We are all inspired these days by dining out and all of the cheffy programme’s which are on T.V almost constantly – we fancy ourselves as the new master chef, or many recreate come dine with me.
When it comes to your turn to impress or repay the favour, if you’re not very comfortable with the whole entertaining malarkey follow our top tips and rest assured your evening will run smoothly, go to plan and you will actually enjoy yourself and be able to join in with your guests other than them all having a great laugh and fun time with you being stressed out, sober and wondering why on earth you bothered!!
Cooking is all about enjoying, taking your time, being prepared and feeling an overwhelming sense of satisfaction seeing the enjoyment on the faces of your company whilst they make mmmmmmming noises as they eat… the laughter that comes with that enjoyment – drinking plenty and being surrounded by besties!
No 1 – Choose your guests.
We would say that 6-8 is a perfect number – just enough to fill your table, have lots of entertaining and varied conversation, but at the same time everyone at the table still socialises together.
If you have 10 or more you might find that your guests group off into pockets of 2 or 3, conversing together and this just isn’t as much fun!
Pick a group that all know each other, this way you all have some common ground, can pick up conversation easily, reminisce and tell funny stories of past experiences together. There’s nothing worse than small talk at a dinner table when no one knows each other and everyone is trying their best to be on their best behaviour – boring!!
Pick your bubbly friends that like a drink. If you’re worried about the food your producing the emphasis will be less on that with some emphasis placed on the lovely wines you have picked up also (we will come to wine later!)
As well…. as we all know food tastes so good after a nice glass of wine – even those dirty, greasy kababs we have all Indulged in at the end of the night – you know you have, and you know you enjoyed it (at the time!!)
No 2 – Be PRE-pared.
I only know this by living with a chef, as previously I would have stressed myself out timing everything to be put on so it’s ready at exactly the same time – Dean taught me to pre cook almost everything, unless of course it’s something that really has to be cooked at the last minute ie : fish or meat.
If you are posh enough to do a purée, salsa, emulsion or jus do this early in the day – then it’s done!
Prepare your mash, douphinoise and even pre cook your veg – this can be reheated at the last minute.
Heat your jus or sauce at the last minute too, this will also serve as to keep your food warm!
At dinner time all you have to do is reheat everything together and plate up – easy!
No 3 – Be sure to do a cold starter or a soup course.
If you do a soup course it’s easy peasy as can be made well in advance.
With your first course choose something cold ie: roasted peppers and burrata cheese, smoked salmon and avocado, seafood platter, vegetable tart or beetroot and goats cheese salad with candied walnuts (one of my personal faves). Doing a cold starter means it’s just a case of plating up which can also be done in advance!!
This also goes for dessert, do an Eton mess, a lemon or chocolate tart or panna cotta that you made earlier. You can also have these on plates in the fridge before your guests arrive – we’re making this so easy for you!!!
No 4 – Set the table
You must have water, white wine and red wine glasses set to each place. Two forks, knives, two spoons (if needed) for your dessert (and) soup course.
You must have a water jug, adding a few slices of lemon/ lime/ orange is a nice touch. I also love sparkling water!
You’ll need a napkin each and if you like, a centre piece works well – I personally like candles. They create a lovely, warm environment and aren’t too big to get in the way of you chatting to one another over the table, the way that flowers can be.
This idea looks top – get a round or square flat mirror approx one sq ft, some cream candles (or any colour that goes with your room) get all different shapes and sizes, some tall and thin, some short and stumpy etc. I’d get 5 (odd numbers always look best) get some large roses and cut off their stems right at the head and place 3 at the bases of the candles, deep red look great but obviously it depends on your colour scheme. Your table will be hot to trot and look super professional!
No 5 – Choose appropriate wine.
Please don’t serve red with fish or shell fish! (White, sparkling and rose are all fine).
You must drink white wine with things that go with white ie: seafood, chicken, soup and generally lighter dishes and red wine with what goes with red ie : red meat, cheese and generally heavier, fuller flavoured dishes – if in doubt google it!! Make use of both your white and red wine glasses, you’ll look like a pro!
It’s nice if you or your partner keep an eye on if your guests wine glasses or water needs topping up, but if I was you I’d be clear at the start and say ‘guys… please don’t wait to be topped up, I may forget, I’m a little busy, please help yourself – there is plenty!’ – saying something like that makes the evening relaxed, not stiff, it makes people feel at home.
Do try to purchase a couple more bottles than you think you will need as usually you’ll get through it! If not it will most certainly save for another time!!
No 6 – Serve cold food on cold plates and hot food on hot plates.
It only takes a second to throw a pile of plates in the oven, they heat up really quickly and it really helps the food to maintain its heat while you are slowly enjoying chatting and eating. Again, it’s professional – you would never eat hot food on a cold plate in a restaurant and if you did you would most likely dislike that.
No 7 – Pack up don’t wash up.
So as you prepared most of your food before, you will have already washed up the majority of your utensils/pans (and put them away!!) no one likes to see a disorganised kitchen – mess is stress!!
After each course, pile the plates tidily in a corner – you can hide baking dishes back in the over if needs be, just make it look tidy. (only don’t forget they are there the next day!) you can deal with these plates tomorrow.
Nobody wants to see the host washing up – they want you enjoying yourself! Nor do the want to help you, however they will feel obliged to offer.. if you say ‘no, let’s all sit down and enjoy the evening, I’ll sort this in the morning’ you and everyone else is happy!
No 8 – Take a small gift.
If you are invited to a dinner party please, please take a small gift. It is sooo lovely when you have gone to all of that effort to be appreciated! It only needs to be a small token gift and even though chocolates and flowers are typical, they will still be much appreciated – it’s more that someone has thought.
Also take a bottle of fizz – It’s nice to contribute a little something!
No 9 – A different idea…
Another way to make a fun interactive dinner party is for each couple / guest to bring something ie: starter, main, dessert or cheese. If there are more of you, you could do a tasting menu of 6-8 small courses, all cooking a small version of what you do best.
No 10 – I almost forgot!
Champagne on arrival!!! – I don’t need to explain that one, enough said!