The beginner's guide to hosting Christmas lunch

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You may be a new mum or dad, no doubt drunk on love for your newborn but also unbelievably sleep deprived. In a state of delirium, you may have offered to have lunch at your place for baby's first Christmas

Or maybe it's just your turn to have the family over for a Christmas meal, and you thought you'd be totally on top of it all by now. But you're not.  

Don't despair - there are plenty of tried and tested hacks for creating the perfect Christmas lunch, worthy of a TV Christmas special, without doing anything more strenuous than opening a jar.

With delivery options available these days you can purchase all the groceries from the comfort of your home, at whatever hour of the day you happen to find yourself awake. Purchasing online has dual benefits: firstly, it gets delivered, and secondly, it can minimise over-purchasing or straying from the plan. You can review everything you have put in your "trolley" and make changes before you hit purchase.

To make sure you are making sensible choices for an easy feast, you need a few guidelines. Plan out what you are serving and purchase things you don't have to peel, cut or cook – or, if you are going to cook, things that don't take too long.

Buy it cooked

Cooked prawns are perfect for the Australian climate at Christmas. They can be served cold and you don't have to do a thing – your guests will even peel them for you. Pop a bowl of whole cooked prawns on the table with a bowl of ice lemon water for your guest to rinse their hands … and watch them disappear.

A side of smoked salmon is another great seafood option. It can make any lunch feel extravagant and all you need to do is put it on a platter. If you really want to go the extra mile, sprinkle the salmon with some fresh dill and scatter a few wedges of lemon around. You'll have a seafood platter ready for your guests in less than three minutes.

And let's not forget about the humble ham. There are plenty of pre-glazed options, but the regular leg of ham is often just as popular. Not only can you serve this cold but it's a great centerpiece for the table and really adds to the feeling that you're serving a feast.


Serve salads

Don't slave over roasting and or steaming vegetables – salads are a much better choice for a summer. And you don't have to cook a thing to throw a fantastic salad together!

Pre-packed washed salad leaves are perhaps the best fresh produce to be introduced to the market since ... well, sliced bread. Top the washed leaves with roasted Mediterranean vegetables (out of a jar), a sprinkle of feta and a scattering of roasted nuts and voila, you've made a gourmet summer salad without cooking a thing.

Forget the whole turkey

This doesn't have to mean missing out on the turkey: if this bird is a must at your table, buy a deboned turkey, preferably rolled and stuffed for you. It cooks in half the time and is less prone to drying out than a whole bird.

To further reduce your cooking time, use a spatchcocked (spine removed) chicken or turkey. A whole chicken that has been spatchcocked will cook in 45 minutes! And don't start googling how to spatchcock a chicken – just ask the butcher, they'll do it in five seconds.

Store bought pav isn't cheating

Yes, Nanna's pav is great, but there are fair few steps that go into making a good pavlova – and too many distractions, you'll end up with a gooey mess.

The thing that really makes a pavalova special is what people put on top. In my opinion cream is a must, but if whipping cream is even a step to far, buy a clotted cream or mascarpone and you can spoon it straight out of the tub onto the pavlova, no whipping needed.

When it comes to what you put on top of the pav, the key is to use things that don't need a lot of preparation. Yes, kiwi fruit is great on a pav, but you have to peel it AND chop it! Raspberries and blueberries can be scattered over whole and they are often on sale close to Christmas. To further reduce the cost, you can use frozen fruit – and as it defrosts it makes a jammy syrup that runs into the cream, which is just heavenly.

If you follow these guidelines you could be serving a feast of seafood, ham and maybe even a roast chook with some gourmet salads and a gorgeous pavlova to finish the extravaganza. It could all be done in under and hour and with little more effort than opening a packet. No one will go hungry, no one will complain about the food and everyone will be in the same food coma as every year before, because reducing cooking and preparation time doesn't limit abundance.

And that's the game plan for tired parents who want to do Christmas lunch like a boss.