Free Shipping for NZ orders over $75 find out more

All The Festive Trimmings

23 Dec 2023


by Susan

I love Christmas, but to be honest, with my downtime from Caroline Eve being taken up with my homemade ice cream store in Tirau, I don’t really like the extra work that it can bring these days. Don’t get me wrong I love the trimmings of Christmas, but it’s got to be easy and fuss-free! However, I do like to set a festive table and slightly different each year, but again it has to be timely, created from what I have already or cost-effective.

There is only Peter and I for Christmas Day itself. We do host friends and family over prior to Christmas day. However, this year our Christmas day meal might be slightly more festive perhaps than the normal meal served here, but will be a take on Christmas rather than a full-on turkey or traditional Christmas dinner. With that in mind, I have a Pear and Goats Cheese starter which is ideal for being able to get ready in advance, and then for the main we have Cherry and Pistachio Stuffed Chicken served with vegetables. For us, this will be young potatoes with fresh mint and a good dollop of butter, asparagus and some roasted root vegetables on the side. Of course, dessert for the night is my ice cream.

This year I will use a tablecloth as they are making their way back on to tables, and it does help with the table looking a little more dressed. However, in the past, I have used a simple runner to go down the center of the table and placemats. You can even use a scarf or just some fabric to achieve this style. I will be going duck egg blue for colour this year as my lounge dining area has some of this blue so red just won’t work for me. Besides the only thing I really like red is red wine!

Whatever you’re using this year and whatever colour you choose, as you don’t have go all red for Christmas, the best tip I can give you for setting the Christmas table is to layer. Start with your tablecloth, runner or simply placemats. I’ll be using both a tablecloth and two placemats and then placing the plate with a napkin.

For many years I have gone down the road and cut some foliage off some trees that look Christmas like, added pinecones that have been collected and some decorations right off the tree. This year I have some fake foliage and I do love a pinecone, but you can use anything you like. Sometimes just adding beautiful fruit to foliage like lemons, oranges or pears adds glorious colour, and can look simply gorgeous on a summer's day. Think outside the square for these accent pieces, without having to buy anything, these could be from the garden or Christmas storage box as you simply can use Christmas decorations or baubles. Whatever you choose, I think doing it all the same gives your table cohesiveness.

I always love a beautifully laid table as I think it shows how much you care about the people who are going to sit at it.

This year I have purchased some very cute lamps off Instagram which I am excited to use, but normally I just love the simple tea light candles across the table. Adding layers like napkins, wine glasses, water glasses, and even bows add to the look of a special table. This year I have used a gift tag to add to the napkin, as I liked the colour for my table. It’s about setting the scene for a special occasion, and it can be simple and very effective without spending lots on it.

Pear With Goat’s Cheese & Hazelnut Dressing

40g toasted hazelnuts finely chopped or crushed

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar

2 pears, cored

Handful of micro greens, to serve

100g goat’s cheese, crumbled

Combine the hazelnuts with oil, vinegar and a pinch of sea salt flakes. Slice each pear into 6 wedges.

Heat the griddle pan with butter over high heat and griddle the pear wedges until you get a nice charring. Arrange three in a line on each plate. Tuck some micro greens around the pears, then crumble over the goat’s cheese.

Dot over the hazelnut dressing and I have also added a dot or two of balsamic glaze to the plate.

Quick and simple but light and delicious, we like that!

Cherry & Pistachio Stuffed Chicken

I love this recipe, I found it in the Haven magazine a few Christmas’s ago. It is from the wonderful New Zealand cook, Nici Wickes.

160g sliced pancetta, but you could easily use bacon

8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1/4 tsp salt

Splash olive oil


1 cup fresh sourdough breadcrumbs

3/4 cup pitted cherries (I bought a jar from the supermarket in the canned fruit aisle)

Handful of Italian parsley, finely chopped

3/4 cup chopped pistachios, plus some extra for garnish

Zest from half an orange

1/2 tsp sea salt

Pinch black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil or 30g melted butter

Lay out a large rectangle of baking paper (about 40cm x 30cm) with a long edge closest to you. Arrange pancetta rashers vertically, overlapping each other and cover most of the area (35cm x 25cm)

Then arrange two rows of chicken thighs, about 4 along and two up, ideally overlapping each other, so you end up with a large rectangle of chicken on pancetta. Season with salt.

Mix your stuffing ingredients together and sprinkle evenly over the chicken.

To assemble, start from the long side closest to you and use the baking paper to roll it all up into a tight log. Ideally, chill now overnight wrapped in paper, but if you have to, it can be cooked the same day.

Heat oven to 180°C. Line a shallow roasting dish with baking paper and carefully transfer the chicken log into the dish, placing the seam on the bottom and slipping out the original baking paper that it was wrapped in. Brush pancetta with a little olive oil, cover with foil and cook 40 minutes, then baste with pan juices and cook uncovered for a further 20-25 minutes until golden. Rest the chicken for 10 minutes before serving. Scatter with pistachios and serve as sliced rounds.

This chicken is delicious, and I have used this recipe of Nici’s a few times already. You could serve with salad and new potatoes or vegetables and gravy. Delicious and simple.

So that’s my easy Christmas for you. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope that you are all well, happy and content. Christmas isn’t always an easy time. Perhaps if everything in your household is pretty good, it can be a lovely moment to take stock and appreciate these times. Even if the chicken burns, the children fight or are way too noisy, maybe we should take a moment to treasure how lucky we really are.

Until next year, take care and look after yourself and each other.

Share this post