How to make the perfect Christmas lunch, according to Zola Nene

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Chef Zola Nene reflects on what she's grateful for this year, her favourite Christmas memories and her top tips for preparing the perfect Christmas feast.
Chef Zola Nene reflects on what she's grateful for this year, her favourite Christmas memories and her top tips for preparing the perfect Christmas feast.
Supplied/Lisa Skinner

Although most families have their favourite meals for Christmas, there's always room to add some spice to the menu. There's a lot that goes into the preparation and because 2020 has been tough, some might be looking to go the extra mile this year to make it special. 

Maybe you can't go home and you want to recreate your mother's recipe for chicken curry or her one-of a kind trifle and you're in need of some much-needed guidance - we might be able to lend a helping hand. 

DRUM spoke to chef and cookbook author Zola Nene on what she's grateful for this year, her favourite Christmas memories and her success-proof tips for preparing the perfect Christmas feast. 

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What are you most grateful for this year?

I’m mostly grateful for mine and my family’s health. This year has been a tough one for many during the pandemic and so many people have lost loved ones. It’s a blessing that my family is well and that we will be able to spend the festive season celebrating together.

What's your favourite thing about Christmas lunch?

It's definitely sitting down with the family over an indulgent meal. I think our Christmas lunch is the meal where we laughed the most – my mom and dad tell us stories about their Christmas memories as kids. Now it’s even more special with my little nephew being part of the celebration - it’s so wonderful sharing those moments as a family.

Your favourite food item(s) on the Christmas table?

I always find it so difficult to choose a favourite anything, I like too many things to narrow it down to just a few. But some items that never get left off of our Christmas lunch table are roast lamb, glazed gammon and chicken curry.

Take a look at Zola's recipe for Chicken Curry below:

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There's a lot that goes into preparing Christmas lunch and with these tips, Zola ensures that when you take your seat on the table, you'll be looking forward to the meal ahead. 

Merry Christmas! 

Zola's Top 5 tips:
  • First and foremost, don’t be afraid to ask for help – you don’t have to do everything yourself. Delegate tasks to other people, have them chop and peel for you if it helps take the pressure off.
  • Prepare as much as possible in advance; don’t leave everything to the day of the event - things like gammon can be simmered the day before and just glazed on the day, make dessert the day before if possible. Whatever helps shorten the prep list on Christmas Day.
  • Don’t cook anything you’ve never made before (or at least that you’re confident to make), you’ll just be setting yourself up for possible failure, and no one needs that on the big day. Choose dishes that you are comfortable preparing.
  • Choose a variation of dishes that are cold and hot, unless you have an industrial-size oven at home. Oven space can often be a huge issue on Christmas Day, especially when everything has to be served hot. By choosing some dishes that can be served at room temperature or even cold, you free up the oven for your roasts.
  • Make a list! I know this seems unimportant, but trust me, writing your menu or dishes down on paper means you’ll be less likely to forget something. Imagine forgetting to serve one of the dishes you spent time preparing, you’ll be so upset! Write everything down and tick things off the list. Organisation is key to successful festive meal prep and execution.

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