You don’t need to be out and about to enjoy a magical Christmas lunch – in fact there’s nothing quite like sitting around a beautiful table with your friends and family at home, pulling Christmas crackers and telling jokes as everyone enjoys a great big meal. That said, there’s an awful lot of planning and panicking behind the scenes when you’re the one hosting! We’ve asked a few of our friends and contributors for their help with ideas to take a load off your shoulders this year mama, so that you can rest and relax with a glass of bubbly in hand. Check out our guide to creating the perfect Christmas at home below….
First things first, you’ve got to plan your Christmas table décor to provide the perfect setting for that Christmas feast. Create a dreamy tablescape whether you’ve got guests coming or you’ll be sitting down to eat as a fam, this is one occasion to go all out and make your meal magical.
Before setting your table, lay the foundation with a table runner sprinkled with glitter or Christmas confetti – use a strip of fabric (our good old friend Satwa is the place to go) or even crepe paper. Set the mood with lots of little tea-light candles and a couple of tall vases filled with sparkly baubles.
Our lovely interiors contributor Kath of House of Hawkes recently got together with 3 other very talented bloggers – Jacqui from Brooke Eva, Linda from Live Loud Girl, and the super artistic, Camilla from Best of Two Sisters. The four of them worked on a festive collaboration on how to do a stylish Christmas in Dubai with a black, white, gold and green theme.
If you want to go all out traditional then we love the Zara Home range of table wear – from table cloths to china and plenty of little accessories to give your table a seasonal makeover.
Add a little Christmas fun to your table with foodie contributor Fiona’s Christmas tree napkins – so easy and SO cute! Follow this YouTube link to do it yourself. The Linen Souk has a huge range of gorgeous napkins guaranteed to add that special touch.
Make each of your guests feel special with personalised place settings – try tying a name tag to a bauble or wrapping a sprig of rosemary and cinnamon stick with ribbon for easy but effective place settings
What’s a party without music? We sought help from some of Dubai’s best known radio presenters to help set the scene for some serious merrymaking.
Stef Burgon (aka Geordiebird) of Dubai 92 fame likes to start her day milling around and opening presents with the radio on in the background for lots of Christmas music and some good Christmas content too. While doing the cooking, she throws on some LP’s – her favourites at the moment are Arctic Monkeys AM, The Best Of Otis Redding, Fleetwood Mac Rumours, Lykke Li – I Never Learn and She & Him Volume 3.
For partying the night away, Stef recommends catering for a few different age groups and sticking to the biggies like Queen, Michael Jackson, Elton, Rolling Stones, New Order and The Eagles.
Our good pal Jeff Price from Pearl FM likes to go traditional with his top picks on Christmas Day:
Band Aid – Do They Know Its Christmas
Chris Rea – Driving Home for Christmas
Greg Lake – I Believe in Father Christmas
Dean Martin – Let It Snow
Bing Crosby – White Christmas
Michael Bublé – It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas (apparently on loop in Jeff’s house at the moment!)
The Jackson Five – Frosty The Snowman
Aled jones – Walking in the Air
Kylie Minogue’s – Santa Baby (Michael Bublé also does a great version)
John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s – Happy Christmas (War Is Over) (we love this song)
Slade – Merry Christmas Everybody
Wizzard – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday
Mariah Carey – All I Want for Christmas is YOU
Whether you’re going for turkey or seafood, cooking in or taking away, we’ve got something for all you mamas out there!
For a laid back Christmas, order takeaway and enjoy a delicious feast in the comfort of your home, made by some of the most talented chefs in Dubers! Go for a hotel close to your home, order in advance, pick up on the day of your party and serve…. Most of the city’s top restaurants also offer a complete Christmas dinner takeaway. The Ivy can roast up a turkey with all trimmings including gravy plus 2 sauces, 4 vegetables, Christmas pudding and mince pies serving 8 generously for AED 999. We’re not just talking turkey, they also offer a roast rib eye of beef including trimmings for the same price. For a sophisticated Christmas French style, Reflets Par Pierre Gagniere can roast a goose complete with foie gras, chestnuts & gratin dauphinoise…ooh la la!
No time to pick up? Order online from Casseroleonline.com who will deliver traditional roast turkey and all the trimmings (from AED 450 for 6-8 people) directly to your home. Or if it’s seafood you’re craving then try many a chef’s (and Sassy Mama’s) absolute favourite Market & Platters whose amazing deli style store in Dubai Marina is seriously worth a visit and who make eating in the new eating out. Delivering beautifully plated and ready to be devoured options, these guys do it all in style.
Want a light option? Go for Market & Platters Burrata (AED 38) served with basil leaves (AED 20 for a generous bunch), olive oil pearls (AED 79) and heirloom tomatoes (available at all good supermarkets and grocery stores) and mopped up with their homemade bread.
Follow with a 38 piece Sushi Platter (AED 179) and finish with Panettone al Ciocolatta from the Antica Pasticceria (AED 122). Heavenly.
Or if you want to impress and food is your thing, go all out with a Market & Platters epicurean feast including Foie Gras (AED 109), the amazing ‘Jumeirah Platter’ complete with whole lobster, whole crab, oysters, king crab claw, langoustines, prawns, brown shrimps, whelks and including shallot vinegar, aioli, marie rose sauces and individual salty butters (AED 640) and a mixed Cheese Platter (AED 160). Believe us mamas, their portions are generous and the quality is outstanding.
Cooking At Home
From the main course to the party puddings, whatever festive feast you’re throwing this Christmas, eat, drink and be merry with Fiona’s selection of fabulous recipes.
Go retro with a prawn cocktail that’s easy to make and light enough to leave plenty of room for what’s to follow.
Ingredients (serves 6):
30 – 36 large cooked, peeled prawns
3 baby gem lettuces
3 spring onions
6 glasses (the old fashioned champagne saucers work really well)
Use a sharp knife to shred 3 washed baby gem lettuces very finely, divide between the glasses.
Shred 3 washed spring onions even more finely, sprinkle on top.
Chop 1 ready to eat avocado into 1 cm cubes and share between glasses.
Arrange as many cooked peeled prawns as you can fit around the lip of the glass with tails hanging over the edge (at least 5 per glass).
For the Marie Rose dressing, combine 3 tablespoons excellent quality mayonnaise with 1 teaspoon tomato puree, juice of half a lemon, tabasco to taste and a healthy shake of celery salt (optional). Very neatly pour or spoon the sauce into the central well created by the prawn arrangement. Garnish with a lemon twist and parsley leaf for utter retro chic.
For a foolproof way to cook perfect turkey and prevent a dry poultry disaster, try this trick using butter and muslin (don’t be shocked by the quantity of butter – only one generous basting is needed halfway through cooking – and it is Christmas after all).
Ingredients (serves 6 with leftovers):
6kg turkey at room temperature (best to have the bird out of the fridge at least 1 hour before roasting.
600g salted butter (softened)
handful parsley washed and roughly chopped
1 dessertspoon of washed thyme leaves
1 1/2 metres of butter muslin (available from Fida or Ribbons & Threads, Satwa)
Freshly Ground Pepper
Preheat oven to 180 C
Wash, scrape and roughly chop carrots and onion
Place carrots, onion and quartered apple (no need to peel this) and 250g butter inside the cavity of turkey
Combine remaining butter with parsley and thyme. Smear all over the outside skin of the bird.
Place turkey on double thickness of muslin. Season generously all over with sea salt and ground pepper.
Wrap up as follows – top left to bottom right, bottom left to top right. Ensure the entire turkey is fully covered. Secure with cocktail sticks.
Place turkey on a wire rack in strong roasting tin. Roast at 180 C for four hours. Baste half way through cooking. For the final 30 minutes remove the muslin if necessary to brown the turkey.
To test for cooking pierce the skin between the breast and the leg. If the juices run clear your turkey is cooked. If not, roast for a further 15 minutes and test again, repeating the process until the bird is done.
Once fully cooked remove from oven and allow to rest under a loose tent of foil for 30 mins before serving and carving.
Fabulous – you’ll never look back.
Pre-order your gravy at Fairmont, The Palm where you can pick and choose items from their festive menu (including stuffing and sides) rather than going for the whole meal. Order in advance and pop in the freezer for the big day. Or ask your preferred supermarket if it’s possible to buy individual portions of gravy – get in advance and freeze.
The vegetarian option:
Make sure that non-meat-eaters are looked after and not subjected to another nut roast by serving Fiona’s Open Mushroom, Walnut, Gorgonzola Tart.
Ingredients (serves 6)
For the base:
1 sheet defrosted, ready-rolled puff pastry
For the topping:
100g crème fraiche
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp chopped garlic
100g red onions thinly sliced into half-moon shapes
300g mixed mushrooms
100g gorgonzola cheese sliced into thin triangles
A pinch of ground black pepper
A pinch of Maldon sea salt
50g chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Unroll the puff pastry sheet onto a baking sheet lined with non-stick parchment.
Spread the sour cream evenly over the pastry base.
Add the thyme leaves, garlic, onions, and mushrooms.
Top with a sprinkling of black pepper and sea salt.
Finally tuck the gorgonzola slices between the ingredients evenly over the tart.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until the base is crisp and the topping has melted.
Garnish with a sprig of thyme and serve.
Ditch the sprouts this year (who likes those anyway) and wow your guests with a rhubarb chard with cranberries and walnuts to accompany your roast.
Ingredients (serves 6):
150g fresh cranberries
750g – 1kg rhubarb chard
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 medium sized chili finely chopped (optional)
2-3 tbsp’s olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
25 g salted butter
150 g chopped lightly toasted walnuts
100g finely grated parmiggiano reggiano
Place the basil leaves, roughly chopped garlic, olive oil, lightly toasted pine kernels with the salt & pepper into the bowl of a food processor or blender jar
Ladle 2 spoons of boiling water over the dried cranberries and set aside to soak
Rinse the chard and remove and discard the bottom 1cm of the stems. Cut the remaining stems crosswise into 1cm slices and set aside. Roll up and shred the leaves into 1 cm widths.
Warm the olive oil in a large pan on high heat. Add theh chard stems with the salt, pepper and nutmeg and sizzle for a minute.
Add the garlic, ghilli and chard leaves, turning constantly using kitchen tongs. The chard is ready when just collapsing but leaves remain bright green (about 3-5 mins)
Drain the soaked cranberries
Serve the garlicky chili chard in a large warmed serving dish, sprinkling over plumped hot cranberries and toasted walnuts. Generously sprinkle with parmesan.
For sensational spuds go for Hassleback potatoes – the Swedish equivalent of roasties which are utterly delicious and look super cool too.
Ingredients (serves 6):
Sea salt and black pepper
Wash and peel potatoes, halve lengthways. Carefully slice potatoes vertically almost but not totally through. Brush generously with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt (Maldon) and pepper, tuck in some slivers of garlic if you fancy. Roast on a baking sheet lined with parchment at 200 C until crispy and tender.
Kids often prefer mashed potatoes to roast (but we can guarantee that the grown-ups won’t be able to keep their forks out of Fiona’s mash recipe)
Ingredients (serves 6):
1kg Saudi, lebanese potatoes, washed, peeled and quartered
1 teaspoon maldon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Fill a large pan with water and bring to a rolling boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the potato quarters. Once potatoes are bubbling nicely, lower the heat to medium, cover and cook until potatoes are very tender, as in almost falling apart – resist any temptation to stir or move potatoes.
Gently drain all water from the potatoes in the pan. Replace potatoes onto a medium heat, cover with a lid, shake and allow potato quarters to steam for 2 minutes. This ensures they are thoroughly cooked, fluffy, dry and lump free.
Keeping the potatoes on the heat, add in the milk, butter, salt & pepper. Warm until the milk reaches boiling point and the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and mash potatoes thoroughly for about 5 minutes using an electric food mixer or a potato masher. Scrape down the sides from time to time to ensure that all potato has been evenly mashed, therefore lump free. Test for seasoning adding extra salt or pepper as required. Be careful to ensure that potatoes are fluffy, white and lump free before serving.
Transfer to a pre-warmed bowl. Potatoes stay hot and fluffy if kept in a warm oven around 70 C for at least 1 hour. If you are serving from cold, reheat for 3-4 minutes in microwave.
Variations – at the mashing stage add in:
250g cooked hot carrots – in Belgium this is known as stoemp.
10 spring onions finely sliced – in Ireland this is called Champ – parsley can also be added
500g cooked shredded cabbage – in Ireland this is Colcannon, strew generous amounts of crispy bacon pieces on top.
100g crème fraiche, 250 g tome cheese, 2 cloves chopped garlic – in France this is known as Aligot – must be mashed and beaten to a cheesy stretchy stage!!
With the main course done, give yourself a break and cheat a little for dessert with Fiona’s alternative Christmas cakes (which can also double up as a fab centre piece!). Fashion a tree from white chocolate, crunchy cereal and dried cranberries or make adorable icing stars to stick on cupcakes as adorable embellishments. See Fiona’s recipes here.
What’s Christmas without a mince pie? At this stage our guilty secret is to invite Mr. Kipling to the table – or go to Marks and Spencer, Spinneys, Waitrose or Park n Shop for very good alternatives (just make sure to serve warm and drizzle with double cream).
All that’s left is to sit back and enjoy the rest of your Christmas Day (oh and maybe a little washing up – but we think that papa and the kiddos can get that sorted mamas!).