Holiday Entertaining Tips by Chrissie Rucker
Try holiday entertaining the British way with decorating and dining tips from The White Company founder Chrissie Rucker—plus she shares one of her most beloved, good-for-the-soul family recipes.
By Tessa Trudeau
The most wonderful time of the year is upon us, and you may find yourself wondering how to pull off your holiday hosting duties without a hitch (and in style). Let Chrissie Rucker, founder of London-based homewares empire The White Company and author of For the Love of White: The White and Neutral Home (available at Nordstrom.com and in selected Nordstrom stores), offer some advice when it comes to gathering your nearest and dearest around the table.
Her number one tip? Don't try and be the perfect host. "As a mum of four (Tom, 23; Ella, 21; Indie, 19; and Bea, 15) with a large family, I always try and keep things simple, flexible and relaxed," she says. "We love entertaining, but I'm a great believer in making sure it is more about having fun, quality time with family and friends, rather than getting stuck in the kitchen." Rucker shares more entertaining advice, including centerpiece how-tos and the dishes she loves to serve when throwing a festive feast.
What is your favorite way to decorate the table for fall?
I'm always inspired by what's in season. I love tables to feel natural and in tune with the time of year. We grow gourds at home—they are beautiful, last a long time and just make a fall table feel natural yet extra special.
Do you have a color palette you like to stick with?
I will always use white as a base and then layer in seasonal foliage. I really don't think you can beat lovely organic white and neutral plates for showing off a special menu.
What are your top tips for putting together a beautiful tablescape?
I start by creating a central focus. If your table is wide or square, a taller centerpiece looks amazing; alternatively, if the table is long and narrow, it's better to opt for something lower that guests can also talk across.
I keep flowers really simple and seasonal and love to mix in herbs, like rosemary or mint, or use greenery, like eucalyptus. I love branches from the garden, and white hyacinths, white ranunculus and white winter roses are some of my favorites flowers. I don't like flowers to look arranged—I love them to feel loose and natural.
Do you have any tips for arranging table linens?
For a smarter dinner party, I will use a white linen tablecloth and napkins and then arrange lots of candles in different heights down the center of the table—layered candlelight is just so magical! I love to tie the napkins with ribbon and name each place so everyone knows where they are sitting.
For a more relaxed lunch or kitchen supper, I love to use placemats and napkins which look smart but also let the table shine through. Lots of candles again down the center, and I often tie the napkin with something a little more rustic: a natural textured ribbon or even garden string and a sprig of freshly cut rosemary makes a great finishing touch.
From whom did you learn your hosting and entertaining skills?
My mother, Rosie, always made our home feel incredibly warm and welcoming, where everything was solved over a good cup of coffee around the kitchen table. I rode competitively as a child, and my mum is extremely passionate about horses. As a result, the stables were immaculate, and the house was often quite chaotic! However, when she did give a dinner party, she would take a lot of care to make the table look beautiful and iron the linen perfectly.
Do you have any favorite serveware in the current White Company collection?
Our Portobello stoneware collection is developed especially for us here at The White Company. Skilled artisans apply an allover classic white or grey glaze that's perfect for both everyday dining and special occasions.
Which foods that you serve at holiday gatherings are always a hit?
Here in the UK, we have lots of traditions! At Christmastime, we always have turkey with lots of delicious roasted vegetables, like my ginger roast pumpkin with seasonal greens and yogurt dressing [recipe below]. Mince pies with brandy or rum butter are a sign that Christmas is coming, and of course we always have a Christmas pudding on the day.
What about drinks and cocktails?
I love to offer a selection and will set up a small bar so everyone can help themselves. Elderflower cordial is always a winner for those not drinking alcohol—I serve it with sparkling water, ice, fresh mint leaves and a slice of lemon. My favorite pink gin is made from Chase Pink Pomelo Gin—the best gin ever!—mixed with Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic, a slice of lemon and lime, plus a sprig of rosemary and lots of ice. I also love mulled wine served warm and full of delicious cloves, cinnamon and orange.
Do you have any traditions for connecting your guests around the table?
Sometimes we will have four courses, and then I like to move every other guest after the second one so everyone can catch up with four friends. At Christmastime, crackers containing games always create lots of fun and laughter.
One of Rucker's all-time favorite recipes, this dish is the perfect side to serve at any holiday gathering.
Ginger Roast Pumpkin with Seasonal Greens and Yogurt Dressing
1 Delica pumpkin (or any other seasonal pumpkin or butternut squash)
1 thumb-size piece of fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
4 tbs olive oil
1 red onion
300g red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 tbs red wine vinegar
300g kale, stripped of stalk
3 tbs pine nuts
3 tbs plain yogurt
2 tsp tahini
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 tsp honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 320 degrees F. Cut pumpkin into six even wedges and remove seeds. Finely grate ginger and garlic and mix with two tablespoons olive oil. Rub the ginger and garlic paste all over the pumpkin wedges, season with salt and pepper, and place on roasting tray. Roast for 40 to 50 minutes or until pumpkin is soft and caramelizing. While pumpkin is roasting, start by finely slicing the red onion. Put remaining two tablespoons olive oil in a pan and gently fry the onion until soft and translucent. Add the sliced red cabbage to the pan with the onion along with 30ml water and one tablespoon vinegar and keep gently cooking until the cabbage is almost cooked through. Finally, add the chopped kale and allow to steam for five minutes on top of the cabbage and onion mixture. Heat up a dry pan and toast the pine nuts until fragrant and golden all over. In a small bowl, mix yogurt, tahini, lemon zest and juice, and honey until smooth. Remove pumpkin from oven and place in your serving dish. Top with the kale and cabbage mixture. Drizzle yogurt dressing on top and scatter with toasted pine nuts. Give the dish a generous grind of black pepper and sea salt, serve warm and enjoy!
Serves 6 as a side dish or 3–4 as a main