food done 'your way' is super important to you, delegate any and all other tasks - setting the table, staying on top of the music, keeping little ones in check, drinks iced and glasses full, and so on.
  • If there's a part of the meal that you care less about, or there's someone super eager to help, delegate - e.g. the pre-game grazing board, or one of the five desserts you have planned.
  • You don't want others involved in the cooking, but that doesn't mean they can't wash veg, peel potatoes, trim beans, shell peas and so on. Make them feel useful and get out of those boring tasks yourself!
  • Make sure everyone knows the plan, and not to enter the kitchen. For someone who revels in the big cook, it can be rather enjoyable to blast some tunes, have a glass of champers and focus on the tasks at hand.

And if all else fails, sit back, take in the atmosphere and have a laugh - all going well you can have another try next year!