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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Cauliflower cheese soup with crispy sage & hazelnuts
This silky smooth, cauliflower cheese soup is topped with crispy sage leaves and hazelnuts for a touch of colour and crunch. The rich, wintry flavours are perfect to kick off your Christmas dinner.
Salmon tartare with apple, dill & gherkins
Seafood makes for a great festive starter, and this super light and fresh salmon tartare is no exception. We’ve included apple, dill and gherkins to add plenty of flavour to this dish.
Creamed goat’s cheese & roast beetroot salad
This simple salad is easy to make but bursting with flavour, colour and texture – and it looks beautiful on the dinner table, too.
Melting 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 & mustard terrine
This coarse pork loaf needs to set overnight, so you could make it a day or two ahead. It does involve slow-cooking ham hocks, so you’ll need to put aside a good few hours to prepare it. Serve with toast.
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.
Poached & 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 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.
Baked 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.
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 in the fridge for up to a week.
What will you be serving as your starter this Christmas? See more suggestions at our Christmas dinner hub.