A Christmas Eve Dinner

I hosted a dinner party on Christmas Eve with those members of my family who were able to be there.  There were 14 of us in all, 15 if you count five-week old Freddie who had flown in from the US. The days leading up to Christmas were sweltering to the point where I was trying to buzz about finishing off everything on my list but the heat had me wandering around in sweaty daze.

The tables on the verandah

The tables on the verandah

All too soon Christmas Eve was upon us and I will admit that in hindsight, I should have started preparing much earlier but I’ll remember that for next year.  (But I say that every year and every year turns out to be no less chaotic than the year before).

The table setting with cherry chutney

The table setting with cherry chutney

The Eve of Christmas was cool; there was even rain.  However, not so cool that we couldn’t sit out on the verandah framed by my multi-coloured icicle lights.  As Carl was still at work, Alfie helped me join two tables together and yes, I ironed the tablecloths.

A table dressed for a Christmas Eve dinner

A table dressed for a Christmas Eve dinner

I decorated the tables with a silver theme and all you DIYers out there might like to know I made my own place cards and pinned a little sparkly decoration onto the corner of each one.  My father liked them so much he asked if he could borrow them for Christmas Day.

An unflattering photo of mother and daughter

An unflattering photo of mother and daughter

I bought a whole leg of ham as I prefer its presentation in complete form rather than a sawn-off half however I asked for the smallest one they had which came in at just under 9ks (20lbs).  Carl arrived in time to be of some use so he took the rind off but left it on the shank end and scored the fat, not quite through to the meat, in a diamond pattern and then it was studded with cloves.  I made an Asian-inspired glaze with honey, soy, Chinese wine, brown sugar, garlic and 5-spice powder.

Ham about to go in the oven

Ham about to be glazed then into the oven

Into the oven it went where it came out a little charred but it was fine.  Totally fine and not at all dry – a good layer of fat protects it well.  We served it with the spiced cherry chutney I made a few weeks ago.

Pomegranate action and a slightly charred ham - it certainly wasn't as bad as it looks!

Pomegranate action and a slightly charred ham – it certainly wasn’t as bad as it looks!

Man cannot live by ham alone and so I made crispy potatoes roasted in duck fat and sprinkled with the rosemary salt that was a gift from Claire in the Secret Santa she organised. Whoops!  Photo of crispy potatoes cooked in duck fat is MIA – it must be Christmas Eve. I made a salad of bitter leaves and watercress sprinkled with Persian fetta, pistachios and pomegranate seeds with a dressing made with pomegranate molasses.  It was the first time I’d made this salad and I loved it so much I’ll definitely be making it again.

Radicchio and watercress salad with pomegranate molasses dressing

Radicchio and watercress salad with pomegranate molasses dressing

In preparing myself for a heatwave there was no steamed pudding for dessert but rather a frozen white chocolate bombe with a raspberry coulis.  Delicious even though there was no heatwave to be concerned with.  This dessert is one my mother has been making for many, many years and there would be an outrage if we didn’t have it every Christmas.  I’ll share the recipe with you in a future post because even if you’re in the chilly Northern Hemisphere, I’m sure it’s never too cold to enjoy a creamy ice cream, especially one with white chocolate, glace fruits, nuts and rum.

Applying a finishing touch

Applying a finishing touch

Everyone had left by 11pm and so then it was time for us to put Alfie to bed, (so excited as he was), and clean up.  When all was quiet I started wrapping the presents and Carl came into the room with an enormous box.  Yes, it was flat-pack furniture that needed to be assembled.  We were giving Alfie a desk for Christmas!  ‘Worse than a meccano set’, said Carl as he emptied the hundreds of bits and pieces onto the carpet.  Out came the electric drill with a Phillips head screwdriver bit and while I wrapped he tooled.  The project was finished at 1.30am.

Frozen White Chocolate Christmas Bombe

Frozen White Chocolate Christmas Bombe

We staggered into bed with those words from a very famous book ringing through our ears, ‘Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night’.

Presentation could have been better but hey, it's Christmas Eve - on with the show!

Presentation could have been better but hey, it’s Christmas Eve – on with the show!

Do let me know how you celebrated Christmas Eve. If you liked this post, you’re welcome to share it!

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  1. What a very elegant Christmas Eve table. I loved the silver accents. Ham … great minds think alike though my ham was made for Christmas day. I was thinking of an Asian theme with 5 spice etc but went with mustard, ginger, brown sugar, lemon juice and the poaching liquid from some pears as a glaze instead.

    It was my first time boiling a picnic shoulder ham (only 4 kg but it was for one person) and then doing the glaze with cloves studded into the diamonds cut into the very thin fat layer and baking the ham and I was afraid mine was going to get too well done as I didn’t put the ham on the lowest shelf of the oven. Luckily I avoided disaster although a chunk of the glaze mysteriously disappeared leaving a hole on the top of the ham. I still don’t know where the piece went. Still, it tasted good although the ham gravy was disappointing.

    I wish I could have tasted your white chocolate bombe. I bet it was delicious.

  2. Beautiful dinner and I am sure it was so delicious too. But more than this being together with all family is great. Merry Christmas and Happy New year dear Charlie, to you and to all your family. You are as always so creative. Thank you, love, nia

  3. Your Christmas Eve table and food looked gorgeous, looking forward to the white chocolate bombe recipe as I love that type of dessert to serve over the festive period as an alternative for people who don’t want the trad pud (although I like trad pud myself). Christmas Eve was my husband’s 50th birthday so we celebrated with a lovely meal out at his fave restaurant, but also had a celebration earlier in the month with a private pod for friends and family and champagne cocktails on the London Eye. Happy Boxing Day!

  4. What a gorgeous table! I love the salad and must try that although the grocery stores here in small town Midwest might not know what a pomegranate is. 🙂 Can’t wait for the white chocolate bomb recipe. We went to church with some dear friends for. Candlelight service then went out to eat together. Christmas Day was a simple, quiet family affair that was one of the best Christmases ever. The turkey failed but the Aussie pavlova more than made up for it. I would have loved to have done a glazed ham but one child won’t eat pork in any form. She’s thinking of becoming Jewish just so she doesn’t have to explain why she doesn’t eat pork. Lol. Merry Christmas Charlie to you and your family.

  5. What a lovely table setting with equally impressive menu items. You always create food that looks so divine.

    We arrived home from Christmas Eve church services, just the three of us, to consume bowls of homemade potato soup accompanied by assorted cheeses and crackers.

  6. What a gorgeous and delicious way to spend Christmas Eve, Charlie! Loved your table setting and how nice to be able to sit outside for a Christmas Eve dinner. We made it all the way across the country (one corner to the other) and are still in WA state enjoying our holiday. Christmas Eve was un-traditional with home made tacos for dinner and a movie! 🙂 Christmas dinner was a beautiful organic bone in ham, home made rolls, asparagus, and roasted potatoes, mushrooms, & onions with ham gravy. No dessert…we were all too full. Can you imagine such a thing!

    Happy New Year! 🙂

  7. ***I bought a whole leg of ham as I prefer its presentation in complete form rather than a sawn-off half ***

    LOVE that sentence in so many ways!

    Charlie, your meal and decor look amaaaaaazing, but I have a feeling the conversations & good cheer were even better.

    HAPPY 2014! With Lots of LOVE))!! Xx

  8. How beautiful everything was. And I know how much work is involved in getting everything ready – it never seems to end. I especially love the table and that salad looks intriguing. I hope Xmas day was just as wonderful.

  9. Your table looked elegant,Charlie! All sounds wonderful. The grandkids have been here a lot.I went to midnight mass for the first time in over 30 years so I could stay home and be with everyone all Christmas as they wandered in, but I didn’t get to sleep until 4 AM!( I had cooked almost everything else for two days ) I set the alarm and put the turkey breasts in at 8 and actually got another 2 hours of sleep.THEN I had to hustle! A good time was had by all. I hope your New Year is wonderful, happy and healthy for you and your family!

  10. What a fabulous meal, and so elegantly presented. You must be exhausted! Hope you have a good rest now.

  11. We had a pretty quiet Christmas Eve, watching the carols and a few drinks. Did you then do all this again the next day?

  12. Oh how wonderful to have your family with you on the holiday. My kids called around 11:30 on Christmas night so I could Skype the present opening with the little ones. It’s not the same as being there but it’s pretty good.

    Your Christmas Eve dinner looks smashing and your dessert is perfect for the season.

  13. Sounds wonderful as chaotic as it might have been. All of the things I had planned to cook and the fact I went to my sisters house in Turramurra to spend a nice Christmas eve with her family were brushed aside as I spent till 2.30 am at the animal hospital.Chaos is family, and it looks like you pulled together in the end. x

  14. What a gorgeous table, and the food looks amazing too 🙂

  15. Gorgeous table. And the weather reminds me of my childhood Christmases in Florida, where I dreamed of just one white Christmas. Lovely food as well. Perfect for Christmas. We usually attend a totally Latino-style Christmas Eve party (Christmas is the big day for us), but opted out this year. Instead, we ate ham and all the trimmings with a shared Christmas late lunch with close friends–and all the kids and their partners.

  16. I had cotton candy ice cream for breakfast, so no, never too cold! And I’m hanging out for that salad recipe 🙂 Merry Christmas (again, I think!) xoxo

    PS Part of what makes Christmas Christmas is the chaos. True story. 😉

    • Hi Hannah, yes, the chaos! I guess I would be disappointed or at least confused if Christmas came and went without any angst. I’ll definitely post the salad recipe as it was so, so good. I’m not really keen on bitter leaves but the pomegranate molasses really made the leaves something special. I’ll try to put it up tomorrow. And cotton candy ice cream? I wish you could post me some!

  17. What a gorgeous table, you really made it very festive. Christmas Eve has always been our special celebration, being Hungarians, but my hubby’s English side celebrate Christmas Day. We had Christmas Eve with my brother, his wife and two kids at their house; Christmas Day celebrations were to be at my house but with the ice storm induced blackouts, I decided to move it to JTs sisters home about 2 hours north of Toronto. Both days we had turkey, stuffing and various vegetables. My brother’s wife bought a white chocolate and raspberry cake, I made pumpkin Crême brûlée for Christmas Day, which flopped because my torch ran out of gas! Christmas Day had 11 adults, 5 dogs and two cats! It was a zoo! I’m glad it’s over. Merry Christmas to you and your family Charlie.

  18. Surrounded by family, with such a wonderful table setting and a menu to blow tastebuds away, I can see why Christmas was so wonderful for you 😀


  19. G’day and gorgeous Charlie!
    Most memorable surrounded by priceless family!
    Cheers! Joanne

  20. I’m very impressed that you hosted a dinner party on Christmas eve, and then with a desk to assemble afterwards! Your table setting looks gorgeous (I love white and silver) and the ice cream bombe very delicious. Perfect for an Australian outdoor summer dessert!

  21. That’s wonderful that it all went well Charlie! And nothing wrong with ironing tablecloths 😛 I think we’d expect no less from you 😉 xxx

  22. What a glorious table! And your ham and bombe look spectacular! Sounds like a very merry Christmas!!! xo

  23. Gorgeous table, Charile ~ inviting and festive! We all hoped for a white Christmas here, but alas, it did not happen. I cannot imagine a warm Christmas season the way it is there, though I suppose you get used to the cycle of the seasons where ever you make your home. I remember the days of staying up late putting bicycles and doll houses together … such a special time (especially when it’s done!).
    This year, with all the kids grown, we had a quiet evening watching Christmas movies together after the candle light service at church. It was so good just to be in the same room, relaxing. A merry Christmas indeed.

  24. Your table was gorgeous, as was the food! I just love looking at photos and hearing how others create a lovely setting and such ambiance. I must say that I struggle BIG TIME with Christmas Eve. It’s my daughter’s birthday, and no matter how I try to plan in advance, create special birthday celebrations while I’m also up to my ears in Christmas preparation, there are still hiccups that completely throw me off. I won’t go into detail…it’s in the past now and I’m trying to get over my attitude of complaint! LOL!–but we had “drop in” guests I wasn’t planning on feeding–all wanting to surprise Aimee. Well, it wasn’t my birthday, but I was sure surprised. 🙂 So the well-oil machine ground to a squeaky halt, and we just did the best we could. I tried to be as gracious as possible, and as it turned out, everyone had a good time! We didn’t have extreme heat…so that was helpful! oxo

  25. What a lovely looking meal! And I had to laugh at your story of wrapping and assembling until 1:30 am. Why, why do we do these things to ourselves? Every year I vow to be done ahead of time, and every year I’m wrapping like a fiend on Christmas Eve. Oh well, it’s all part of the season. Looking forward to New Year’s now!

  26. Your meal sounds fabulous. I have such a hard time imagining a hot Christmas! Glad to know we weren’t the only ones up building and wrapping until 1:30. Such busy little elves! 🙂 Happy New Year Charlie!

  27. The table looked lovely and I am sure the Soy Sauce made the ham look more charred than it actually was :). I have been looking at buying some Pomegranate molasses for a salad dressing, I will definitely do that now as the salad looked great.

  28. Charlie, your table is gorgeous (loved the Christmas crackers, too!) and your meal looks mouthwatering. How wonderful to dine outside, too! Our weather was cooler than usual — I’d hoped to treat our Minnesota guests to dinner on the deck, but alas… we ended up moving the dining room table to the living room so we could eat “by the lake indoors.” Thanks for sharing your feast & festivities… best wishes for a Happy, Healthy 2014!

  29. i love love love how you set up the table and you catered for 15 people by yourself omg that’s pretty amazing! We had about 15 people as well but we only did the turkey and ham while we then got others to bring a dish as well hehe 🙂 Hope you had an amazing time with family and 5 week old Fredie hehe xx

  30. I remember so many of those nights long ago when our children were young. There were so many little plastic toys and books to wrap it took hours and I, too, would stumble in to bed in the early morning hours! I hope your family had a lovely Christmas.. this dinner looked so wonderful. Perhaps you could take a close up of your place cards, they look pretty!! xx

  31. You may have needed more time but I certainly couldn’t tell by the look of things, Charlie. Your table was set beautifully and the food all looked delicious. And the ham? It looks fine to me and I bet it was moist and tasty. If you want to see real “charred”, I’ve got more than a few photos of turkeys and hams that I’ve prepared that looked more like cinders than anything edible. 🙂

  32. We rented an apartment in the Alps for Christmas with family so we kept things simple. We brought a small, second Christmas tree from home and decorated it. We all went skiing in the morning. In the afternoon it started to snow. We open presents on Christmas Eve, as per German tradition. The kids recited a poem/sang a song in front of the tree and then the present frenzy began. After that we had a very-easy-to-prepare dinner of smoked salmon, foie gras, duck paté, jamon iberico, mountain cheeses and a big salad followed by all sorts of sweets, chocolate and marzipan. There was plenty of spumante and hearty red wine and Christmas music playing and a winter wonderland outside our window. It was lovely and totally stress free…

  33. Looks like a lovely Christmas Eve!

    This year I was in the states and it was just my mom, sister and I as my father passed away two years ago and my sister and I have not married or had children yet. It was pretty low key but keeping in tradition we did not have meat on Christmas Eve. Normally we would celebrate with the feast of seven fishes but with just three of us seven fishes would be overly gluttonous! Instead we had a chilled shrimp starter enjoyed with glasses of champagne. For our next course we enjoyed steamed clams in a lovely shallot, garlic and white wine broth served with crusty Italian bread to soak up the broth. Our main was fantastic steamed Maine lobster served with drawn butter and lemon with a side salad. For dessert we had beautiful chocolate and hazelnut tarts. It was very low key. All the presents were wrapped and the three of us just got to spend a lovely day together.

    • Hi Lauren, I’m so sorry to hear about your father’s passing. It does seem very untimely and terribly sad, especially at Christmas time. I’m glad you and your sister and mother had a lovely celebration and it does sound wonderful. I’ve only recently heard of the tradition of the seven fishes but I am aware that there are some who wouldn’t eat meat on Christmas Eve. I think it was the Italians who decided to turn what was meant to be an austere event into something extremely indulgent and good on them!

  34. Sounds like you had a wonderful and delicious Christmas, Charlie!


  1. […] it was time for dessert.  I made a frozen white chocolate pudding that presents well with fresh berries and toasted slivered almonds scattered on top but if you […]

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