FEELING FESTIVE AT THE CHRISTMAS TABLE | SYLVIA PARKLifestyle
12 December 2022
I adore hosting friends and family and am a keen cook and baker. So, the Christmas meal is central to a Meri Kirihimete at my place. I serve up a mix of traditional and more summer-friendly options and, despite being a cook, I’m also hugely social so my menus include lots of prepare-ahead dishes, savvy shortcuts and a good helping of pragmatism so that I can enjoy Christmas as much as my guests. I also love a festive Christmas table – and it’s a spot that you can make feel really special using what you already have and adding just a few Christmassy touches from Sylvia Park.
Whether eating outside or in, I always start with a good, heavy cotton tablecloth. A tablecloth outside? Yes! It’s amazing how this one little touch can elevate a casual bbq to something special. I use a plain cloth I already have – and if we’re outside tuck the corners under the table and pin them with good old clothes pegs (underneath where no one will see them) for a bit of stability. I like to layer up with a table runner or even a Christmas garland that will sit well under (or woven around) my serving dishes. At our place, Christmas lunch is served on platters and in large sharing bowls for everyone to help themselves (and serve each other) and there generally isn’t a lot of room for a centrepiece, so I’ve found that this works well.
I then stack my plates at each place setting – I tend to stick with my classic white tableware, adding coloured charger plates for effect and creating place settings out of candy canes, small Christmas decorations or even Christmas crackers. If you’re anything like me, your cutlery has been racking up frequent flyer points in the dishwasher all year. So, while I set the rest of the table, I like to bring it back to its sparkling best by dumping it into a warm bath of 6 parts water and 1 part vinegar to soak for 5-10 minutes. Then, I rinse off and polish dry with a microfibre cloth, popping it straight onto the table. The same water/vinegar mix and a quick polish with a microfibre cloth will also do wonders for your glassware.
Speaking of glassware, trifle has always been a favourite for us on Christmas Day – cool and light enough that you don’t need a sleep afterwards #nojudgement but special enough to feel celebratory. Trifle can be made ahead – and actually taste better if done the day before, win! However, while I love the flavours, the perfectionist in me is not such a fan of trifle presentation after the first serve destroys those gorgeous layers. So, I’ve started making individual serves in tumblers or stemless wine glasses. Everyone gets a great looking serve, they fit better in the fridge and the kids LOVE helping with them. Individual trifles also allow you to change it up for the kids (just don’t mix up the alcoholic and non-alcoholic offerings!). I make mine in Krosno tumblers from Farmers – not only do they look great but are a nice everyday drinking glass for the summer ahead. Or, if you’re eating outside, fancy picking up some picnicware for later use or are worried about breakages, CinCin Unbreakable stemless wineglasses or tumblers (also from Farmers) are a great option too.
For my cheat’s trifles, grab unfilled sponges from the supermarket, and cut circles using cookie cutters or glasses. Cut your circles of sponge in half horizontally, pop them into the bottom of the presentation glasses and soak in orange juice, dessert wine or sherry if you’re a traditionalist. Then layer with a mix of fresh and frozen berries and some store-bought custard before repeating the whole process and topping with whipped cream and strawberries with a snowy sprinkle of icing sugar.