Christmas for me is a year-end marker as it is for many all over the world, so the style in which it is celebrated reflects the way the year has been perceived. I think 2019 may not be thought of as a year that requires light-hearted, gregarious celebrations; after all, there’s been climate change, pollution, fires and floods, besides being an underwhelming year for politics and the world economy.
While keeping the Christmas spirit alive, I chose an elegant palette for the table with the idea that it would evoke thoughts of positivity and hope and gentle contemplation so we can all wish for a cleaner, calmer and kinder world.
I prefer to host a slow and long ‘all day’ Christmas Lunch on the 25th of December, beginning around noon and extending into an early evening sundowner—that way there is more time for eating and drinking and more time for conversation and exchanging gifts.
AN ABUNDANT TABLE
A sit-down meal with food occupying centre stage works well. I like the food to arrive on generous platters rather than as individually plated portions, so the table looks abundant and everyone can enjoy serving themselves or each other.
I try and keep it simple—for example, at my Christmas lunches at home the first course is usually a delicate wintery salad along with a cold smoked salmon or a paté of liver or a cold mushroom dish. The main course is a roast turkey or leg of lamb or a roast leg of ham served with stuffing and gravy. Side dishes of potatoes in cream and truffle oil and winter vegetables complete the meal. Lots of breads, both sweet and savory remain on the table throughout the meal. Try and plan a wholesome alternative of wild rice or a pasta for the vegetarians.
For dessert a beautiful traditional Christmas cake is a must, cookies and gingerbread, and if guests offer to bring something, I easily suggest that they add to the dessert table—a chocolate mousse or a strawberry tart. Once the dessert is on the table then it’s nice not to clear the table—I love the lingering goodness of sweet things and crumbs on the table while ensuring everyone feels free to take their time over this course. It’s fun to also begin opening the gifts at this stage.
Adding a variety of textures and layers to your table adds depth and interest to your setting.
The table has been decorated with luxurious blue and white linen by Ranjit Ahuja.
The colours I chose for this year’s Christmas table are white and slate green. I also consciously planned to decorate the table with natural materials—dry fruit and nuts in their shells, wax candles and cotton ribbons, green leaves and fresh flowers, cinnamon sticks and papier-mâché angels all propped on a base of a table cloth, runner, place mats, and napkins made of pure linen—in white and dull aqua green. I also used antique silver napkin rings.
The linen was painstakingly crafted at the Atelier of the very talented Ranjit Ahuja. His home products are understated, hand-made and add sophistication to any home.
There are some great playlists of Christmas music on Apple music (you can choose between traditional, or more jazzy or pop versions) I like to download my favourites ahead of the big day so I’m not fumbling during the lunch—and I’ve always had the good fortune of having a musician friend or two at my table, and it’s wonderful if they sing or play an instrument after lunch.
I like for all the food at my Christmas table to be made of the best quality natural ingredients, devoid of artificial flavours and colour. I’ve jotted down a checklist of my tips and don’t-dos, which I hope you’ll be able to use while creating your own Christmas Table.
Interior Designer Ritu Nanda and our stylist for this gorgeous Christmas table has her own firm, Ritu Nanda Design based in Mumbai and Goa.
Ritu Nanda consciously planned to decorate the table with natural materials.
An eco-friendly Christmas tree sourced from her travels has been decorated with wooden ornaments and lit up with small candles around it.
When styling your Christmas table – my list of do’s
1. Plan your colours. A white or Creme base is always elegant. Red and gold could work for a cheerful outcome, or a beautiful green, as I did.
2. Once you’ve chosen the palette, stick to it so the crockery, table-linen, flowers and decorations remain in the similar tones. When in doubt use the base colour of white or cream.
3. Layering the table with various layers of linen will give a warm and festive feel to the setting. So, tablecloth, runners, placemats and napkins are excellent as a base. Napkin rings can be made of string or ribbon with a flower or star tucked in the centre.
The table setting includes a different sized plates for every course, glasses for two types of alcohol, and just the right amount of cutlery to enjoy your meal comfortably.
4. Crockery can be used in layers too—dinner plate works as the base for a soup or starter plate with an essential side plate for bread.
5. Glasses and cutlery add sparkle to the table. A wine glass and Champagne flute towards the right top corner of each place setting are always
celebratory—if you’re serving only one of the two drinks then you could also use a water glass.
6. The knife on the right with the blade facing towards the plate, a fork between the dinner and side plate and the soup and dessert spoons go
on the top facing left.
7. Winter is the season for dry fruits and nuts. Little bowls or cups with a variety of these can be used as an edible decoration placed near each
8. Plan for candles and flowers to be low arrangements at the centre of the table so eye contact and conversations with people across the table
9. Decorations are a personal choice and they could be paper bonbons, paper stars or snowflakes you make yourself. Handmade Christmas
ornaments and toys are a big ‘yes’, and each can be tied with ribbon or string.
10. Lastly, a gentle sprinkle of sequins in silver or gold (or rainbow as I’ve used in this setting) adds shimmer to the surface.
More is more—it’s Christmas after all.
The table has been accessorised with paper mache angels, fresh flowers that go with the theme, dried nuts and lots of candles to add to the vibe.
When styling your Christmas table – my list of dont’s
1. Don’t use both red and green together on the same table. Use one or the other, with a subtle colour like white or cream to create a tasteful ambience on the table.
2. Don’t use loud or heavy Christmas ornaments on your table—save those for the tree.
3. Don’t crowd the table in such a way that guests have no elbow room—you can use a nearby sideboard or table for some of the food and wine bottles.
4. Plan your meal so that you can be sure you won’t be a nervous and stressed host who’s running away to the kitchen throughout. You must enjoy yourself so that everyone else can too.
5. Don’t be in a rush between courses. Serve each course with a break in between while you check that everyone has a drink.
The beautiful baked treats were planned and sent over by the one and only Rahul Akerkar of Qualia, and his enlightened team of chefs and bakers. Qualia’s pastry chef and head baker Rachelle Andrade has shared the recipe for Qualia’s Christmas-time special mince pie.
Christmas Mince Pies
Sweet Paste Dough
Refined flour 450 gm
Butter salted 250 gm
Icing sugar 60 gm
· Cream the butter along with the icing sugar until slightly pale.
· Add the flour and mix until a firm dough has been formed, continue to knead for another minute.
· Take out of the mixing bowl and flatten into a disc, cling wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or until required.
· Roll out the dough and line the tart molds. Chill for 45 minutes and bake at 160 degrees C until 80% baked and slightly brown in colour.
· Take the remaining dough and roll to the same thickness as the tart and cut with a star cutter.
· Chill the stars and bake at 160 until golden brown, reserve in an air-tight container until required.
Mince Pie Filling
Dates deseeded 100 gm
Prunes 100 gm
Juice and zest of 3 oranges
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Apples grated 300 gm
Golden raisins 225 gm
Orange peel 100 gm
Lemon peel 100 gm
Brown sugar 250 gm
Cloves ground 2.5 gm
Cinnamon ground 2.5 gm
Ginger juice 2.5 gm
Almonds chopped 100 gm
Brandy/ Rum 100 gm
· Place the dates, prunes, juice of oranges and lemon along with the zest, cook until about 5 mins and slightly soft.
· Add the rest of the ingredients, stir and cook on slow with a lid allowing it to cook in its own steam.
· The pie mix should be compote texture and gooey. If it is too stiff add a little more juice.
· Cool until required.
· Fill the tart shell with the pie filling almost to the brim leaving a very small margin from the edge.
· Once all shells are filled bake the tarts again until golden brown and the pie filling begins to bubble a bit.
· Once out of the oven and ready to serve place the already baked start sweet paste on the pie and dust with icing sugar.
A roast and vindaloo, yule log and bebinca, together make for the perfect mix of festive traditions
Chef Sanjana Patel, founder of La Folie Patisserie, has got you covered with her exclusive take on traditional Christmas desserts