Hosting a Christmas dinner for loved ones can be a little stressful, especially when we bite off more than we can chew. Throw fussy eaters onto the guest list and it can be cause for panic. We find ourselves second guessing the planned menu right up until show time. But Christmas is a time for joy, not arguing over the gluten-free mince pies. So to avoid pangs of worry this festive season, here are my five top tips for creating a Christmas dinner that caters to all eaters.
First and foremost, keep the menu simple. Simple doesn’t mean boring; it’s about using fresh and vibrant ingredients and letting the produce shine. Flavour dishes with fresh herbs, ground up spices, ginger and garlic, and avoid being heavy handed on dressing and sauces. Offer Christmas classics like roasted potato, a good quality sourdough loaf, fruit salad and gravy to suit all guests, including the non-adventurous. If you have a coeliac, try this gluten-free focaccia.
Serving a banquet-style meal will allow fussy eaters to feel more at ease as they can politely decline certain dishes and (thankfully) not the entire offering. Try for a mix of seafood, meat and vegetable-based options. Some great options include BBQ prawns, lamb & haloumi skewers, and avocado and tomato salsa bruschetta.
Condiments are usually made up of a number of different ingredients and can be a hazard for anyone with food intolerances. Keeping them on the side means guests are free to pick and choose how they dress their dishes. This also reduces the risk of guests having less to choose from.
While ‘meat and three veg’ have long been known standard Aussie fare, side dishes are the new main. Having a variety of side dishes—which when served together can easily make up the main dish—is a great way to cater to fussy eaters. When planning side dishes, think variety and a mix of fresh, cooked and textured dishes. It can be as simple as a roasted vegetable & feta salad through to Asian-style coleslaw. Your guests will appreciate having options. Some recipes we love include Donna Hay’s broccolini with cashews & her buckwheat salad.
DIY dishes such as platters and fresh rice paper rolls are an easy way to allow guests to have control over their food. Thankfully, Aussie Christmas weather makes such food an appealing pick. DIY works really well for desserts, especially when dairy, sugar and gluten avoidance is likely in play. Instead of spending hours slaving over the perfect trifle or cake, serve a mix of your favourite Christmas classics—like ice-cream, fruit salad, custard, shortbread, fresh strawberries, and homemade cake—and allow guests to put together their own dish. Here are some healthy holiday dessert recipes we love.
Words by celebrity chef and nutritionist, Zoe Bingley-Pullin
Still struggling to organise your no-fuss Christmas dinner? Pick up a copy of Zoe’s latest cookbook, Falling in Love with Food: A Cookbook and a Love Story, for inspiring recipe ideas.