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I love hosting Christmas Day. For som it is a stressful experience, but for me it is a treasure. When I was growing up, I could not wait to put on my own Christmas lunch; seating my guests at a beautifully laid table, the smell of brandy butter in the air, a real tree glistening with beautiful baubles in the background and lots of Champagne.
For me, there are two key ingredients that make Christmas a success – food and laughter. I have hosted Christmas dinner at my home, my sanctuary in the Middle of England, for the past five years.
My guests are always family and close friends, but food is my real guest of honour!
I just love turkey; I cook it all year around, so I hate it when people cook their “I’m sick of turkey” alternatives. My turkey is stuffed with my mother-in-law’s secret recipe of creamy mashed potatoes mixed with fried (softened) onions and tons of sage. It is just delicious. Brussels are always par-boiled, then stir-fried (until soft) with bacon and a little bit of chestnut.
Carrots are cooked in a mixture of water and orange juice, then covered in butter and thyme. Yum. Roast potatoes are the heart of any good roast, so mine are roasted with parsnips in goose fat – crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. My daughter always makes the gravy – I’ve no idea how – but it’s just wonderful and contains fresh cranberries.
In the end, there is so much food that we have to set it up on a separate table, as there is never enough room for all the plates, wine, glasses, candles and crackers!
We always start drinking early with a Champagne breakfast, to toast the year that has passed. The kids open their stockings, which are always full of sweets, so they have a breakfast of cola bottles, sour cherries, Black Jacks and flying saucers. What the heck, it’s Christmas Day!
Lunch is always at 1pm as we like to watch the Queen’s speech at 3pm, and there is music, usually Frank Sinatra or something “old” as my kids would say! Plenty of cheers and lots more toasts.
The wine selection is my husband’s department. He buys something unusual, something with a story attached to it. Last year, he bought a red wine that was a 1996 claret, the year my daughter was born. The wine was described as “very lovely, truly exceptional, and classy”, but she didn’t return the compliment. “Men,” she said to her dad, “start as grapes and it’s up to a woman to stamp the hell out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have dinner with!”
After the marathon turkey meal comes the dessert. Always Christmas pussing for my mum and dad (I cannot stand it), but I do love a trifle. I make a vodka and white chocolate version in one of Paul’s old “Man of the Match” crystal bowls from his football playing days. I remember when he got it in 1998, we thought it was something an old person would like! Now we are those two old persons… we love it!
Tea is Christmas cake, my favourite, with loads of marzipan and icing (shop bought, because frankly who has time to make their own cake…maybe next year!) and cold turkey sandwiches. We stagger to bed acknowledging that it is true…you can put on 2lbs in one day!
Christmas can’t be found in a present under the tree. Christmas is all about the rich relationships you have with the people you love. So whether you’re commemorating Chanukah, Pancha Ganapati, Bodhi Day or Christmas Day, the celebration has meaning only if how you feel on that day stays with you all year round.