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First Christmas dinner I have ever cooked and it's for 15 people

(16 Posts)
theredhen Tue 13-Dec-11 11:46:37

Any advice and tips gratefully received.

Should I bother with a starter and if so, what? I won't be able to store 15 plates in the fridge for example. Should I just do nibbly type canape things for people when they arrive? What about desserts? I have a fridge freezer / small chest freezer and a larder fridge.

The oven I have is a double oven (2 slim ovens) with 8 rings. I definitely plan on doing my own roast potatoes and parsnips but everything else I am happy to have "shop made".

5 of the guests are teenage kids and there will be 1 x 8 year old, so I plan to put these on a different table to the main table. How can I decorate the tables? I work full time and have 5 kids to look after for a week in the run up to Christmas so I don't have time to be creative but any links to shop bought items would be helpful.

theredhen Tue 13-Dec-11 11:53:38

Actually, it's 16 people - I miscounted, not a good start! Still better to forget somebody now than on the day. lol

foolonthehill Tue 13-Dec-11 11:58:26

I never do a starter but just put out some nibbles to have with drinks before...If I did do a starter it would be smoked salmon on blinis that could be made the night before plated onto a big serving dish and covered with foil and cling....and probably put in a plastic box in the shed (mouse proofing is essential) as I wouldn't have space in fridge......

My main advice though is to do as much as possible ahead, veggies peeled, cut blanched and frozen, cabbage braised and frozen etc. I also have job and many children...i do one veg per evening the week before Christmas , Christmas puds pre-steamend so you can just microwave them to warm (or put them in the slow cooker) and I have festive icecream as an alternative but nothing else, then you only have to do the turkey and potatoes from scratch on the day...I even make a stuffing roll and freeze ahead so it can just be roasted with the roast pots whilst the turkey rests.

Or if time is short, buy the veggies, gravy, sauces, christmas puddings and just give yourself the minimum.

I decorate with a Red tablecloth with 2 glass bowls of Christmas bauble and a couple of candles (there are 22 of us so not much space for decorations) with crackers and paper napkins it looks fantastic...and no effort really.

I hope you enjoy your day,
Don't sweat the small stuff....everyone will be so grateful for your hosting...and even if you leave the parsnips in the oven (2 years runningblush) you'll still be the queen of Christmas!

CharminglyOdd Tue 13-Dec-11 12:05:30

I did this for my first Christmas dinner too (student house) smile

I started making things the day before: vegetarian option (tart that was then reheated), cake for the afternoon, sauces. Stuffing can be made in advance and frozen, but I just used instant stuff and rolled it into balls.

I also drew up a timetable for the day so I knew what I needed to catch up with/do next and asked for help with peeling vegetables. I used one oven to cook and the other to keep everything warm (roast veg, yorkshires etc.). If you roast carrots with the other veg then you can just shove some frozen peas on and it won't take very long. We also had two chickens instead of a turkey, which I think made space easier.

Everyone served themselves from bowls/platters, which cut down on the food getting cold and the hassle for me.

You could go retro with prawn cocktail, keep it in a big bowl in the fridge and dish it into wine glasses as people sit down? Have another small bowl with shredded iceberg and maybe some cut lemon to sit on the rim of the glass.

Or canapes would be fine: buy little crostini and pop pate on, get some cheese straws, breadsticks, cocktail stick things. The children could help with the cocktail stick canapes on Christmas Eve and you can fridge them/put them covered in the garage, if you have one, overnight - it should be cold enough to act as a fridge!

Decorating: Christmas table confetti and red candles? Get the children to make decorations to keep them busy that week?

Earlybird Tue 13-Dec-11 12:09:57

If you know them well, why don't you ask your guests to bring a dish of something? Salad, nibbles, pudding, etc. That way you can concentrate on doing the main, gettting the house ready, setting the table, etc.

More and more, when going to a big holiday meal at someone's home, guests are asked to bring a dish (fruit salad, green salad, bread, etc - something that can be transported relatively easily). I make sure to bring a pretty serving dish too, so my host isn't scrabbling around looking for something suitable as guests are arriving.

Don't put too much pressure on yourself. You want to have fun too!

theredhen Tue 13-Dec-11 15:59:54

Well I've already had offers of Cauli cheese, cheesy leeks and someone else to cook the turkey. smile

I do like the idea of doing some smoked salmon nibbles but I'm sure I can buy some ready made. I like the idea of the baubles in a bowl.

mateysmum Tue 13-Dec-11 16:13:56

Make yourself a time plan detailing each item and when it needs to go in to the oven/on the heat and decide what pans/dishes you are going to use to cook/serve each item. You can do this and get them all out the day before. May seem a bit anal, but it really relieves stress and helps you to remember everything. The blessed Delia is great on giving timings etc.
Do nibbles rather than a starter as there is always too much to eat anyway.
Peel all veggies the day before (or get someone else to do it!) and put them in plastic bags and potatoes in cold water. Put bacon/sausages on trays ready for the oven.
Think about how you are going to use you oven/burners - with 8 you should have loads of space.
For the table, I would just get a disposable paper cloth and napkins and have a bit of holly/candles in the middle.
Set the table the day before too.
And getting others to bring maybe a stuffing/dessert/nibbles etc is more than fair, but you need to let them know asap.
And finally - have a platoon detailed to do all the clearing up whilst you put your feet up and have a well earned drinky.
Good Luck.

PastGrace Tue 13-Dec-11 16:15:04

I say make use of the children/teenagers!

My sister and I still do the table - one of us takes responsibility for the centrepiece and then trails around the garden cutting greenery and sticking it into oasis, the other one polishes the table and lays it up nicely. We normally find that the table is so full of food that you don't need much decoration - tea lights in little glasses (Ikea is your friend if there's one nearby) just reflect off the glasses and look really pretty, and that's about it. We do it on Christmas Eve, so recruit anyone who is hanging around looking bored.

If you have a seating plan then get children to make place cards - just little pieces of card and arm them with glitter glue and pens (and maybe some of that foil confetti stuff)

You can free up fridge space the night before/in the morning by putting any drinks that need chilling outside - the bottles will stay sealed, so that's fine, and it should be cold enough to get them nice and chilled.

Can't really help with links to stuff, but my mum's helpful tip (as someone who either cooks Christmas dinner for 4 or for a whole table full) is that actually it's no more difficult doing it for lots of people. The difficult bit is timing, but that's not really made harder by having more people. With a double oven you should be ok on space, but if not remember that the turkey is improved by leaving it to rest, so you can then reclaim your other oven.

BarkisIsWillin Tue 13-Dec-11 17:12:45

If it's really cold, people might appreciate soup or chowder. All you have to do is serve with some bread (a couple of different types might be nice). When you have decided on the menu, carefully think what pots/pans/ serving dishes, oven space, ring etc. each will need and make a list of this. If you have a dishwasher make sure you start off with it empty, ditto for kitchen bin. Make sure you have plenty of teatowels, oven gloves, cleaning cloths, kitchen paper etc to hand.

BarkisIsWillin Tue 13-Dec-11 17:14:01

By the way, hats off to you for doing it for 15 people! One job you can definitely delegate is carving - make sure you pick someone likely to be really good at it!

gregssausageroll Tue 13-Dec-11 19:26:13

I am doing 19 on boxing day.

No starter.
Roast Beef, Nigella's Ham and Coke with loads of veg and roasties, gravy, yorkies etc.

I cheat (shoot me!) and use ready prepared roasties.

I have a large steamer to cope with all the veg.

Ham is done the night before so only needs its final roasting which I do during the later stages of the beef being in the oven. The meats come out, roasties go in with pigs in blankets. Veg in steamer, gravy on hob, job done.

My guests bring contributions for pudding and cheese and biccies.

It is really is just about planning - I also cheat with my veg as that is all ready prepared (a bit more expensive but easy peasy).

It is all about timing. Work out what you are buying and write it all down. Work backwards. Delegate jobs when you are preparing. Most importantly, it is just a big roast dinner so try and not get too worried about it. Dinner will be ready when its ready - so what if it is half an hour late!

Sleepyspaniel Wed 14-Dec-11 15:59:24

Definitely soup to start - make a big pan of it well in advance. Chestnut Soup with Bacon & Thyme croutons here here or just a basic vegetable soup is good. Nothing too heavy though. Get some part baked bread rolls in advance (then you don't have to worry about staleness) and bung them in the oven whilst heating up the soup.

Make sure you have a couple of steamers to cope with all the veggies - Asda do a good one that doesn't cost much. Don't rely on one steamer, it won't be enough.

Buy in some cartons of decent fresh gravy in advance and freeze it if necessary. If you manage to make gravy on the day, great. If it turns out badly then you have a backup and nobody will notice the difference anyway.

Buy turkey crowns not a whole turkey. Again, everyone gets a "nice" bit, no legs/breast arguments, easier to cook - everything to love about this! M&S do a really good one.

Cover and decorate both the tables the same. ie a simple white tablecloth, for continuity. Crackers, obviously, and festive serviettes (unless you have 15 napkins of course!) Brightly coloured cheap baubles in a glass bowl look good mixd in with battery powered white fairy lights on the table. ie here

Or get those cheap greenery garlands and wrap the battery fairy lights around them for the table.

Definitely get a Christmas pud in but some frozen type ice cream pudding will probably go down equally well especially with the younger ones. I am thinking Vienetta type desserts (retro oldie but still goodie with youngsters!)

SnowmanDaveIsVeryFestive Wed 14-Dec-11 20:12:10

Braised red cabbage in the freezer. See Delia - its better for freezing in fact.
If you can find the time, peel, blanch, into iced water and then freeze your own sprouts beforehand. Taste waaaay better than shop bought frozen and you won't notice the difference from fresh.
Ditto sliced carrots. Or do mashed carrot & swede & freeze beforehand.
Canapes, I would put out a nice-ish wooden chopping board, sharp knife and a whole salami or chorizo for people to cut themselves. Add a bowl of something pickled & sharp-tasting to go with - cornichons, slices of gherkin, pickled onions or capers, something like that, plus some crisps and that would do for something to nibble with drinks. A big bowl of prawn cocktail, along with leaves of Little Gem lettuce in another bowl to act as wee cups would be easy too and no washing up.
If you can be arsed, make up a batch of Jamie's chicken wing gravy beforehand and freeze. Then on the day you can heat up and just add the turkey juices et voila! super speedy gravy.
Table - by the time you've done with cutlery, glasses & condiments I would just stick to crackers TBH. And maybe candles on the grown up table.
Drinks - set up an "area" somewhere with glasses, corkscrew, bottle opener, ice, spirits, mixers etc., preferably well away from where you are cooking otherwise folks will irritate the hell out of you making drinks up and faffing around. That way, folks can help themselves.
Have a bit of a sort out - if you are serving up in dishes etc, dig them all out plus serving spoons in advance. Tis a pain in the arse to be titting about hunting for a slotted spoon at the last moment. If you are plating up, then factor in the plates being warmed.
M&S stuffing is always fab, as is their braised cabbage and bread sauce.

SnowmanDaveIsVeryFestive Wed 14-Dec-11 20:18:06

If its possible, lay the table in advance - I have been known to do ost of it a week ahead blush but then I am lucky to have a dining room & a kitchen table so its not a problem. The less you have to do "on the day" the better IMHO.

isthistoonosy Thu 22-Dec-16 11:54:59

We had 13 a couple of yrs ago, which was the first xmas dinner we had hosted or even cooked. (Although at 7am we were expecting 7 so that was fun finding food for 6 extra people on the morning of the 25th.)

We peeled veg and potatoes the night before and left them in cold water. Turned these on when we got up and then were able to rotate trays of them in the oven so they were all done on time.

Chopped onions and garlic and had that in the fridge, to go in with the meat 40min or so before it was finished and had the cauliflower cheese in the fridge ready to go in the oven when the meat came out.
Somebody brought the gravy, as it was a proper homemade one, which is beyond our cooking skills.

Pudding was fruit salad and a chocolate cake with vanilla sauce, so not much to prep after dinner.
Nibbles and hot alcoholic (opt) pre drink as a starter and then coffee and after eights at the end of the meal.

We could only lay the table after breakfast but went simple with candles, napkins, and some twigs/sprigs from the xmas tree.

We also have 16 this year and to add to the excitement we are getting a live turkey this afternoon so will prep him tomorrow while trying to make the house look a little less like a bomb hit it and putting up all the xmas decorations and tree.
A little hectic but at least the toddlers should find the day exciting and in comparison cooking a roast seems easy!

WeAllHaveWings Thu 22-Dec-16 12:52:02

yes, to set table the day before.

if I have a huge number I let them serve themselves and put food in serving dishes in the middle for starter and pud. makes it a lot easier and people can take as much or little as they want.

for main I put turkey/ham/maybe stuffing on the plates (an extra on a big plate for those who want seconds and let them help themselves to roasties, parsnips, veg, sauces.

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