The best Christmas cooking tips from chefs, cookbook authors and food writers include everything from keeping it simple and not to panic to having your favourite curry joint on speed-dial. Many chefs suggest something as simple as “fresh seafood and salad” while the food writers have provided whole menu ideas. Everyone recommends lots of booze if it all goes wrong!

Every year we usually do a round-up of the best Christmas cooking tips, getting advice from some of the world’s best chefs, the finest Australian chefs, the top chefs in Asia, and cookbook authors and food editors, writers and bloggers. We ask what they’re cooking on Christmas Day, seek last minute tips from them for people still panicking on Christmas Eve (or Christmas morning!), and get their advice as to how to save the day if it all goes horribly wrong.

We’ve had so many great suggestions from them over the years that this year we thought we’d pull together some of their best Christmas cooking tips over the years under the questions we ask our Christmas experts.

We wish you all a wonderful Christmas Day and festive holiday period! Please do enjoy your time with family and loved-ones and if you’re in lockdown and lonely, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’ll be having a very quiet Christmas at home here in Siem Reap. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Best Christmas Cooking Tips from Chefs, Cookbook Authors, Food Writers and Editors

What To Cook on Christmas Day

Some of the best Christmas cooking tips over the years have come from asking chefs, cookbook authors, food editors and writers what they’ll be cooking on Christmas Day.

Peter Gilmore

Quay, Bennelong, Sydney

“Fresh seafood and salad.” (And frappe-style White Peach Bellinis!)

Neil Perry

Rockpool, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple, Rosetta, Australia

“Stuffing a turkey under the skin and lots of beautiful seafood on the barbie — plus pavlova!” (Ed: see the chef’s recipe for a butterflied roast turkey with stuffing).

Tetsuya Wakuda

Tetsuya’s, Sydney, and Waku Ghin, Singapore

“No fuss one-pot braised spatchcock with capers and olives.”

Martin Benn

Society (opening soon), Melbourne, and Sepia (closed), Sydney

“I’ll be doing what Australians do best on Christmas Day and having a barbecue. I’ll be searing scampi tails over the charcoals so that they become sweet and smoky, then make them into a traditional prawn cocktail with a cocktail sauce made from my own spicy tomato sauce. Then I’ll cook a grass fed Angus rib eye really slowly until evenly pink inside, and serve it with fresh Tasmanian wasabi.”

Dan Hunter

Brae, Birregurra, Australia

“Julianne’s family have the Ital-Anglo theme — lasagne and probably ham, tiramisu and also Christmas pudding. Dinner will be turkey and baked ham with the trim at my parents’ house. Plenty of celebratory drinks at both.”

Richard Ptacnik

Otto Ristorante, Sydney

“I’ll be cooking a seafood dinner. We’ll start with crab consommé with crab, mussels and prawns, then move on to spaghetti with lobster, cherry tomatoes and basil, accompanied with freshly made foccacia.”

Ross Lusted

Woodcut and The Bridge Room (closed), Sydney

“I simply can’t go past king prawns, David Blackmore’s beef flank, and nut roast for my wife, Sunny, as she is vegetarian.”

Ian Curley

The European, Melbourne

“I roast a whole fillet of beef and serve it with mushrooms, roast potatoes, and red wine sauce, lots of green vegetables, and just put the whole thing in the middle of the table and everybody just dips into it at their leisure. For starters, we have jamon iberico, buffalo mozzarella with basil and tomato, and grilled sourdough bread.”

Donovan Cook

The Atlantic, Melbourne

“Freshly shucked oysters upon arrival; a tian of spanner crab, apple, basil, and cantaloupe melon gazpacho; Queensland jumbo prawns with garlic, olive oil, white wine, and parsley; smoked steamed barramundi with Oscietra caviar, and champagne foam; and vanilla pannacotta, pina colada salad, and granita.”

Jacques Reymond

Formerly of Jacques Reymond Restaurant, Melbourne

“Lots of fresh seafood — ocean trout, oysters, etc — and duck.”

Teage Ezard

Ginger Boy, Melbourne

“Roast suckling pig, glazed ham, and a cold seafood buffet.”

Eneko Atxa

Azurmendi, Bilbao, London 

“I’ll cook traditional Basque dishes as Kokotxas al pil-pil or Bacalao in bizkaian sauce, accompanied by our white wine Txakolina.”

Josean Alija

Nerua, Bilbao

“We like to enjoy traditional dishes. I’m going to cook a fish soup, hake in green sauce, roasted lamb, and grilled eels. We will finish the meal with traditional sweets like turrons, and an elaborate goxua (a traditional basque dessert)! We will accompany the meal with ‘txakoli’, Rioja Alavesa wine and champagne until we are all in a good mood!”

Virgilio Martinez

Central, Lima

“Tortilla de patatas – I just got native potatoes from our garden – potatoes and eggs, pretty simple.”

Julien Royer

Odette, Singapore

“I’m going to cook the ‘Rolls Royce’ of poultry, the famous ‘Chapon de Bresse Excellence Miéral’.”

Ian Kittichai

Issaya Siamese Club, Namsaah Bottling TrustIssaya Cooking Studio, Bangkok

“Roast turkey with all the trimmings – stuffing, brussel sprouts, red cabbage, potatoes, etc.”

 Dylan Jones

Bo.lan, Bangkok

“For myself, I will probably just buy some nice cheese and good bread and sit down with a bottle of red after service!”

Ignatius Chan

Iggy’s, Singapore

“Roast beef and sides – cauliflower gratin, roast potatoes, bean salad, sweet corn – Yorkshire pudding, and gravy.”

Jarret Wrisley

Appia and Soul Food Mahanakorn, Bangkok

“My favourite Christmas dish is a prime rib roast. So simple, it feeds a lot of people, and it makes your whole home smell wonderful.”

Joannès Rivière

Cuisine Wat Damnak, Siem Reap

“A good local roasted chicken, a bit tough but tasty enough, and some braised cauliflowers, because it’s the season here in Cambodia and they are excellent.”

David McMillan and Fred Morin

Joe Beef, Montreal

“Traditional Quebecois Réveillon dinner, tourtiere, ham, sausages, beans, smoked fish, toast, drippings, tomato chow chow.”

Anthea Loucas Bosha

Former Editor, Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine, now CEO Food and Wine Victoria

“We’ll start with prawn cocktail and salmon gravlax. For mains, I’m doing an orange, cinnamon and mustard glazed ham; slow-cooked lamb shoulder with Italian flavours like garlic, anchovies, capers, lemon rind, and vermouth; a rice salad with cranberries, pistachio and soft herbs; sadza (a cooked cornmeal dish from Africa – my partner is Zimbabwean); coleslaw with vincotto-soaked sultanas, parmesan and parsley; and a daggy mango and avocado salad with bacon and walnuts and a mustard vinaigrette that’s a bit of a family classic. For afters, Christmas pudding with ice-cream and my mother’s home-grown berries.”

Thang Ngo

Food writer, restaurant reviewer and food blogger

“Christmas lunch with my partner (travel writer Walter Mason) and his extended family is a tradition since they moved down from far north Queensland. Everyone brings a dish. Australia is so unique and wonderful in so many ways, firstly it’s a summer Christmas and we’re one of the most multicultural countries in the world. Each year we bring goi cuon, Vietnamese fresh rice paper rolls as our contribution. For me, that one dish says so much about Christmas in Australia.”

Emiko Davies

Food writer, food photographer and cookbook author

“There’ll be fresh oysters (a must), vitello tonnato (rare roast beef sliced thinly with a dressing of homemade tuna mayonnaise) and we’re also doing a colourful beetroot-cured salmon with horseradish sauce and what we call “Fergus’ salad” – raw beetroot, red cabbage and red onion salad from Fergus Henderson’s Beyond Nose to Tail Eating. And we’ll also make some little potato gnocchi (the Florentines call them topini) with chickpeas and clams.”

Alec Lobrano

Food writer, restaurant reviewer and author

“A Christmas dinner with friends will be scallop carpaccio with blood orange vinaigrette made with pecan oil, then roasted capon with chestnut-sausage stuffing, and bouche de Noel from patissier Gerard Mulot in the 6th Arrondissement, Paris.”

Felicity Cloake

Food and drink writer and author

“My family are creatures of habit; we always, always have smoked salmon with brown bread and butter, followed by the usual turkey-based extravaganza complete with apricot sausage meat stuffing, pig in blankets, roast potatoes, sautéed sprouts with toasted almonds and butter, bread sauce, cranberry and orange relish and – my bete noir – glazed parsnips, followed by Christmas pudding, vats of custard and a large amount of Stilton. There would be a riot if I dared go for anything different, but I might try and sneak some ground walnuts into the bread sauce this year, when no one’s looking.”

Paul Pairet

Ultraviolet, Mr and Mrs Bund, Shanghai

“Don’t cook. Go with the French tradition: raw oysters, smoked salmon, a nice goose or a chapon from the rotisserie, and a bûche (Yule log) from the pastry shop. Or join us at Mr & Mrs Bund and Ultraviolet!”

David Thompson

Aksorn, Bangkok; Long Dtai, Koh Samui; Aaharn, Hong Kong; Long Chim, Perth, Sydney

“I am cooking nothing whatsoever for Christmas. We are going to friends’ houses, for lunch and for dinner.”

 

Tips if You’re Still Panicking on Christmas Eve About What to Cook on Christmas Day

The world’s best chefs, cookbook authors and food editors and writers are pretty unanimous when it comes to their advice for people still panicking about what to cook.

Eneko Atxa

“Don’t panic. Just cook with love, choose the recipes you know best, and take few risks.”

Jacques Reymond

“Cook something you enjoy and are comfortable with cooking and it will be pleasurable for everyone.”

Dylan Jones

“Don’t panic. It doesn’t matter what you cook. The whole point is being with friends and family. They’ll appreciate whatever you do. If all else fails, pop open the bubbly.”

Peter Gilmore

“Keep it simple — enjoy the day with your family and friends”

Neil Perry

“Cooked seafood from the fish markets with a great aioli — and summer pudding.”

Tetsuya Wakuda

“Keep it simple.”

Martin Benn

“My tip is don’t make it too complicated and share the workload.”

Richard Ptacnik

“The best thing is to not stress and keep it simple — fresh ingredients and simple dishes. No one wants to spend the whole day in the kitchen — Christmas is about spending time with friends and family, drinking, and celebrating the time off.”

Donovan Cook

“It’s Australia and usually warm, so stick with simple, fresh ingredients like a whole fish on the barbecue with a green leafy salad, and finish with seasonal berries for dessert.”

Ian Curley

“Nothing worse than panicking about food for friends. So do try and do as much the day before so you have as much free time as possible when you come to serve it. If they love you they won’t mind if it’s not chef standard. If you’re still not relaxed, I find champagne works really well.”

Ian Kittichai

“Keep it simple and use the freshest seasonal ingredients possible.”

Thitid ‘Ton’ Tassanakajohn

“Go simple! Spend less time in the kitchen and enjoy your precious time with friends and family. It will all be fine. Don’t forget some champagne!”

Virgilio Martinez

“Please just chill. It is much better to stay together and be nice and relaxed, in a good mood and wonderful spirit , so…. put whatever you feel tastes good in the oven, with a good amount of butter, and just wait till your heart says it’s ready. Family and friends will appreciate it. Also serve good drinks – easy to make cocktails.”

Thang Ngo

“Keep it simple. Freak out and you’ve lost the spirit of Christmas. If you’re ever in doubt make sure there’s plenty of wine and beer – it’s a perfect social lubricant. It’s hot, so make sure there’s plenty of ham and other cold meat and salads for them go graze on throughout the day.”

Emiko Davies

“Keep it simple! Things that can be prepared in advance (or even better, that are tastier when done in advance!) are always helpful in my book, as it leaves you more time on the day. Also I find there’s always too much food at Christmas and it’s hard to fit dessert in, so even something small to nibble on is fine – some dark chocolate, walnuts or other nuts to crack open, fresh fruit, or biscotti to dip in some dessert wine, like my Tuscan in-laws would do.”

Anthea Loucas Bosha

Keep it simple and plan a menu where you can prepare a few things the day before to take the pressure off. Keep it concise and do a few big dishes that go a long way – it will save you time and it looks impressive to have a big centrepiece. A glazed ham is so simple and it feeds so many.”

Victoria Stewart

“First, buy the stuff you don’t really need to make, like Christmas pudding. Second, this is basically just a Sunday roast with extra pressure on it, and who panics about one of those? So to ease it up just make sure you delegate: one person to chop the tatties and the Brussels, etc, another to make the bread sauce, another to lay the table, and so on. Anyone who is worrying that they need to do it all on their own is wasting their time!”

Lindsey Tramuta

“Don’t over-think it! Plan for something that is manageable, likely to please the whole family no matter how simple, and doesn’t require you to be relegated to the kitchen the entire day. Another solution: ask everyone to contribute to relieve some of the pressure.”

Felicity Cloake

“Don’t panic – at its heart Christmas dinner is just a Sunday roast with silly paper hats, and once you realise that, it starts to feel a lot less scary. Stuff tradition; choose something you like to eat and enjoy making, keep it simple, prepare as much as possible ahead, and don’t be afraid to buy in a good quality dessert or starter to make life easier for yourself. Christmas isn’t a cooking competition.”

Alec Lobrano

“When it comes to Christmas, keep it simple. No one’s ever unhappy to be served a feast of smoked salmon and really good oysters, for example.”

Ross Lusted

If you’re in Sydney…“Some fantastic cold seafood from the Sydney Seafood Markets and cherries on ice.”

Julien Royer

“Cook something you are confident in, for people you love, and prep in advance.”

Joannès Rivière

“A good cut of beef, the one you never get the chance to buy, like a côte de boeuf, or even some veal sweetbread.”

Ignatius Chan

“Do a Coq au Vin to serve with a nice Burgundy!”

Ryan Clift

“Look, it’s not that hard, just boil some veg, roast some spuds, bung a turkey in the oven, and sit back and drink some egg nog. Oh, and did I forget to say: man up!”

Dan Hunter

“Too late now — go to a large retail store and grab a hamper. It’s hopefully going to be warm, so fresh fruit, champagne, cold meats, and a pudding will be fine.”

David Thompson

“Do as I do, rely on the kindness of others!”

 

Tips to Save the Day if it All Goes Horribly Wrong

Dylan Jones

“Don’t try and do everything last minute, and keep it simple.”

Tetsuya Wakuda

“If you keep it simple — for example, serve smoked salmon slices — there should be no mistakes.”

David Thompson

“Open more wine.”

Eneko Atxa

“Be philosophical and open a bottle of wine whilst thinking that the most important thing is not on the plate, but around you, and that you’re lucky for having people to share these days.”

Jacques Reymond

“Get a better bottle of wine from your cellar and see what’s in the pantry.”

Julien Royer

“Lots of Champagne!”

Anthea Loucas Bosha

Pour more Champagne and make toasted sandwiches.”

Thang Ngo

“Alcohol and ham.”

Ian Kittichai

“You can always do wine, cheeses, crusty breads, fresh fruit, green salad, smoked salmon, pate, shrimp cocktail, Parma or Iberico ham – all of these items can be found at a good supermarket. Set up the table as a big buffet with elegant plating of the items, candles, and some festive flowers if possible for decoration. Also buy a Panatone or other festive baked goods to serve for dessert.”

Martin Benn

“Have lots of small things to nibble on so people don’t get hungry while they wait.”

Ignatius Chan

“Serve a charcuterie platter with Jamon Iberico, goose rillettes, tomato and red onion salad, Balik salmon, a selection of chesses, and crusty farmer’s loaf. All are easily available at a gourmet supermarket or good delicatessen.”

Virgilio Martinez

“Make quick, filling salads and use good seasonings. If there aren’t good ingredients… get on the phone and call a restaurant to deliver. But always stay calm and don’t lose the attention of your guests. Just be there, never leave, run or feel anxious. Nobody wants to see that. Again, make some easy cocktails!”

Ian Curley

“If it all becomes a nightmare, and the champagne’s not helping, just go back to nice and simple. Sometimes a great omelette is all you need to get through and then it gives you time to get the champagne.”

Neil Perry

“If there is a great cold ham in the fridge and some cooked prawns, you can’t go wrong — no cooking involved. Follow up with fruit, ice cream… and hopefully the pavlova you haven’t destroyed.”

Joannès Rivière

“A cheese board. Except for the lactose intolerant…”

Ross Lusted

(If you’re in Sydney…) “Head straight to Victor Churchill for provisions.”

Emiko Davies

“Insert a course of some delicious cheeses and a platter of good prosciutto or other cold cuts. Serve it with slices of baguette and plump it up with some marinated olives or some sliced fruit like pears or peaches (depending what season you’re in) or dried muscat grapes and walnuts. It’s great either at the beginning as antipasto or even to end a meal. If dessert has all gone wrong, keep in mind the wonderful Eton Mess.”

Dan Hunter

“BBQ — have some steaks in the fridge as back up.”

Jane Lawson

“Take a deep breath and have a few cocktails… seriously there is still time – there’s nothing wrong with roasting a couple of chooks or doing the barbie thing. And the old prawn and mango salad is always a crowd pleaser! Apparently…”

Donovan Cook

“Delegate to family members — get others involved in the preparation of the meal and get the job done. Ultimately it is about being together. Alternatively, find a restaurant to take the stress away completely!”

Peter Gilmore

“I tend to share the cooking with my Mum to take off some of the pressure.”

Richard Ptacnik

“No one is perfect — you are generally around friends and family, and they will forgive you. Go with what you’ve got.”

Teage Ezard

“Focus on the quality and quantity (!) of the beverages you are serving. I always serve Negroni — because it’s a festive party drink and much loved. Who doesn’t enjoy it?!”

Thitid ‘Ton’ Tassanakajohn

“Cheese, cold cuts, oysters! Anything that tastes amazing without any effort.”

Josean Alija

“The best idea is to resort to great iconic products that will never fail you: salted anchovies, ‘Joselito’ ham, and a bottle of champagne, which seduces everyone!”

Paul Pairet

“Go with the French tradition: raw oysters, smoked salmon, a nice goose or a chapon from the rotisserie, and the bûche from the pastry shop.”

Jane Lawson

“Whip up something very simple but full of flavour from ingredients you have on hand – Xmas pasta perhaps? A giant bowl of good quality pasta with a fresh tomato sauce, extra virgin olive oil and basil – it’s red, white and green – surely that’s appropriate? Some store-bought Xmas pud or cake crumbled and mixed through softened vanilla or chocolate ice cream with a glug of brandy then re-frozen into a pudding shape is a very easy dessert.”

Lindsey Tramuta

“Take a deep breath and ask yourself: does it matter? Salvage what you can, have a laugh, and pop open one of the many bottles of wine (I hope) you have on hand to ease any disappointment. And certainly there is chocolate lying about in case of emergencies, right?”

Alec Lobrano

Keep some really good quality tortellini in the fridge, maybe stuffed with prosciutto or wild mushrooms. Hopefully you won’t need it as a failsafe meal, but you’ll be awfully glad it’s there when you wake up at noon on December 26 feeling a little rough. Poach the pasta in a good rich chicken stock and serve with lots of freshly grated Parmesan. A perfect feast whatever hemisphere you’re living in, too.”

Victoria Stewart

Have some food in the freezer from COOK. These are the loveliest ‘ready meals’ I know of, and have saved many an emergency in our house. I’m sure they have some with Christmas flavours so you’re not too short changed if all turns chaotic.”

Ryan Clift

“Have a good curry house on speed dial. Nobody ever complains about a good curry!”

Jarret Wrisley

“Pizza!”

 

Last Minute Gift Ideas for Food Lovers

Moving on from the best Christmas cooking tips to last minute gifts… you know, the kind you have to buy on your way to Christmas lunch! Don’t forget the wrapping paper!

Eneko Atxa

“Give an experience at a restaurant.”

Virgilio Martinez

“Books! Let’s save the books!”

Josean Alija

“I would give a foodie a good ham, which is a product that travels very well, or a special wine. And to sweeten the day, a panetonne! Here in Bilbao, the best thing is to buy some eels and share them with your guests.”

Neil Perry

“A wonderful pannetone or hamper from Simon Johnson. (If you’re in Sydney.) For me, I love knives – I love Shun knives – great sharp knives make you a better cook.”

Tetsuya Wakuda

“Good quality olive oil or a grater.”

Richard Ptacnik

“Cooking classes, knives, and cookbooks…”

Julien Royer

“A nice cutting board – bulky, solid and big. It’s never big enough.”

 Dylan Jones

“A proper-sized mortar and pestle. They are the ultimate in kitchen tools!”

Ian Kittichai

“A cooking class voucher for two as it’s always fun for your foodie friend to cook with a partner. (We highly recommend you buy that voucher from Issaya Cooking Studio if you’re in Thailand.)

Martin Benn

“My gift idea is always a handcrafted Japanese knife. What else could anyone need?”

Dan Hunter

“Handmade Laguiole wine knife. Unless some pinches it, they’ll have it forever.”

Thitid ‘Ton’ Tassanakajohn

“A cool Japanese knife.”

Jacques Reymond

“A good knife sharpener.”

Ross Lusted

“A Japanese charcoal grill and a box of Binchu-tan.”

Donovan Cook

“To really spoil the foodie who has everything, a thermo circulator! Or a voucher to their favourite restaurant. Or who can beat a really good bottle of olive oil?”

Ignatius Chan

“A nice bottle of Burgundy wine and, if possible, fresh Maille truffle mustard, freshly piped into their beautiful jars available in the Maille shops in London Piccadilly and Paris Place Madeleine.”

Thang Ngo

A food magazine subscription. You can get it fast on the internet, no crowds, no queuing, and it lasts for the whole year. Every time the mag arrives, they’ll think of you.”

Anthea Loucas Bosha

Bottles of raisiny Rutherglen muscat, which will be nice slightly chilled with Christmas pudding. It would make a fun affogato, too.”

Joannès Rivière

“The thing you never ever find in any household, a proper large reinforced conical strainer. Good for stock, soups, bisque you can push through with a ladle, dry spices… you can do everything with it and it is worth putting the money in it because you can keep it forever.”

Jarret Wrisley

“A big enamel pot for braising is something everyone should have at home.”

Jane Lawson

“Of course, I’m going to say one of my books! Snowflakes and Schnapps has a whole Christmas chapter and is perfect for those enjoying, or craving, a northern hemisphere Christmas. But a copy of my book Zenbu Zen – Finding Food, Balance and Culture in Kyoto is the perfect choice for foodies who love to read, cook and travel.”

Emiko Davies

“Some really good quality, possibly single-origin, artisan chocolate. It’s always a winner and there are so many great ones to choose from now, with pretty packaging too!”

Lindsey Tramuta

“My go-to gift in a bind is always artisanal chocolate and since I’m based in Paris, the picking is vast. Very few people would gripe about receiving an assortment as it can always be added to the robust holiday spread. In Paris, I’d opt for Patrick Roger, Jacques Genin (whose caramels and candied fruits are equally suitable gifts if you know your receiver isn’t a chocolate fan), Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse or Pierre Marcolini. Outside of Paris, aim for locally produced chocolate.”

Felicity Cloake

“Lots of great gifts will start to be reduced in the last days before Christmas – truckles of cheese, sides of smoked salmon, legs of ham, big jars of boozy fruit – and you really can’t go wrong with something edible for the enthusiastic greedy guts. That said, every cook needs a decent knife, so that’s usually a safe bet (if potentially a slightly sinister present) – less interesting than a selection of flavoured oils or an ornamental pepper grinder, perhaps, but infinitely more useful.”

Alec Lobrano

“A really good bottle of olive oil is the ultimate one-size-fits all gastronomic gift. This year I’m giving Rincon de la Subbetica, Priego do Cordoba, a superb organic oil from Andalucia.”

Ryan Clift

“A microwave Christmas dinner, just in case the curry house is closed! Failing that, who doesn’t love a good chef’s knife? Preferably the Ryan Clift series by Blades of the Gods…”

We hope this round-up of best Christmas cooking tips helps if things to go wrong. Above all, enjoy your time with your loved ones. Merry Christmas! 

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