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Don't be daunted by the prospect of hosting a Christmas feast. With these expert tips on preparing for the big day, you'll be able to savour the season with your serenity intact.
1. Shop for success
Master your Christmas shopping strategy and you're already a step ahead, says cookbook author and cooking teacher Kim Terakes.
"Fifteen years running a cooking school and hundreds of dinner parties taught me to write the perfect shopping list," he says.
"Running back to the shops because you forgot the sherry vinegar or thought there was cumin in the cupboard is so dreary."
Terakes writes his menu at the top of the page, then draws columns for fruit and veg, meat, non-perishables and drinks – plus a column for pantry.
"In the latter, I check that I have basics like flour, sugar and dry spices that I need for the recipes," he says.
And there's no need to brave that pre-Christmas chaos at the fish markets, adds Terakes.
"I buy XL king prawns still frozen in advance and thaw them out in salted water on Christmas morning. Then split them down the middle and throw on a screaming hot barbie or under a grill for a minute."
You could also make life a little easier with this nifty shopping list app.
2. Make space
Can your fridge cope? It's a simple question that's been the undoing of many a Christmas host, says Terakes.
"I had a mate who bought a turkey nearly as big as himself one Christmas Eve, then realised he couldn't fit a quail in the fridge, let alone a turkey," he says.
The problem was solved with a new garbage bin and a lot of ice.
"The bottom line is, you have to think about fitting all your Christmas food in your fridge," says Terakes.
"Putting all the booze in a tub with ice is one solution. And you'll be surprised how quickly drinks chill in an ice bath."
3. Play to your strengths
While we all love the traditional Christmas staples, such as roast Turkey, there are no rules for a festive feast, says Terakes.
He suggests adding variety with some of your own favourites.
"Think about a whole eye fillet (served hot or cold), cooked in the oven or on the barbie. Poach a whole salmon and serve it with lots of interesting salads," he suggests.
"Not being much of a traditionalist, I'm happy to cook Thai one year, Italian or Chinese the next. And with Italian, everyone can chip in and bring a dish."
The same applies to drinks, adds Terakes. "Christmas Day is the time to do something different. Start with Champagne or sparkling wine or better still, a cocktail. Aperol spritz is refreshing on a hot day and not too boozy."
Sparkling shiraz is a Christmas favourite for a good reason, he says, because "it works so nicely with ham." Pair it with a delicious crunchy (and award -winning) crackling ham from Coles.
Enjoy a crackling ham this Christmas. Photo: Supplied.
4. Assemble your tools
Set your kitchen up well in advance, and ensure you have all the equipment on hand for perfect presentation, advises Terakes.
"It is really dull remembering that you need the platter at the back of the bottom kitchen cupboard when the asparagus is just al dente and needs to be eaten straight away," he says.
"I go through the menu dish by dish and work out which serving plates, carafes, condiments and cutlery are needed, to minimise the last-minute panic."
5. Prep like a pro
Pre-prepare as much as possible to ensure you leave time on the day for those dishes that need to be served super-fresh.
"My pet peeve is to see the salad already made and dressed when I arrive, an hour or two before a wilted mess is served," says Terakes.
"You should have made your Christmas cake and pudding already. Make your salad dressings the night before, if you like, and keep them in a sealed container in the fridge."
He recommends marinating the day before, or on Christmas morning: "Vegetables can be peeled and refrigerated and salad greens can be washed, dried and go back in the fridge in a plastic bag."
Coles Crackling Ham is made using 100% Aussie, sow stall free pork. With juicy, smoked ham on the inside and delicious crunchy crackling on the outside, it's no wonder it was voted Product of the Year in 2020. Winner of Heat & Eat Category. Survey of 10,000 people by Nielsen. Head to coles.com.au/cracklingham to watch how easy it is to make a delicious, crackling ham this Christmas, so you can enjoy Christmas the Australian Way.