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Planning a Christmas lunch? Here are some tips to make it as stress-free as possible

Christmas dinner spread on a table.
Be organised and prep early to make your Christmas meal as stress-free as possible.

William Rollo

There is only a week to go until Christmas and while there is cheer in the air, for many there is also mounting stress about putting on the family lunch or dinner.

Whether you are hosting a meal for three or 33, here are some tips to make things run as smoothly as possible.

Do your research

Before hitting the specialist food stores and supermarkets, food blogger and chef Alice Lau advised all hosts to make a list and research what is available online.

"If you're an organised cook, look online and scout the best prices.

She also suggested using click-and-collect services to "make life a bit easier if you're a busy person".

What to put on the menu

"Keep it simple and react to the season," said Michele Cranston, chef, food stylist and food editor-at-large at the Australian Women's Weekly.

Prawns
Fresh seafood is an easy-to-prepare dish for Christmas.

ABC News: Matt Brann

"It's the one dinner party in the year where there is already tension, madness and upset children who've eaten way too much sugar early in the morning.

"Expectations are running high and margins for error are low, so always cook something you've cooked before, keep the menu simple but delicious.

"If friends or family offer to help, ask them to bring the Christmas accoutrements ... cherries, champagne, the family's favourite pudding, shortbread."

Ms Cranston's top menu items include:

  • A "do-ahead" cherry ice-cream dessert with a boozy cherry sauce;
  • A seafood feast with prawns;
  • Delicious salads with dressings and sauces made ahead of time — a rocket, mango and salty macadamia salad or potato salad with mint, dill, parsley and lemon.

The turkey and ham

Once the day of the dinner or lunch arrives, Ms Lau said to make a cooking list with the item that will take longest to cook going first.

That usually means the ham or the turkey.

Alternatively, Ms Cranston said she cooked her turkey or glazed the ham the day before then served it cold.

"Make a great relish from cherries or nectarines for the cold turkey and there'll be no complaints about it not coming straight from the oven," she said.

Platters galore

"A good host always has antipasto or grazing platters," Ms Lau said.

"I'm a real Instagram addict; food en masse is always great to share and you always know your guests will be busy for the first 20 minutes grazing and taking photos, which gives you more time in the kitchen.

"Cured condiments, breads, things you don't have to cook but that look great."

Ms Lau also suggested fruit platters were an easy dessert to throw together on the day.

Be time efficient

Make as many dishes ahead of time, both chefs advised, whether it be a Christmas cake that will last if soaked in alcohol or mince tarts.

Champagne or prosecco jelly in a cup with fruit inside appears to be a dessert trend this year, Ms Lau said, citing Jamie Oliver's recipe of alcoholic jelly with redcurrants and fruit.

"You don't have to set the table on the day," she added.

Two cheeses and sliced pear sit on a wooden board with red wine, olives and crackers nearby.
Platters of food will keep your guests distracted and busy.

User submitted: Thuy Le

What to do with leftovers

After a successful meal and everyone is spread across couches with food comas, the next task to tackle is packing up the leftovers.

Use zip-lock bags and containers so guests can take home the delicious food.

Ham can last for at least a week if stored in a cloth bag that take out the moisture, Ms Lau said.

Another option is to organise a pot-luck barbecue with friends.

"Christmas Day is often with family, so on Boxing Day I have everyone bring a dish and their favourite leftovers," Ms Lau said.