Chef Margie Nomura trained at the world-renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, before cooking her way around the world in places such as Japan and South Africa where she dedicated several months to teaching Zulu women how to cook.
Today she continues to work as a freelance private chef, while also hosting the popular podcast Desert Island Dishes - Margie invites guests, ranging from Rick Stein to Twiggy, to discuss the seven dishes that have shaped their lives.
We spoke to Margie about entertaining over the festive period, from tips for hosting guests to her favourite food and drinks to serve over the Christmas season. Read on to discover her advice and recommendations.
Could you share three tips for hosting guests over the festive period?
Get as much done ahead of time as possible. Whether that's choosing things that you just bung in the oven when your guests arrive, or perhaps it's a case of cooking things earlier in the day and then you just need to warm them through when you want to eat.
It's much better to do something simple than overly complicated and stressful. Keep things simple with something you've cooked before and remember that your friends are there to see you! I love laying the table and making everything look pretty, even if it's just omelette and a green salad. Sometimes simple really is best.
Accept help! If someone offers to help in the kitchen, or asks if they can bring something, it's so tempting to say no but always say yes. If you don't like making puddings, ask your guest to bring something! Having someone with you in the kitchen peeling carrots makes those kinds of tasks much more fun anyway.
Are there any festive traditions that you adhere to when entertaining at this time of year?
I love Christmas food and I think if you love cooking, it's a time when you really get to indulge by spending lots of time in the kitchen. I never used to like Christmas pudding so my mum would always make a yule log as well and now that I like both, I still make the two! She also always makes miniature mince pies, just one little mouthful really, adorned with a tiny pastry star on the top and now that's how I make mine too, they taste so much better than the great big ones.
I'm also very invested in the Boxing Day sandwich. I love Christmas lunch, but I've always got an eye on the leftovers and what will be going in my sandwich. Nothing is off limits, and it gets quite competitive in our house.
What cocktails or drinks do you like to serve to guests at Christmas?
I love prosecco or something fizzy on Christmas day. One of the guests on the podcast told me about a Twinkle and now that's become a firm favourite cocktail. Elderflower, vodka and prosecco - dangerous but so, so good.
My other great weakness are espresso martinis, great for dinner parties. And Baileys - I love it, and whilst I do have it all year round, it does feel especially Christmassy. Served neat over ice. Delicious!
What would be on the menu for a festive dinner party?
I don't tend to do a starter per se, but just have lots of nibbles and canapes for people to have with their drinks. Something like crispy potato rosti with creme fraiche and smoked salmon, maybe a little caviar if I was feeling decadent (and generous!) or smoked salmon blinis. Sticky honey and mustard cocktail sausages with a grainy mayonnaise for dipping
Then maybe something like glazed ham with parsley sauce and mashed potato, green beans or glazed Brussel sprouts. Or possibly steak with bearnaise sauce and sauteed greens. Or Poached salmon with hollandaise, crushed new potatoes and peas.
Pudding would probably be mini mince pies with lots of brandy butter.
Who would be your dream dinner party guests and why?
Ooh I've actually given this a lot of thought as the mini episode we do every week to accompany the main Desert Island Dishes podcast is this exact question. Finding out the guests people would invite and what they would serve. But the tricky thing for me is that I think I have my guest list sorted and then someone will come up with such good suggestions, that I then want to change my list!
I'm tempted to cheat and say that my dream dinner party would be a handful of my closest friends as I don’t get to see them nearly as often as I would like! Life is very busy at the moment between work and family and I'd love to do more dinner parties, like I did in my twenties. But if I was pushed, I would say, Nigella, Ina Garten, Stanley Tucci, Jane Austen, Elizabeth David and Elton John. For the food, conversations and music - I think it would be really fun!
What would appear on your dinner party playlist?
This time of year, it has to be the Christmas classics, and I have to admit I love a bit of Michael Buble as I wrap my presents.
Tell us about the most memorable dinner party you've ever attended?
That's a good question and I'm not sure I can name one, but I love hosting friends and I also love being invited over to friends’ houses for supper. Not always as formal as a dinner party but there's just something about sitting around the kitchen table with delicious food and good friends that just makes me so happy. The best dinner parties are where the host is relaxed, the food is simple, and everyone feels at home.
Which six Rebecca Udall products would you use to style a festive table?
This is a hard one as I covet everything on the Rebecca Udall website. But it all starts with a tablecloth. I love, love, love the Ruffle Gingham Tablecloth in Chocolate Brown, that's definitely on my wish list this Christmas. For glasses, the Scalloped Wine Glasses are gorgeous and the Olivia Scalloped Plates in Raspberry are beautiful, and work well at this time of year and beyond. These would look lovely with the Sophie Classic Two Cord Napkin in Burgundy.
The Brass Salt and Pepper Mills are very cool and would add a touch of glamour to the table. I love adding flowers or greenery so the Anna Bud Vases Trio would be great lined up down the middle of the table.