Lots of people who love to cook love to entertain too. Having people over for dinner can be lots of fun, but it can easily become a stressful experience if the cooking doesn’t go to plan. You might worry that you don’t have the time or the skills to really pull off a fantastic dinner party, but with these top tips, you can do it.
1. Resist temptation. Ignore the temptation to cook an elaborate, complicated dish that you aren’t sure to pronounce and have never actually seen or tasted before. Cook something that you have cooked a few times before, like your failsafe recipe for Smoked Salmon Sides. A dinner party is not the occasion to cook something for the first time.
2. Keep your balance. When you plan a menu for your dinner party, avoid too many heavy dishes, and think about how things will work together. Would you want to eat a menu of quiche, followed by pie, finished off with a pudding? Most people wouldn’t. There’s too much pastry and stodge. Choose a theme, like an Italian menu, instead.
3. Ask your guests if they have any dietary requirements. You don’t want to spend hours making a coffee and walnut cake, only to find one of your guests is allergic to nuts. Ask your guests before you decide what to make if there is anything that they can’t eat.
4. Plan your time. Write out your plan and think about what oven and hob space you’ll need. If your starter, main course, and side dishes will all need time in the oven, you’re going to find it difficult.
5. Prepare ahead. Get at least one course ready in advance. Dessert is often the best option for this. Pies, tarts, and cakes can all be made the day before, and just need plating on the day. Look at each course and see if there’s anything that you can prepare in advance to save any last-minute panic.
6. Relax. Stay away from any dishes that will keep you away from your guests for too long. You don’t want long waits between courses, get stressed out in the kitchen, and emerge to find you’ve missed all the conversation. Keep things simple, and remember to enjoy yourself.
7. Go seasonal. Cook a simple dish that showcases a seasonal ingredient, like a tomato and basil granita, or a pumpkin pie. You’ll look like you know about food by being in tune with the seasons, and you’ll be using produce when it tastes at its best. It’s a win-win.
8. Make it yourself. Your guests won’t expect you to make all the extra bits on the table, so you can really impress if you can do it. Extras like quick, no-knead bread, chutney, ice cream, or cheese straws are all simple to make yourself and can all be made in advance. You don’t have to make all the little touches, but one or two can really impress your guests, and give you an excuse to show off a bit.