Top 10 festive starters

Kick off your Christmas dinner with something special. Our simple starters are designed to make life easy on the big day.

Giant smoked salmon blini

Chances are when you settle down to your festive starter there’s still a whole lot going on in the kitchen. It’s certainly a challenge to produce a stunning dish while simultaneously grappling with steaming vegetables, resting meat and bubbling gravy, but it’s possible with careful planning and clever ingredients.

Top tips

All the dishes below can be prepared ahead as this is key to minimising stress. Unless you’re a picture of pure placidity this is not a time for soufflés. 

Try to serve up light bites. While the indigestion tablets will be on standby, it’s easy to spoil the main course by overindulging at the first furlong. 

Baked cheese with pearsGet your diners interacting by serving up sharing dishes. Nothing unites a group quite like a simultaneous swoop into a baked Camembert.

Try to cater for everyone in one go. If you have a few vegetarian guests try out a meat-free starter rather than making a separate dish for them. There’s plenty of meat to come… 

Think of your crockery situation and avoid using anything that needs to be washed before the main course. Lay out a nice wooden chopping board and serve something that can be sliced and nibbled from napkins, and use teacups for potting and pâté. Or go retro and serve prawn cocktail from an empty avocado shell - our personal favourite. 

Don’t forget your drinks. Draft in a sous chef to serve up fizz, cocktails and mocktails. Visit our drinks section for inspiration.

Our top 10 festive starters...

Wreath with melting cheeseMelting cheese with poppy & apricot bread wreath

The dough for this festive bread can be made ahead and frozen. Defrost on Christmas Eve, then roll it out on the day and wrap it around a Camembert or Brie. Bake until the bread is golden and crusty, then plonk it in the middle of the table and invite everyone to get dunking. 

 

Ham hock and mustard terrineHam hock & mustard terrine

This coarse pork loaf needs to set overnight, so you could make it on the 23rd or 24th. It does involve slow-cooking ham hocks, so you’ll need to put aside a good few hours to prepare it. Serve with toast. 

 

 

Spiced parsnip soupSpiced parsnip & cauliflower soup

Making a batch of soup to stash away in the freezer is a wise move. This vegetarian option needs only a handful of vegetables- the other components are mostly storecupboard spices. 

 

 

Potted stiltonPotted Stilton

Potting is a popular traditional preserving technique, and no wonder – this buttery treat keeps for up to two months in the fridge. It only needs four ingredients too, but it’s one of the heavier starter options. 

 

 

Smoked salmon pate with bagel toastsPoached & smoked salmon pâté with bagel toasts

This double-fishy, chunky terrine can be make up to two days in advance. It’s a good recipe to use if you’ve bought a big portion of smoked salmon for general festive snacking. 

 

 

Giant bliniGiant smoked salmon & beetroot blini

Making your own pancakes will impress your guests – just don’t tell them they were made a day in advance. Keep your cheat's blinis wrapped in the fridge, then top them with a rainbow mix before slicing to serve. 

 

 

Camembert pieBaked Camembert pie for sharing

Not one for the faint-hearted, but if you’re going to wrap a cheese in all-butter pastry, there’s no better time than Christmas. 

 

 

Pork rillettesPork rillettes

Rillettes is the French take on potting. Make in advance by slow-cooking pork belly flavoured with brandy and juniper. Pour into ramekins and store them in the fridge for up to a week.

 

 

Pear and manchego saladPear & Manchego salad

Salads are a good option – they’ll satisfy the health conscious and don't usually require turning on the cooker. For this Spanish-style dish, make the rosemary, honey and hazelnut crumb in advance then simply assemble to serve. The recipe is for two but can be easily upped for more. 

 

Roast beef platterRoast beef platter with chilli, pine nut & parsley dressing

Your main course not quite meaty enough? This informal platter should satisfy the most carnivorous of palates. Pre-roast your sirloin and slice before serving. You can make the light dressing ahead too. 

 

 

What will you be serving as your starter this Christmas? We have lots of other suggestions on our Christmas dinner page too… 

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