If the thought of co-ordinating the Christmas meal fills you with dread, don’t despair – you are certainly not alone. Even competent cooks can find Christmas Day a culinary challenge. What to eat, how much to serve, how to organise and manage the different dishes so everything is ready on time – these are just some of the challenges that confront the Christmas Day host.


But a little forward planning and preparation will leave you free and relaxed to enjoy the fun of Christmas Day, rather than allowing yourself to become hot and bothered in the kitchen.

Despite our warm climate, many Australians still continue with the tradition of serving a hot meal of whole roast turkey, roast potatoes and vegetables, followed by Christmas pudding. However, equally popular now is a predominantly cold meal that moves away from traditional Christmas flavours.

Traditional Christmas Feast


One of biggest challenges people face with a traditional Christmas dinner is having everything ready on time and ensuring that the turkey is cooked properly. See our “top turkey tips” post to ensure your bird is cooked to perfection. Here are a few other helpful hints:

  • To ensure the roast potatoes are crispy, cut them into 5cm pieces, parboil then drain and return to the saucepan. Place on the lid and give them a good shaking to rough up the edges (this can be done ahead of time). Heat the frying medium (duck fat produces excellent results) in a roasting pan in the oven before adding the potatoes.
  • If you have enough oven space, baked vegetables are a good choice as they can be prepared in advance and only need to be put in the oven when ready to cook. If doing boiled or steamed vegetables, choose those that require minimal last minute cooking, such as asparagus.
  • Another option for a vegetable accompaniment is a cauliflower or broccoli gratin. This can be prepared in advance and only needs to be put in the oven to cook (alternatively it can be cooked in advance and re-heated in the microwave).
  • Make your Christmas pudding ahead of time – they really do get better with age. All you will need to do on the day is to steam it for 2 hours, and serve with either custard or brandy butter.
  • To flame your Christmas pudding, warm the brandy in a metal ladle over a gas flame or a lit candle, ignite it and pour the flaming brandy over the pudding. Don’t forget to turn the lights out for your grand entrance!

Contemporary Christmas Feast

Christmas Salad

As an alternative to the traditional Christmas feast, many Australians prefer the flexibility and creativity of a contemporary menu that incorporates cold dishes that can be prepared ahead of time.

A cold seafood entrée gets the meal off to a celebratory start, and refreshing Asian flavours are a lovely way to wake up the palate. If you’re having a hot main course, choose something that requires minimal last minute effort, like a rack of lamb or a fillet of beef. Serve special salads rather than hot vegetables, and for the sweet finale a trifle or a festive frozen dessert goes down a treat.

Here is an example of a delicious three-course contemporary Christmas dinner menu that we prepare in the life’s a feast Christmas Cooking Class:

Prawn & Toasted Coconut Salad

Herb-Crusted Fillet of Beef with Aioli
Garlic & Rosemary Roast Potatoes
Christmas Salad of Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes

Festive Tropical Trifle

Tropical Trifle

Whether you are serving a traditional or a contemporary meal, I highly recommend making a running sheet of everything that needs to be done once your guests arrive, including times. This way you will know exactly what needs to be done and when, and everything will run smoothly. It is also a useful reminder if you have enjoyed a couple of glasses of champagne!

On a finishing note, try to be a gracious host and enjoy yourself, even if things don’t go exactly according to plan. The attitude of the host dictates the atmosphere of the occasion. Entertaining should be an enjoyable and stress-free experience, and a relaxed host is the key to the best party!

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  1. Thanks for this…a good post just in time! we like the Tropical Trifle idea very, very much and will make this one for sure! best from Jefferson’s Table, s

  2. You’re welcome – the tropical trifle is definitely a winner!

  3. I love the chairs….simple and pretty. Thanks for sharing some helpful hints for Christmas food. I have yet to plan mine.

  4. Thank you Mary and Merry Christmas to you!

  5. I am going to remember what you wrote about how the attitude of the host dictates the atmosphere of the occassion! This entire post was full of such good advice. I adore your blog. It’s so versatile with your comments about making a list of what needs to be done before guests arrive. Oh! I know exactly what you mean. I love your content and so well organized. I shall be back for another bite!
    Hope we chat soon, Thank you for sharing, Gaby
    You can always visit me at http://ptsaldari.posterous.com.

  6. Hi Gaby, thank you for your lovely comment and I’m so glad you found the post useful. I will visit your blog now and look forward to reading about your adventures!

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