It’s great having family and friends over for Christmas dinner but it can be so much work and effort that you are too tired to enjoy it. From chasing perfection from the dinner table settings to the food itself, inviting dinner guests over can be a situation that balloons to nightmarish proportions.
But not with this guide as to how to impress your dinner guests, without too much effort.
There is a saying, we eat with our eyes first and our bellies second. As well as presenting the food nicely on plates and in bowls, the table also needs to look the part.
And frankly, when it comes to table setting trends and fashions, we say leave them behind! The festive season is all about twinkling lights, anything that sparkles, as well as colour combinations such as red and green with a dash of gold or silver.
For something ‘different’, nip outside with your secateurs and bring in some cutting of ever-green fronds from your fir trees, holly bush (even better if there are red berries too!) or any other evergreen leaf. Along with pine cones, cluster the foliage along the length of the rustic dining table. To finish, sprinkle with glitter or colourful beads, adding tea lights in pretty holders too, to add pretty twinkling lights.
Top tip - we love the battery-operated lights that are available online and in high street stores. Simply intertwine these around the foliage, hiding the battery compartment under it. Switch on and let them work their magic.
No one has unlimited matching plates, cups, and cutlery lurking in their cupboards and, so it comes as no surprise that when you have many dinner guests for Christmas dinner that there is a range of plates and glasses. We think it makes the occasion.
Remember, perfect table settings are not your goal: making memories and having a great time is. So, bring a range of chairs to nestle against your statement fabric dining chairs and enjoy the fact that your dining room is full of fun and laughter.
Top tip – table full throughout the year with guests? Why not consider investing in a dining bench, a great alternative to different chairs and great for accommodating more people.
However, using matching key plates can lift the table and so it is worth investing in some key items. We think that…
- Matching or complimenting oven to tableware – as well as having plenty of cutlery to go around, why not invest in a cluster of oven to tableware dishes? These present a sense of cohesion and providing that all your ‘mismatch’ plates and bowls share the same colour palette, it won’t look too chaotic.
- Handmade, designed and created plates – clustering bowls and plates is a way of showing off your ‘best’ tableware too. We love the idea of opting for something different but one that is timeless and elegant. Tableware, from serving plates to dinner plates, are items that over the years, you will come to amass in your cupboards. And so, you need timeless, elegant pieces that look as fresh today as they will in years to come.
Impressing your guests can place you on a collision course with festive season stress, a condition that can see you become fixated on smaller details that really don’t have bearing on the wonderful meal you are about to cook.
What do we suggest? Planning ahead is the solution, along with getting as much done as you possibly can before the main event. And we have some useful tips too:
- Don’t battle through Christmas shoppers for your groceries and other essential – shop online! Get as much as you can beforehand, making the best use of pre-prepared foods and put in the freezer.
- Shop local – local suppliers, such as butchers and grocers, will often have affordable hampers in the run-up to the festive season. As well as supporting local businesses, you will also be getting quality produce that tastes delicious.
- Set the table the night before – for many of us, creating a fantastic looking table is the fun part but it can take longer than you think to create the ultimate dining table setting! Make it your ‘night before’ task or even a day or two beforehand. Enjoy a few dinners off your lap as a treat!
- Nothing wrong with ready meals – we are not suggesting you serve a ready meal for Christmas dinner but with so much going on, be kind to yourself and invest in high-quality ready meals for you and your family. Again, local grocery stores and food suppliers have some great pre-packed products.
Choose Dishes Carefully
Chose dishes that can be prepared beforehand and then simply finished off before you serve them. The best course to do this with is dessert and this Festive Pavlova is ideal.
You will need:
- 6 large free-range egg whites
- 350g caster sugar
- 1tsp white wine vinegar
- 1tsp cornflour
For the filling;
- 600 ml double cream
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 50g sifted icing sugar
- 900g of fresh fruit – any combination, such as raspberries and blueberries
- 50g pomegranate seed
- A few mint leaves
- Preheat the oven to 160°, Gas 3 and line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. Draw around a large dinner plate as use this as your guide.
- Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until soft peaks then gradually add the sugar slowly until stiff and glossy.
- Mix the vinegar and cornflour and stir into the egg whites
- Heap the mixture onto the greaseproof paper, shaping it into a ring, leaving a gap in the middle
- Place in the oven reducing the temperature to 140° to gas 2 for an hour or until the meringue is hard on the outside but soft on the inside.
- Allow the meringue to cool – it will keep well in the fridge!
- Just before serving, whip the cream with the vanilla paste and icing sugar and spread generously on top of the ring of meringue. Pile the fruit on top, finish with the jewel-like pomegranate seeds and decorate with mint leaves. Serve with a sprinkling of icing sugar or edible glitter dust.
Impressing Christmas dinner guests is just as much about the company, the laughter and the stories as it is about the ‘right’ decorations on your dining room furniture or the ‘correct’ festive inspired sculptures in your small display cabinet. And don’t forget – enjoy it too!