There are so many fabulous flavours that are readily associated with this time of year, a lot of richness and spice which for me is just food heaven. However, if you’re planning a party then you’re not going to want to spend the better part of the day preparing food and buzzing around the kitchen once your guests arrive. With lots of mouths to feed, preparing a feast in next to no time can seem impossible, but let me reassure you that it is entirely possible, and extraordinarily easy…

Savoury Fodder

Show me someone who doesn’t like a good cheese and deli board? This is my absolute go to staple for all party occasions, but at Christmas you can always get a far greater selection of cheeses and chutneys than you’ll find for the rest of the year. As well as all of the favourites- a strong cheddar, stilton and Wensleydale with cranberries, I always like to throw in a few curve balls. I’ve just visited the Wensleydale creamery in Hawes and picked up a Christmas pudding flavoured wensleydale, and limited release strawberries and cream one too. They’re in the freezer so I don’t get tempted to munch them before the big day! It is okay to freeze cheese for up to 6 months, just give it plenty of time to defrost- 24 hours at room temperature and the cheese will taste as fresh as ever, though with a slightly crumblier texture. I serve up the cheese with a roasted joint of ham, slices of beef and various other meats and antipasti on rustic serving boards. This isn’t dainty finger food, but hearty and rustic and traditional, so you don’t have to be fussy about arranging it. The beauty of this kind of grub is in the flavours and the more authentic it looks, the better, quite frankly.

I’ll usually serve a soup on the evening as well, to use up all the rest of bread that’s left over from the cheese board in the early evening. Whether you hand make this or not is up to you, but doing so will save you a lot of money, but cost you in time. I’ll also put out lots of dips, crackers, olives, gherkins, marinated artichokes and bowls of crisps and nuts. Yummmmmmmmm.

Sweets

Cup cakes are yummy, but this year they have been pipped to the post by they are. A cross between a cake and a lollipop. Now, these lovelies are not easily made in your own kitchen, so I normally buy them online and get them delivered on the day- which prevents my children, husband (ok, and me) from scoffing them. They are soft and gooey inside, coated in chocolate or icing and absolutely divine! We’ll have a Yule log or two, marzipan stollen and of course- warm mince pies slathered in brandy cream. This is not a time for the calorie conscious!