Christmas entertaining made easy, with Sarah Raven

Eve O'Sullivan
14 December, 2015

This year, all we want for Christmas is no cooking fails, and the only way to do it is by heeding advice from a pro. We asked Sarah Raven how she makes sure her festive entertaining runs smoothly, and found out what she will be eating on the day.

What are the most common mistakes people make when food shopping at Christmas?

Doing it too early - so that for instance the turkey goes off! Our domestic fridges are not brilliant at keeping things below 5C, so they’re better off staying with the butcher as long as possible. But on the other hand don’t leave it until Christmas Eve, either. I did that one year and there was not a bird to be found.

Could you tell us the three golden rules of party food?

Make your canapés before and freeze them - there are plenty of things that can be cooked straight from frozen, for example the borek in my Christmas book, or you can make very cheesy biscuits and keep them fine in an airtight tin.

Everyone loves a blini topped with cured fish - with shots of vodka or champagne cocktails to wash them down. These feel super festive, but again you can make the pancakes before and heat them up and the fish is there just ready and waiting with no cooking.

Don’t make your cocktails too lethal. I think champagne cocktails with fizzy water in them - as well as a splash of brandy - are a safe bet, tasty and civilised.

What is your favourite meat to eat on Christmas Day?

I do love a goose, but my advice is don’t choose this if you are feeding more than four, or possibly six. There just isn’t enough. I love game, too, so meat such as venison is tops with me.

What advice would you give to families with different dietary requirements?

My daughter is vegetarian, but is totally happy at Christmas because there are so many fantastic vegetables on offer, so just make sure some love and care are put into them. Also, we always make no-meat stuffing balls.

There are lots of lovely table decorations in Complete Christmas, do you have a favourite?

The Nero ring table centre, which sits on the shoulders of a vase with a candle on a plate in the middle. It’s dead-easy and looks marvellous!

If you’ve been invited to spend Christmas Day with someone and asked to bring a dish, what would you pick?

A gratin every time; a sweet potato and coconut gratin, or maybe a chicory gratin.

People tend to really overstretch themselves when it comes to cooking at Christmas… could you suggest three shortcuts, or ways for people to cut down?

Ask friends or family to bring something already cooked so you’re not all fighting for the oven and hob; make the bread sauce and stuffing way in advance, then freeze and just pop in the oven on the day, and order a ham to cook yourself (or better still find a butcher who does this). It makes a great lunch or dinner any of the festive days.

What’s the best value cocktail to make for a party?

I love Asolanos - campari, fresh orange juice and fizzy water. Don’t use prosecco - this makes it too strong!

What is your favourite day over the festive season?

I love dinner on Christmas Eve when everyone arrives; there’s such a sense of party and anticipation.

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