A few years back I made the conscious choice that I wasn’t going to hate on the holidays anymore. My immediate family has a real hate on for the festive season, and for fuck sake it is quite depressing and I want none of it anymore. Winter sucks enough to have to deal with sour faces and bullshit family shit. That being said, I’m not really for all the fancy-pants foo-foo cocktail parties and what-not, but for some this is a fantastic time for that sort of thing. Paul Squire, owner of London-based boutique caterers Cook and Waiter, has a few tips for those of you who feel the need to ramp up the party this season. Me, I’ll set some wood on fire and bash back some single malt, maybe cook a bird. Merry Ho Ho or whatever. – FATS
Planning a Christmas party can be a stressful experience – but it doesn’t necessarily need to end in you frantically lighting tea lights and shoving mini-pizzas into the oven 10 minutes before the guests are due (as certain Stylist staffers have been known to do). We’ve teamed up with Paul Squire, owner of London-based boutique caterers Cook and Waiter, to bring you some straight-forward and original tips in planning a perfect Christmas party. From mouth-watering recipes to advice on special diets and table decoration tips, read on to find out how you can breeze your way through an event, whether that’s an intimate dinner or a larger gathering…
Many hands make light work
Feeling festive conjures up childhood memories for most of us. I love the camaraderie of a party and sense of family that’s celebrated at Christmas time. Part of this joy starts with preparing for Christmas as a family and we always get everyone involved; setting the table, choosing the wine, selecting some festive music and prepping the vegetables together on Christmas Eve.
Think creatively with table decorations
Food is often the centre of attention, but it’s important to have considered the other components in creating the right atmosphere for a Christmas party. Candles are beautiful, I like to use lots of them and create a soft, cozy atmosphere. Keep any table flowers simple and low, so as not to obstruct eye contact or use some lovely potted herbs as table decorations that can double as a gift for your guests on departure.
Get mulling like mad
I normally have a batch of mulled wine on the go from the end of November! Fill your home with all those wonderful smells before guests enter. I’d suggest leaving your saucepan of mulled wine on the stove 30 minutes before you expect your guests to arrive, which is plenty of time to let the festive spices fill the home. You can also prepare small parcels of cinnamon, cloves and dried citrus fruits in muslin, place these on radiators to bring extra festive aromas into your home.
Plan your aperitifs with care
Don’t give your guests too much to eat ahead of your festive feasts! More than likely you’ll be serving more food than they would normally eat at the table and it’s good to have them sitting down feeling hungry. Try these to serve before a meal.
Recipe: parmesan and sage wafers
Finely grated parmesan (start with 200g, but grate more depending on how many you’d like to make)
Chopped sage leaves – approx.10 for every 200g of cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 180C
2. Mix the parmesan and sage leaves together
3. Line a baking tray with silicone paper or a silicone mat
4. Place one dessert spoon into a round pastry cutter on your tray and pat down, so the cheese is spread evenly
5. Once you’ve got a full tray, place into the oven for 15 minutes. They should bubble and turn golden. When they have cooled they turn crisp and can be easily removed. We place them in stacks on a plate for people to nibble on before dinner – they are light and a perfect accompaniment to a glass of fizz.