Planning your Christmas menu in January

For most, the New Year is a time to breathe a sigh of relief after the busy Christmas period. However, for chefs, with the learnings of the previous year fresh in the mind and new ideas bubbling at the surface, January is the ideal time to sit down and start planning their next Christmas menu.

Planning your Christmas menu during the first quarter allows for room to adapt, change and improve your menu throughout the year, so by the time November rolls round, the finalised menu reflects your best offering.

Unlike the traditional main course of turkey and all the trimmings – which remains consistent year after year – the choice of festive desserts and starters encompasses an ever growing range of flavours and creations.

With any menu, the starter sets the tone for the rest of the meal, so it’s important to get it right. As Christmas is a time for celebration, indulgent starters that incorporate rich flavours are well placed.

Opting for a terrine starter is a good way to introduce a festive menu without over-facing guests. Game terrine in particular complements the turkey main perfectly, with its rich meaty flavours. For vegetarian guests, a feta and bell pepper tart offers a delicious yet light start to the meal before continuing onto a large main course.

Naturally, festive favourites such as Christmas pudding, mince pies and Christmas cake, will always feature on a Christmas menu. However, it’s now becoming more commonplace for chefs to take on classic flavours and re-invent them into surprising and thoroughly modern dishes. White chocolate panacotta and Irish Cream cheesecake are both popular menu choices that play on the traditional, as well as offering something new and enticing to the customer.

If your customers have a particularly sweet tooth, spoil them with an assiette of desserts, including white chocolate panacotta, mini chocolate truffle torte and mini slice lemon tart.

Creating a festive-themed afternoon tea is another great way of showcasing a range of sweet treats. In recent years, afternoon tea has soared in popularity, with people using the age-old tradition as the perfect excuse to catch up with friends or celebrate a special occasion. Over the festive period, afternoon tea can be given a yuletide makeover by incorporating mini creations of Christmas classics such as mincemeat tart, mince pies and Christmas cake, alongside afternoon tea staples such as carrot cake and lemon drizzle cake.

Finally, as Christmas marks the passing of another year, it provides a great opportunity to give the year’s most popular dessert trends a festive touch. It’s yet to be seen what 2015 will bring to the table, but now is a good time to start thinking about which trends are tipped to take the world by storm, and how they might be best placed on a Christmas menu.

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