Our national trainer Jo Underhay reveals her favourite go-to Christmas party food recipes for 2020, which you can reproduce for friends and family
December is traditionally the time to eat, drink and be merry. But, after the difficult year we’ve all experienced, it might feel as though there isn’t much to celebrate. It’s true that Christmas 2020 won’t happen the way it usually does. But there are still plenty of positives to be thankful for, and creative ways to have fun. Food, of course, has an integral role to play during the festive season, and that still holds true even for smaller gatherings.
The three-household ‘Christmas bubble’ rule means that wild parties will have to wait a year. But just because you’re not cooking for a big crowd, doesn’t mean there isn’t still plenty of foodie fun to enjoy. As with most things in life, the key is to make the most of what you’ve got. So put on a super stylish frock, dress your table with glitter stars and a show-stopping Christmas centrepiece – and serve up a selection of national trainer Jo Underhay’s favourite festive dishes:
Chilli chicken wings
Parties and finger food are the perfect pairing, and these sticky, sweet and spicy chicken wings from Delicious magazine are always a real winner. If you are entertaining outside (as we’ve all become accustomed to doing!) you could prepare them on the barbecue. But you’ll have to wrap up warm as the weather is definitely getting cooler this month! Thankfully, they work equally well when baked in the oven, requiring very little effort and attention as they cook.
Our C2600GM Electric Pyrolytic Single Oven would be perfect for this dish. This advanced model features 23 different functions, and even incorporates Wi-Fi to work with smartphone connectivity. Best of all (where sticky marinades are concerned), this oven includes a pyrolytic self-cleaning option. It carbonises baked-on grime, drips and spills into fine ash, which can be wiped away in seconds with a damp cloth afterwards.
Top tip: Plan ahead! These need to marinate for at least one hour. But 24 hours in the fridge is better, to allow the flavours to really develop.
If your Christmas party food needs to cater for pescatarians, these Causa fish croquettes from celeb chef Jamie Oliver are perfect. I love seafood at Christmas – it makes a great change from all the meat that’s usually consumed. Now, I can’t pretend that this isn’t a labour-intensive recipe. It involves a fair amount of prep, plus batch frying, which does take a certain amount of time and effort. But the results are absolutely worth it! I like to serve my croquettes hot from the pan with lashings of guacamole.
This sort of fried food tastes fabulous, but it does produce unwanted odours that linger longer than you’d like them to. Combat these with a powerful extractor, such as our Ceramica Island Hood. Available in both copper and white, this high-performance island chimney hood features a top quality stainless steel filter. It has a 550m3/h EBM motor for highly effective recirculation and a maximum sound level of just 55dB (normal conversations levels are 59dB). So, if you switch this on, it will perform well and won’t drown out any chats with friends and family.
I absolutely love samosas and, for me, no Christmas party food selection is complete without this moreish Indian snack food. This recipe, courtesy of Sanjana Feasts, features the classic vegetarian filling combination of potatoes, onions and peas. It also includes an easy homemade ‘shortcrust’ pastry that requires no pre-cooking. These samosas are cooked in warm (not hot) oil, for 35 minutes per batch.
Our new C990i induction hob would be perfect for this. It looks state-of-the-art with a TFT touch screen but it also features our intuitive Smart Pan detection. This means the hob’s heating area and power automatically adapt to the pan size in question. In addition, it can automatically detect up to six pans at once and it even adapts to your pan size.
Top tip: Allow the oil to cool down in between frying your different batches.
Christmas is, of course, a special time of year for kids, and I’m all in favour of including smaller members of the familyin the festive cooking. These mini burgers, from GoodToKnow, are sure to appeal to both the young – and the young at heart. This recipe features lean beef mince, with none of the nasties that are often present in shop-bought, processed versions.
So, I think this is a Christmas party food you can enjoy guilt-free! All of the cooking for this is done on the hob, and I think our C873G Low Profile Gas Hob would be perfect. It features sturdy cast-iron pan supports, plus a flame safety device (with auto restart) – all very reassuring when you’re cooking with little ones!
Top tip: Ring the changes by swapping beef mince for lamb or pork. You could even cut chicken breasts into bize-size chunks and grill instead.
If you have a sweet tooth like me, it’s the Christmas desserts that really get the party started! There’s a famous saying among chefs that “you eat with your eyes first”. Pretty party puddings certainly whet my appetite. Chocolate brownies tend to be my signature Christmas party food. I’m a big fan of this BBC Good Food recipe, although I use good-quality chocolate chips instead of cutting up chocolate pieces.
I love steam cooking, so my ideal oven for this tasty traybake would be our Sense SO110GM Combination model. This oven features full touch controls and you can customise your cooking methods to suit different types of food. You’ll find it also heats from 40-100°C on the steam setting, giving you greater versatility in the kitchen.
Top tip: Cut your brownies into Christmas Tree ‘triangles’ to serve, and decorate with green icing and stars. Add a colourful stripy straw to make your Christmas Tree trunk.
This is another of my favourite Christmas party foods. I know that they are available to buy almost everywhere these days. But there really is no substitute for an authentic home-made version, like this one from The Happy Foodie. This recipe is a labour of love. But Christmas only comes once a year, and the results are worth the time and effort involved.
After all the prep, proving and kneading, your Panettone will need to bake for 50-70 minutes. A double oven, such as our C3371 Sense electric model, will help you to keep the rest of your recipes on track, as you can use the top oven for other dishes while your Panettone is cooking in the main cavity below.
Chocolate yule log
For many people, the quintessential Christmas party food dessert is the Chocolate Yule Log. If you’re a fan of all things cocoa, you’ll love this Doves Farm recipe, which happens to be vegetarian, and free from nuts and soya. While the filling and assembling does take a little time, the bake itself is fast – just 10-12 minutes at 200°C (180°C Fan). But like all sponges, it’s delicate, and needs careful handling.
For bakes like this, our C2105SS Electric Soft Close Single Oven is ideal. As the name suggests, its door has a a soft-close hinge designed specifically for gentle closing. This means that it can be shut quietly, with no slamming, This helps to prevent certain cooking issues, such as sinking sponges and soufflés.
Top tip: Serve with a garnish of seasonal greenery, fresh cranberries – and some extra grated chocolate. Well, it is Christmas, after all!
Although I do eat it at other times of the year, I always associate the delicious aroma of baking gingerbread with Christmas. It’s such an easy dessert to make, but can be transformed into something truly fabulous with clever shaping and decoration. This recipe, from Good Housekeeping, requires just a handful of ingredients, and it’s terrifically easy. I like to cut my dough into people shapes and add icing ‘faces’.
Gingerbread bakes quickly, in about 10-12 minutes. Our Classic C2234 Electric Single Oven does the job nicely. It’s a no-nonsense, A-rated for energy appliance that’s available in either black glass or stainless steel. Its touch control, programmable electric timer is perfect for ensuring precise cooking times, it’s cost effective and I like the stylish green LED display.
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