Thursday, 11 December 2014

Boxing Day Buffet

A more onerous task than a Boxing Day Buffet I can't really imagine. But for many of you this year, it is a reality.

How do you feed many people, of wildly different ages with basically zero prep time? Because the day before Boxing Day, if you hadn't noticed, is a bit busy and there's not terribly much time to get anything done.

The answer! Is the same answer as in every mass-catering question and that is: a LOT of very few things. So, an ENORMOUS quantity of a single meat dish. An ENORMOUS quantity of a single vegetable dish and an ENORMOUS quantity of a single carbohydrate. Do not faff about with one quiche, one pie, one of this sort of salad one of that sort of salad. You will go completely crackers.

What I always recommend to anyone who asks me is:

1 A glazed ham
2 Jamie Oliver's Winter Coleslaw
3 Mini baked potatoes (by mini I mean about the size of a five year old's fist - not actually tiny, but not a giant Spud-U-Like jobby)
4 You could also have a coronation chicken dish, depending on how many people you've got coming. Everyone loves coronation chicken and they won't have had it yet in the year (probably).

You must have alongside this ham a wide range of pickles and condiments and for pudding, something chocolatey, like brownies. Out of a packet if necessary.

But how the holy hell are you going to get all this together in time for lunch on Boxing Day?? Not a thing can be done on Christmas Day, after all!

No, quite. What you are going to do is make the ham, the coronation sauce and the brownies on Christmas Eve. The ham can absolutely sit about until Boxing Day - that's what hams are supposed to do. The brownies will be fine in Tupperware. There is a VERY good Coronation Chicken recipe on this blog.

Pick whichever glazed ham recipe you fancy off the internet - Delia has a nice one, as does Gordon Ramsay and Jamie. I've always been a bit scared of the number of Scotch Bonnets Jamie recommends for his jerk ham but he's right about most things...

First thing Boxing Day morning you bung a chicken in the oven, take it out, leave to cool, then strip and add the sauce. If you could bear to, you could also do this in the dying moments of Christmas Day and leave to cool overnight.

Then you make the coleslaw, which is incredibly easy, just an assembly job - the original recipe is here: It's truly a wonderful thing, this coleslaw - not at all like the sloppy, mayonnaise-y coleslaws of your youth. It also brings a much-needed freshness and crunch to the general Christmas food-paintbox of stodge, brown things and sugar.

[A note: you don't have to have a grating attachment on your whizzer to do this, but you must have at least a Japanese mandolin or you're a bit stuffed.]

THEN, 45 minutes before you want to sit down and eat, prick a lot of smallish Maris Pipers (allow 3 per person) and put in them the oven as high as it will go.

It is vital that you time everything to the potatoes. They must be fresh out of the oven, piping hot and desirable as you call everyone to lunch.

There is something for everyone here, trust me. Even for vegetarians - what is better than a baked potato with a lot of butter on it? And the coleslaw is out of this world, any vegetarian who complains about that needs to be booted out onto the street. Peace to the world and love to all mankind was yesterday, suckah.

Who doesn't love brownies? Serve with fruit and cream if you must, but everyone will be happy just stuffing them in their gobs with both hands. Do NOT try to be original with some kind of yucky lemon pudding or a meringue or something. People who like pudding like chocolate pudding above all.

Just don't let the kids catch sight of the brownies before time or it's game over.


  1. 'People who like pudding like chocolate above all'. That is gold. Too true and I should know, having the biggest sweet tooth ever. Ever. You must try Nigella's coca cola ham xx

  2. All sounds lovely - but when there are only adults to cater for it's even lovelier - phone, dial and deliver. Perfect!

  3. Esther - thank you for all of your brilliant Christmas posts. I am falling upon them gratefully as I stare down the barrel of my Christmas first hosting experience. Do you serve a cocktail before Christmas lunch? A need a guide to Christmas booze! Best, Anna

    1. Some kind of champagne or prosecco-based pre-lunch drink is usual but make bloody sure that you give people a snack with it or that they are sitting down to lunch soon or you'll have a lot of drunk, gassy guests who won't leave. Also make sure that there is a good non-alcoholic option. People will arrive at your house simply thirsty and will suck down a cocktail very fast. Bottlegreen do a really nice ginger and lemongrass cordial - offer that topped up with sparkling water & ice alongside your pre-lunch cocktail xx

  4. Can I have a bit of cheese too just a bit! Otherwise sounds perfect.