[Christmas] Hostess with the Mostess [or Cheats Chocolate Tart]

Today I’m hoping you guys can offer me some tips and advice, and in exchange I’m sharing THE best prepare ahead chocolate tart for your Christmas spread.

When Pete and I bought our house we had grand plans of family get togethers, now we have the space for everyone to stay over. We immediately invited everyone to have Christmas at ours this year. Then we had a baby. Now we’ve got 9 on Christmas day and 11 on Boxing day and I’m starting to panic! There’ll be Christmas dinner to make, and an evening buffet, then a cooked late lunch on Boxing day and an evening spread again, not to mention nibbles after church on the big day and breakfasts. Of course everyone will help and I’m delegating dishes to various people, but I’m trying to give serious thought to how to make it as easy as possible with made-ahead and simple dishes that mean I won’t spend all day in the kitchen. And that’s where you guys come in! I need your tips and hints on what can be made ahead or great ideas for stress free entertaining! How do you cater for large groups if you have a big family – we don’t, so it’s all new to me!

Now, onto that tart…

Did you watch Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes? It was pretty good viewing and we tried this Cheats Chocolate Tart after seeing it on one of the episodes, for a family party. It’s not a quick make, but it doesn’t take forever and it could be made 2 days in advance. Added to that it looks A-mazing and feeds a crowd (16 at a stretch,) because it’s so rich. And the alcohol gives it that festive edge. 😉

Now, first up with the confessions, I didn’t make this tart, Pete did, but neither of us have ever made pastry and it was still super easy, with no soggy bottom situation! The filling is ridiculously easy too and the simple topping makes it all look far more special and skilful than it actually is to make. Thats a coffee and liquor laced cream on top by the way…

You can check out the recipe here (and a picture of the whole tart… this slice is all that remained of the one we made, which speaks volumes about how good it was!) and the book it’s from – Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes. We’ve since made it again with equal success and it will definitely be featuring in my entertaining plans over Christmas and New Year.

So, please give me your tips on entertaining for a crowd and your Christmas day secrets! And make this tart. You will thank me. I promise.


16 thoughts on “[Christmas] Hostess with the Mostess [or Cheats Chocolate Tart]

  1. Wow you are brave doing all that with a new baby – the word supermum springs to mind! The only tips I have would be to make stuff you can freeze in advance – for the buffet you could start making savoury scones & muffins now as they are quick & easy to make and freeze really well. Also don’t be afraid of buying some ready-made stuff – pates spread on crostini with garnishes look lovely and are quick and easy, and waitrose do a fab range of frozen party foods – their sausage rolls are delicious after warming up in the oven.
    The only other thing I’d say is try not to put too much pressure on yourself. People are there to celebrate and see each other, not critique your meal planning / menu choices. Enjoy yourself and good luck!

  2. That sounds like heaps of fun! We do similar after moving to a house with space for guests and 3 years and 2 babies has taught me to keep it simple, delegate some jobs/shopping tasks, and cook a ham or 2 a day or so before (good for sit down meal when hot, buffet/sandwiches/fridge raiding). I dadtly tried to do it all myself 1950s style (looks like pete is already accomplished chef so no worries for you guys there). Another tip – add port and red currant jelly to gravy and it will cover any inadequacies :). We’ve also started doing a relaxed pud in the form of fruits, sweet meats, coffee, liqueurs etc that fits around kids and is a diddle to serve/clear up (pomegranates, carluccios hazelnut meringues and posh chocs with vin santo, anyone?). Enjoy xxx

    • Yep, I’m thinking a made-ahead pavlova will be one good dessert at least, and trifle (so 70’s but a staple at parties in our house) is always better made ahead. Christmas night will be a buffet spread with ready made stuff, like a cheese board (already delegated), pate, ham, bread etc. Boxing day is more where I’m struggling actually…??? I think I might make-ahead a stew for lunch, then do similar left-over/party food for the evening again.

  3. I have to say, Nigella’s books are great for ‘make ahead’ instructions, whether you want to freeze or refrigerate. I’ve used the same plan of attack for the last few years. Here’s what I make ahead:

    This soup goes in the freezer weeks before. It’s really easy to make, I usually manage it in the morning before the school run! I serve this for lunch on Xmas Eve. http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/roastsquashandsweetp_90620

    Mince pies, cranberry sauce and gingerbread stuffing all go in the freezer. I also make my gravy as soon as the turkey {and it’s giblets} have been delivered.

    I usually freeze at least two desserts ahead of time, something for dinner on the 24th and the main event. Along with a pavlova, this worked really well last year… http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-1060307/Tiramisu-layer-cake.html

    On Christmas Eve, I always serve slow cooked beef in beer because you just throw it all in and leave it alone for most of the day. I do jacket potatoes to go with it for the same reason. This is my favoutite recipe… http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/carbonnade-a-la-flamande

    My boxing day buffet always includes a ginger glazed ham which can be cooked ahead, but I don’t tend to bother as I normally have plenty of help. I always ask guests to bring coleslaw and another salad. Then it’s just a question of reheating leftovers, slicing some french bread and throwing it all on the table with cheese, chutneys and whatever else I have knocking about! I do tend to whip up this cake for dessert, but only because I never find baking stressful! http://www.love-audrey.com/2012/12/20/love-audrey-bakes-chocolate-cranberry-cake-an-alternative-for-christmas/

    Sorry, I’ve rambled on a bit. I just really like Christmas catering!

  4. We’re having people for Christmas this year for the first time too. Thankfully I only have to worry about one day though. I’m most nervous about cooking a turkey…. All the recipes seem to make it much harder than I’m sure it needs to be!
    I’m not doing a sit down starter, as I’d constantly be up and down to check veggies etc for the main. Instead we’re going to do canapés and bubbles, Followed by Turkey and trimmings then pud.
    If people want more in the evening it’ll be cheese, biscuits, Chutneys,grapes etc.
    Good to read everyone’s tips… If anyone is a turkey pro advice would be welcome!

  5. We have 10 on Christmas Day – and have a 3 year old and a 6 month old. I used to be very much in the ‘home make everything at Christmas camp” but right now, I’d rather be spending time with my children than hours in the kitchen, I don’t want to miss any of their excitement! I’ve heard stories of mums missing out on presents being unwrapped and not knowing who bought what etc. I’ve got the rest of my life to impress as a cook and hostess but my girls will only be tiny for such a short time! So I’m going with cheats and pre-made things from the likes of M&S, local delis and COOK for sauces, condiments, pickles, baked goods and a dessert or two. And pre-making other things and freezing it too such as stuffing, sausage rolls, maybe mince pies and the vegetarian sausage rolls I make for me. Even the veg can be blanched and kept in the fridge for 24 hours before finishing off by roasting (I roast carrots and parsnips together then roast Brussels with garlic and chestnuts). And using disposable roasting tins, disposable canapé plates, napkins etc. Divide up tasks and ask people to bring something – have a written or mental To Do list so when someone says “can I do anything?” you can think of something. Keep things simple, for example put something in the slow cooker for dinner on Christmas Eve, have croissants or cinnamon rolls (bought or pre-made and frozen) for breakfast (we have a picnic breakfast with presents as have already laid the table for lunch) have canapés on the go instead of a starter, Christmas evening buffet as a cheese course, pre-roast the Boxing Day ham (we do ham or smoked salmon, potato salad and coleslaw on Boxing Day and leftovers too inevitably). If you are making a Bucks Fizz type drink then make it all up in one go and put in a jug instead of making individual ones. Lay the Christmas Day table on Christmas Eve. Corral things together on little trays in the fridge such as butter, jam, marmalade all together, pickles, chutneys, mayo together as well – saves half a minute getting it all out when you need it but it all adds up!

  6. Three words… Marks and Spencer.

    We’ve swerved hosting Christmas Day this year (last year we cooked for 12!), but we’re holding Boxing Day for six at our house.

    Good ol’ M&S has got heaps of ideas and ready made food that you can pre order – from starters, mains and desserts through to party food/buffet items.

    We’ve just ordered a Pancetta Wrapped Salmon, Cod & King Prawn Roast that we’re planning to serve with veg and potatoes which keeps it simple, and we’ve also ordered a few of the treats too!

    You just pay a deposit and then the rest when you collect too 🙂

    Katie x

    PS. Last year we par-boiled/cooked as much as possible the day before which was a MASSIVE help.

  7. Definitely use M&S Christmas food to ordersimple thinks like their microwaveable cranberry & bread sauce just make everything so much easier. Also you can buy ready made stuffing in nice ceramic dishes ready to put straight in the oven. I’ve been using their packs of Brussels sprouts and red cabbage for a few years now too and it really helps, plus you use far fewer pans, and you can put it in the microwave and then sit and have a drink for 7 minutes!
    For a very easy starter salmon mousse (again just order two packs of 6 from M&S they have some nice looking ones this year) plonked on a gem lettuce leaf with a slice of lemon, put them all on a big platter so then everyone can just take a leaf. Serve with some toast, I like to use rye bread as it’s a bit firmer.
    Agree that evening food on Christmas day should be the cheese course to make things easier. Perhaps you could delegate this to one of your family? To help us out my parents usually bring all the wine, and my uncle likes to bring the cheese. Makes life easier!
    Also, now getting in the realms of a bit of a control freak, but I make myself a spreadsheet with time plans for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day! Organisation is key for a stress free Christmas (if you’re like me who finds it nearly impossible to ‘chill’ and ‘go with the flow’). So I’ve checked out all the cooking times before, scheduled it all in. Also I write down what serving dishes I’m using for each thing and get them all out and stack them in a corner before I’m ready to start serving. I find the cooking time plan and knowing what everything is going in saves a lot of stress! Plus things like setting the table the night before also helps (as long as you have somewhere else to eat breakfast!).
    Enjoy and good luck!

  8. To me from the guest point of view it is so much more enjoyable when the hostess is relaxed and enjoys the party too. I recommend the M&S Christmas range, it’s really good and all have clear oven instructions. We’ve only had it for the 4 of us one year and it was one of the best, most relaxed Christmas ever. Depends on your personality and you know how you’ll cope. My mother in law for instance can do an amazing Christmas meal for 10 from scratch while drinking wine and chatting to everyone. I know I would get massively stressed, stress my husband and it would show and spoil the day a bit. Hence why I don’t do it 😉

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