A Christmas Eve Dinner

We celebrate Christmas with my side of the family on Christmas Day and that means numbers of 20-plus so I thought we’d have a quiet family Christmas Eve dinner relaxing before the big event.

On the countdown to the big day

On the countdown to the big day

So that would be five of us.  Easy!  But then Archie mentioned the poor plight of Cockney-Dave who Archie met while working at the RSL.  Cockney-Dave comes from a town close to Blackpool in the UK and he is out here working and traveling and would otherwise be spending Christmas Eve at his digs at the Youth Hostel.  And that won’t do so then it was dinner for six.

My little helper

My little helper

Then my parents would otherwise be home-alone and that’s a bit sad on Christmas Eve so it was dinner for eight.

The table is set

The table is set

But then word of ‘hot ham’ and ‘Christmas Eve dinner’ got to Em, who had flown in with her husband and two boys moments earlier.  Quick as a flash she sent me an email asking, ‘What time do we need to be there for the ham?’  And that she had organised a babysitter for her littlest chap so that was another three around the table that was now being extended and so it was dinner for 11.

Setting the scene

Setting the scene

Then Archie said how lovely it would be if his girlfriend could come and that as she doesn’t drive, we wouldn’t have to transport her home as her mother had booked her a taxi.  So it was dinner for 12 and that’s where we capped the numbers.

I did manage to buy a bunch of Christmas bush

All sorted

We rearranged the furniture on the verandah and pulled a foldaway table out from the storeroom and set ourselves up for a dinner party.

Christmas Eve happiness

Christmas Eve happiness

I needed some head-space for the kitchen-action so Drew took the little guy out for Mexican because that’s the little guy’s absolute favourite and of course quesadillas go with mocktails so he had one of those as well.

When he came home, Alfie helped me set the stable, light the candles, and turn on the Christmas lights.  When it was close to the time everyone was arriving he went and sat on the roof of the garage looking for the guests to roll up in their cars.

So excited, he can't wait for the night to begin

So excited, he can’t wait for the night to begin

We started with an appetiser of porcini mushroom pate that I had made earlier for our night at the carols.  I didn’t want too much in the way of an appetiser because there was plenty more food on its way.  This pate worked well as being a little something to enjoy with a drink.

Porcini mushroom pate with toasted Turkish bread

Porcini mushroom pate with toasted Turkish bread

The main course was a leg of ham, glazed with soy sauce, garlic, Chinese five-spice powder and char-sui sauce and baked in a hot oven.  It was served with the cherry chutney I’d made a few weeks ago.

Glazed ham resting after coming out of the oven

Glazed ham resting after coming out of the oven

We had duck fat potatoes that could have done with some extra crispiness but the oven was having a space crisis and so without a serious delay in serving the food, that was as crispy as they were going to get.

Homemade cherry chutney

Homemade cherry chutney

I was very happy with the salad.  Ice berg lettuce cut into wedges topped with a variety of herbs like chives, dill and parsley, then sprinkled with crispy bacon and toasted pine nuts.  There was a creamy dressing made from buttermilk, lemon juice and Dijon mustard.  I’ll be making this again.

Ice-berg wedgie salad

Ice-berg wedgie salad

The dessert was individual fruit mince tarts topped with ice cream then covered in meringue and blow-torched.  A sort of a bombe-Alaska.  Once the tart shells are made, these are very easy as all you have to do is fill the shells with fruit mince, (I used store-bought), add the ice cream and then the meringue.  They looked very pretty when being taken out to the table.

Bombe Alaska fruit mince tarts

Bombe Alaska fruit mince tarts

I did have some chocolates and nougat to serve after the meal but forgot entirely to serve them.  But I don’t think anyone was looking for them as it was time to loosen belts and regret not wearing stretchy-pants.

Getting late

Getting late

Then it was time (way beyond time) for Alfie to go to bed.  As I tucked him in he said, ‘Mum, I’m so excited for Christmas.  How will I get to sleep?’

But Alfie was out like a light.

It's almost time for Santa

It’s almost time for Santa

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with family, friends and loved ones.


  1. I’m sure that 12 is a lucky number for Christmas eve so the additional company was all to the good and your family knew there would be plenty for last minute invitees. 🙂 Everything looks lovely, from the decorations in the house, the dinner table and the meal.

    I can only imagine what wonders will be served for Christmas day.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

  2. Merry Christmas, darling Hotly Spiced ones! I’m sure it was just a typo, but I so love the fact that Alfie helped you to “set the stable”. 🙂

    • Hehe, Celia. That’s so funny – he helped me set the ‘stable’ as well; just in time for Mary to give birth. Honestly; I’m so exhausted I’m running on reserves!

  3. Oh, you’re such a kind hostess! I’m sure all the add on guests were delighted with your delicious spread! Hope your Christmas dinner was just as memorable 🙂 xx

  4. Wow it all looks marvellous charlie. And how kind of you to have everyone. I love the look of those mince tarts. What is the pattern on that plate? I can’t quite work it out. The salad sounds terrific too. I always forget to put out half the food i have but everyone seems to get enough!
    Have a great new year.
    Sherry x

    • Hi Sherry, it’s a Tiffany’s plate Alfie was given for his Christening. It’s frogs that are on the plate. The night was getting late the the photo was taken on an i-phone so it’s not the best. I see another photo shoot (a proper one) coming up for that plate!

  5. You have such a welcoming heart, Charlie, to open your door to more guests. I am grateful for moms like you. I’ll tell you why. My son can’t fly home from Boston to Minnesota for holidays like Thanksgiving. We just don’t have the money to bring him back often. So he and a whole group of students from Tufts University went with a friend to Maine. His parents paid for train tickets for every single student and also paid for their restaurant meals out. They also served this group of students a typical American Thanksgiving dinner and made them feel welcome in their home. None of these students were able to return to their own homes. But they were welcomed into another home. That made this Minnesota mama happy, to know my son would not be alone on Thanksgiving.

    That all said, I loved the photo of Alfie on the garage roof.

    I hope your Christmas was a memorable and blessed one.

    • I love that story, Audrey – Christ’s love in action. I’m so glad your son wasn’t on his own for Thanksgiving and that someone who is kind-hearted and generous made sure they had the best Thanksgiving possible, given the circumstances.

  6. I know 12 is a bit different from 5, but it is so nice to spend time with lots of people at Christmas. I do like the look of that salad, it doesn’t seem hard and can be prepared and you can do a lot of the elements before hand 🙂 Thanks for sharing! Liz xx

  7. Wow! Speak of the Spirit of Christmas, Charlie Louie. Very kind of you to say yes…And to serve such gorgeous fare. I took notes about your ham with soy sauce and Chinese 5-spice. (Both in my pantry.) You’ve also inspired me to bring out the torch and replicate your scrumptious dessert!

    • And there’s maple syrup in it too. It’s 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 2 tbspns char sui (Chinese bar-be-cue) sauce, 2 cloves of crushed garlic and a 1/4 tspn Chinese 5-spice powder. Put the ham in a roasting dish, pour 1 cup of hot water onto the bottom of the tray and pour 75% of the glaze over the ham. Place in a hot oven (180C) for around 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and pour over remaining sauce. Allow to rest while you crank up the oven and get some colour on the potatoes. I hope this helps!

  8. Merry Christmas to you and your family, I have about 10 days of posts to catch up on – which I will do on Sunday, and and then I might even do a post lol.

  9. That sounds like such a fun evening! All that food and especially that cherry chutney! I could have eaten a truckload of that.

  10. Oh that’s good that Alfie loves Mexican! I was afraid that he didn’t like any food but you know marathon runners and sprinters need their sustenance 😛

  11. What an impressive spread for the night before Christmas – you had lucky extra guests!

    A very happy Christmas / Christmas season to you and I hope your Christmas day was wonderful xx

  12. Hi Charlie, what a great hostess you are, I might have gone to pieces adding that many more people at the last moment, but you handled everything so gracefully. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  13. I grew up in a home with an “open-door” policy when it came to guests and extra numbers, and I tried to do the same with my own family–so I totally get it how five turned into twelve. Nice, isn’t it? And the meal looked lovely as well.

  14. What a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas Eve!

  15. Who wouldn’t want to grab an invitation to such a fun feast Charlie, it all looks wonderful!
    We usually have a gate crasher for Christmas as well, but this year she was with family and instead kept texting MiddleC saying our food was better 🙂 She’s welcome back anytime! Alfie is so cute, helping out and watching out for the guests and Santa. I’m glad he found some food that he loves, he needs to keep up his strength for running those marathons xox

  16. Christmas is a time to share so opening your home for everyone is a beautiful thing to do. It looks like you had just enough food (wink wink!). Merry Christmas dear Charlie, hope you have a wonderful new year.

  17. Such gorgeousness.
    I did not know a ham needed to rest. Was he tired?!
    I adore the lit up tree at the end of this post & that long hallway.
    Superb. xxxx

  18. Beautiful! I always wanted a big family, but now I’m glad there are just a rea of us… I just made your mum’s christmas whiskey logs, which will post soon. how the hell to you get the chocolate on the logs??? this was so challenging! but, they’re so good. Happy New Year!!!

  19. Sounds like a grand feast! So glad everyone had fun and ate too much. Hope Santa brought you everything you wanted!
    Have a great New Year!!
    Btw, your landscape is so different to ours right now, I see lush trees and bushes, we have twigs and a few evergreens and lots of snow!

  20. You are so hospitable, Charlie. I can so easily picture the conversation around your table and the warmth that comes from being a guest in your home. Your Christmas Eve dinner sounds wonderful and now we’re on to the New Year. I can’t wait to see what your plans are for New Year’s Eve! 🙂

  21. I love how your simple Christmas Eve exploded into an extravaganza! But you handled it all with grace. Sounds like a fabulous meal!

  22. Well, now I just love how your dinner crowd grew and grew – just like the magic Christmas tree in The Nutcracker! It sounds like a good time was had by all, and your meal, particularly the ham, looks absolutely divine. Best wishes for a terrific 2015!

  23. What a great evening! Adding a few more places at the table is always a good thing. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and Happy New Year, early!

  24. What a fabulous-looking meal! I missed all of my Christmas festivities due to a stomach virus, so I’m just feeling up to a wonderful meal. I can’t wait to see what you have on New Year’s Eve! Wow. Happy New Year Charlie!

  25. Have you ever shared your recipe for porcini mushroom pate?

  26. Haha I love how the numbers kept piling up! You went from an initial 5 to 12 that’s double lol but I guess that’s what Christmas is about and you can never under cater 🙂 Everything looked amazing and I agree Christmas is the best time to get together, overeat and be silly!

  27. Your dinner parties sound amazing. it’s great having little kids around too to keep the magic alive.


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