Personally, we start planning Christmas food from 1st October! With a family as complicated as ours, there are so many different tastes and eating events to think about; from drinks parties for friends and neighbours to the big event itself.

My favourite though is not Christmas Day but Christmas Eve, when the sense of excitement and anticipation wafts through the house, carried on scents of Cinnamon, Ginger and fragrant candles. The simple joy of cooking the Christmas Eve meal through the years has filled the memories of our extended, sprawling family and they would never stand for these traditions to be broken. So it looks like we will be doing this until we are at least 90!

The Christmas Eve meal is the first meal to be planned and it’s a tricky business, full of interruptions, with visitors popping in to drop presents off or pick them up; but mostly to share a drink and nibbles. So the first thing we decide is what we can have ready that’s tasty, quick and can be handed around, usually in the kitchen where everyone vies for a spot next to the Aga. I always like something home-made maybe with a touch of the unexpected and definitely no mince pies; everyone is far too conscious of their waistline to eat too much pastry.

Being a cheese-lover I always have to have something with cheese and a generous cheese board laden with old favourites and some new finds, is such a social treat, with people helping themselves to great hunks of Stilton, crusty bread or biscuits, grapes and maybe some Belotta Ham (which I love almost as much as cheese!). I really like a thin and crispy Onion tart that can be cut into bite-sizes pieces and served on a lovely wooden board. Very French!!

The Christmas Eve meal itself has ranged from home-cured Pastrami to Lobster Rolls but is always a contrast to the more traditional Christmas Lunch. This year we have opted for a help-yourself buffet of interesting options, given we have to now cater for Vegan tastes and Fi’s latest squeeze who is Peruvian. I have been tasked with researching Nikkei Cuisine which is a cross between Japanese and Peruvian food. This will be interesting.

Christmas Day has to be a show-stopper. They all demand it. Grand, generous, delicious and the setting of the table is judged by the standards of previous years. So no pressure at all then!!

First I pick a ‘feel’ that I want to achieve. This year I want to mix crisp white china with tinkling pretty glassware, jewel-coloured water glasses, dramatic cutlery and a beautiful centrepiece. I always have to have an accent colour and because we have so much greenery outside our dining room, I want purple which will look stunning against the green.

I forge the woods for interesting twigs. Sometimes I leave them au naturel if I am aiming for a darker theme, but this year I have sprayed them copper, which mixes beautifully with the white and the purple. I have also tied a sprig of Rosemary with a stick of cinnamon for a simple yet beautiful place setting. It also smells amazing!

I have chosen plates that have really interesting textures on the rim, with a slightly different pattern on the starter plate to the main course.

For starters I have opted for lightly smoked salmon. Even though it looks stunning, the art is in the arranging of the food on the plate. This is how the chefs do it. Mine won’t look that good but I will try. I hope our Peruvian guest appreciates the yuzu I have had to hunt high and low for!

The main course plate needs to be simple as there will be so many elements on the plate that you can’t really take chances of the plate fighting with the food for attention.

This plate really shows off the food, making it centre stage. With such a crisp, white canvas, you can really work hard to try and create a work of art! I hope the plate will do the same for our Roast Goose.

As our cutlery was reaching the end of its life, given we only have 5 forks, 7 knives and 2 spoons left from the original set (does the dishwasher eat spoons?), I have treated us to a new set, just in time for Christmas. I am being bold, in choosing something entirely different. Instead of shiny cutlery that shows all the finger marks, I have a lovely set in a beautiful bronze finish that will save me valuable minutes in not having to polish. They also add colour to the table and complement the rest of the tableware perfectly.

The glassware is a really lovely decadent set from those clever Italian people at Italesse. They involved a mixologist in the design, so that it evoked a real cocktail hour feel. The pretty etching on the glasses for the cocktails and water, contrasts beautifully with the plain wine glass.

And because my accent colour is purple this year, I have found some really lovely purple linen napkins.

By the time we reach dessert most of us don’t have room for anything overly indulgent; besides I need to make room for cheese later. I always serve something simple, which looks like I have tried harder than I really have. When I was looking for a plate to serve the dessert on, I didn’t want to go with white again and wanted to end the meal with a bit of drama, so I have picked this fabulous black plate, with its subtle flecks of pearly glaze that almost make it sparkle.

You can see here how fabulous this looks with the best Custard Tart I have ever eaten (at Steve Smith’s Freemason’s at Wiswell).

I have bought some edible flowers to garnish the plate in my accent Purple but I am just serving a lovely Panna Cotta with home-made shortbread stars dusted with edible silver powder.

I wonder if anyone is ready for cheese yet??


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