How to prepare a Christmas feast like a pro

DECEMBER 20, 2018

Turkey and gammon and nut roasts, oh my. ’Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry. But with so many options for what to serve at your festive table this season, where do you even start?

Every family has different traditions around Christmas time. But one central theme is a feast, be it for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day itself or even a Boxing Day braai. This is what brings everyone together, to reflect on the year that has passed ? whether it’s gammon, turkey, nut roast, lamb or even a seafood selection on the table.

Tarryn Coetzee grew up in Belhar, Cape Town and became a chef by chance. Her first job was working at a health bar in a gym, which developed into cooking more complex dishes and larger staff meals when the gym moved to new, larger premises. When professional chef Jolene Van Wyk took over the kitchen, Taryn saw Jolene as her mentor. This launched a lifelong passion for food and cooking, and Coetzee began her journey training to become a professional herself.

Now, after working in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, she is a sous chef at Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront where fast-paced cooking and incorporating her own style in a busy kitchen keeps her on her toes.

At home with her family, however, it’s all about “homey” stews, casseroles and roasts in the oven. With four children, and a large extended family, Christmas is taken very seriously.

Coetzee shares her tips for how to impress your friends and family this festive season with all the usual trimmings, and a little something extra in order to make this Christmas one to remember for many years to come.

Consider your full menu

You may have already decided on what roast you will be cooking, but what will you be serving with it? Are you making a starter? And surely it isn’t Christmas without dessert?

For Coetzee, it would be something like a duck terrine with cranberries and pomegranate to start. For the main course, she would serve up turkey (glazed with cinnamon and orange) and roast potatoes (always roast potatoes!) and other roasted or sauteed vegetables on the side. Dessert would be her mother’s famous trifle because “it just isn’t Christmas without it”.

With turkey, Coetzee says don’t forget the gravy! Use your onions, carrots and all the juices from the base of your roasting tray. Pop it all into a pot with white wine, then heat through, blend and strain. You can’t go wrong!

Go non-traditional

There is no rule forcing you to stick to the classics. You can serve anything you want at your Christmas table. Coetzee suggests a sharing sirloin with gravy, a Cape Malay curry, or even cold meat and cheese platters (especially great if you’re planning a lunch on a hot Christmas day).

Serve any of these with a classic green salad, a coleslaw with dried cranberries tossed through, or a Caesar salad with anchovies. For dessert, Coetzee suggests a malva pudding or Earl Grey crème brûlée. Cold desserts like tiramisu or an ice-cream or parfait also go down very well when the weather is warm.

Be crafty with your leftovers

Serve up any cold leftover meats with cheese, breads and pickles for the days following Christmas when you might have friends and family popping by. Gammon, tongue and beef work especially well for this.

If you have more turkey than you know what to do with, you can make one of Coetzee’s personal favourite leftover recipes. Just chop up the leftover meat and add it to fried onion, garlic and celery in a pan, add cream and parmesan, and toss it all through some cooked pasta.

Leftover fruit cake can be turned into a fun activity, making bread pudding or cake pops (rolling the cake into balls and dipping in chocolate).

Think ahead for perfect planning

There are things you can make in advance to eliminate some of the chaos in your kitchen when your entire family descends on your home.

You can cut vegetables and make stuffing before the big day. Cold desserts can be in the fridge and ready to go the day before. And remember that your turkey needs to be out of the freezer and slowly defrosting well in advance (the time will depend on the size of the bird).

Of course, it’s great to have all those extra pairs of hands on the day of the feast itself. Assign different tasks to people - chopping food, washing dishes or setting the table. Or, if you want some space in the kitchen, provide a fun activity like games or Christmas movies to keep everyone entertained ? and out of your way!

Wash it all down

Whether it’s local wine, craft beer, mulled wine, cider, or a homemade cocktail or mocktail creation, think about what you’ll be serving your guests to drink.

Coetzee recommends a welcome cocktail (which can be as simple as a glass of bubbles served with a cherry) and carefully considered wine pairings with your food. Her advice: If you’re serving white meat, opt for a Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay. With red meat, try a bold Shiraz.

Or skip it all

But if the thought of preparing a whole Christmas lunch for you and yours in the summer heat is too much to contemplate, Chef Taryn and the rest of the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront team has you covered. For R850 per person you can enjoy Christmas Eve Dinner which includes welcome drink, live entertainment, 3 course menu, table décor, gift and crackers in Tobago’s Restaurant and Terrace.

Christmas Day luncheon can be enjoyed in either of the hotel’s spectacular restaurants; Tobago Restaurant & Terrace or Harbour View for only R995.00 per person, it includes a welcome drink, live entertainment, a gift, crackers and table decor, with the main event being a three-course buffet. You can also make the most of Reconciliation Day with Radisson’s Boxing Day braai package which includes live entertainment, spectacular views and a three course buffet for R450 per person running from 12:30 ? 15:30.

Contact Franchisee Maritsa Beattie & Talita Swart
Cape Town contact number Maritsa - 083 6583 948 | Talita - 072 6794 343
Cape Town email address |