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The six secrets to making holiday entertaining feel effortless

Tips and tricks from the foodies.

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Holiday entertaining rule number one: the hosts set the tone. No gorgeously laid table or multi-course extravaganza will ever reach the desired heights of merriness if the cooks are frazzled. This we know.

The best parties are hosted by those who embody generosity and warmth. You know the type who can seamlessly laugh, and chat as they calmly do their thing. Drinks are topped up, conversations roll and then, voila, a glorious spread is on the table ready to consume.

Now, we are all big believers in Christmas miracles, but more practiced hosts know a lot of preparation is behind the wonder. Fortunately, effortless entertaining is an art that can be learned, these tips will help make all that effort feel like a breeze.

1. Crowdsource the work

From pasta to prawns, one person’s grunt work is far less tedious in a group. Or so says celebrated foodie Gemma Leslie founder of culinary poster shop Food For Everyone. “Some of my most joyous memories are making fresh pasta in the backyard with my family. It’s a wonderful bonding activity,” she says. Leslie also like to put the family to work, to go and collect fresh herbs from the garden or prep a salad. She adds, “I like to make things as simple and joyous as possible.”

2. Prep ahead

Dessert is a good course to get sorted in advance. Chef Mel Alafaci of The Happy Chef does a layered ice cream a week ahead. “On the day, all I have to do is take it out of the freezer,” she says. Salads and sides are prepped the day before, all you have to do is dress them on the day,” she explains. “Little personal jars of salad are trending this Christmas; you can have so much fun doing these, and they look really stylish on the table.”

3. Think self serve

Family-style feasting keeps things simple and relaxed. Big platters of salads, towering stacks of bread rolls and generous centerpieces, carved up and ready to pile onto plates can save a lot of back and forth from kitchen to table when it’s time to eat. The most practiced hosts will prep the table with cutlery, plates, glasses and a tray of condiments before guests arrive.

4. Lift the mood

For music, Leslie loves a good playlist “that you don’t have to tend to,” she says. “Around the festive season I can’t help playing old soul classics like Sam Cooke and Etta James…there’s something about them that brings the good feels.” As for the table, flowers and decoration, she says not to stress over aesthetics – “it’s how you make people feel that is most important.”

5. Simplify the drinks

At this time of year even bartender Cara Devine author of Strong, Sweet and Bitter (Hardie Grant) goes for low-touch cocktails. “Pre batching is your friend – Negronis are great for this, or anything else that doesn’t have fresh juice so you can do them days in advance,” she explains. And Devine’s festive don’ts? Individually shaken drinks. “Most of them (Margaritas, Pina Coladas, even Egg Nog) can be adapted to batches in the blender,” she adds, “Your guests would rather have more time with you than an intricate cocktail that you’re busy making all night.”

6. Home delivered delights

You could join the line for fresh seafood pre-Christmas, or you could get it delivered. In Sydney you can get shucked or unshucked oysters from the fish markets on Uber Eats. Along with high-calibre deli items from Fabbrica (try their bread and butter pickle), and fresh produce from Harris Farm. In Melbourne, Meatwell Butchers, Pino’s Fine Produce and Vic Market Grocer are just a few of the purveyors of quality produce on the Uber Eats platform. And if the drinks start to run low as the night goes on, an order from a neighbourhood bottle shop on Uber Eats can keep the good times flowing.

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