We love to entertain in this house and have been doing it for many years and so at this stage, I like to think we have the art of looking after guests fairly well sussed!! As I work full-time, I don’t get to have people over as often as I would like but when we do decide to hold a get-together, I have to admit that I enjoy the planning of it as much as the event itself. People often say to me that they wouldn’t know where to start when they think about holding for instance, a dinner party and so in this post I hope to share how I go about this…
The most important part of any event is planning – and the saying ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’ is so true. Here are my 5 steps to entertaining which will get you through the preparation without a hitch and let you enjoy your gathering instead of leaving you stressed out…
The first thing I do is decide on numbers and what friends/family to invite. I feel it is important to get the dynamics right when entertaining. Its vital that everyone who will be sitting around your table has something in common be it people they know, children or other interests. Bear in mind, that you as the host will be spending some time away getting food together and therefore your guests will have to chat among themselves so its important that there is no lull in conversation. Most of the people we have to our home know each other at this stage so there is always great banter between them. It’s one thing serving great food but if there is no conversation then it can ruin your night. I would also suggest that for the first few times you are having guests that you keep numbers small – start by having maybe just 2 or 4 and once your confidence builds then you can go for larger gatherings.
Once you know the numbers attending then plan your menu well ahead of time. If this is your first real go at entertaining then I would suggest you stick to dishes which you have tried and tested many times before. Keep the menu simple and seasonal, if possible – one starter, one main course and one dessert (plenty of time for flamboyant menus when you get a few parties under your belt!) Make sure it is a balanced menu and try not to repeat ingredients. By that I mean – if you have goats cheese in your starter then don’t have it in your main course! Write down your menu and also a list of the ingredients you will need. Another thing to bear in mind is that the dishes should be simple – not everyone likes seafood or strong cheeses so I would recommend say a salad or soup to start followed by a chicken or beef dish as a main and perhaps some type of chocolate dessert (who doesn’t like chocolate!) to finish. I usually write out a list of what needs to be done for each dish and there is great satisfaction in crossing off items from this list as you work through it.
Pre-make any dishes that you can. If I am doing a soup starter then I generally make this the evening before ready to be reheated. The majority of the time I will make my dessert the day before too. You could also make any sauces perhaps that might be served with your main course and if you have opted for say a beef stroganoff then these type dishes usually taste better the day after they are made so bear this in mind. I regularly serve oven roasted vegetables and these can also be chopped up into serving sized chunks the day before, placed in a zip-lock bag with some olive oil, garlic and herbs and once you have rotated the bag to disperse the oil, then it can be stored in the fridge until you are ready to cook
On the day of your party, try to get up early and do any prep that you can to get it out of the way. I try to get my vegetables prepared early as I usually find that this is something which always takes longer than you think!! If you have a separate dining room or if you won’t need to use your dining table early in the day then get it set. Take out any serving bowls you will need and set them aside in the kitchen so that you are not running around like a lunatic trying to find them when you are ready to serve. Whip any cream needed for dessert and prep any garnishes – all to be kept in the fridge until needed.
Before guests arrive – get white wine into the fridge to chill or even put it in the freezer to chill it that bit quicker (a word of warning though, don’t forget to take it out or you will be left with a bottle of ice which will ruin your wine). Open red wine to let it breath or pour it into a decanter if you have one. Also bear in mind that some visitors might not drink wine but prefer beer (I find this particularly with men). We have a small prep-sink in our island unit which we usually half fill with cold tap water and then throw in lots of ice – we use this to keep beers cold but also handy so that guests can help themselves. At Christmas time we usually have all of our neighbours and some family over for a party which we hold in the kitchen and the sink idea always works well then. Light some candles around the house and make sure your guest toilet is in order with fresh towels, toilet roll, clean toilet and some nice hand soap and hand cream. (especially important if you have children as we all know they have no respect for visiting guests and don’t care how the toilet looks!!!) Don’t forget to light your fire if its a cold evening!!
Finally, don’t forget to leave time to get yourself ready. Try to have all of your preparation done well in advance so that you can focus on you. No point in your visitors arriving at your door and you there with your hair in a mess with a red face from all of the running about 🙂
Most important of all enjoy your evening and don’t spend your time apologising for the quality of your food, coldness of your plates or the lack of matching tableware. My experience is that people are just so happy to be invited to a party that they don’t notice any of these things.
I hope that you have found this informative and I intend to keep adding to the ‘Entertaining’ Section of my website. I will be including my own tried and tested recipes, table decor ideas and also cocktails that we make. I would also welcome any ideas which you would like to share – I’m no expert and have no training in cooking or entertaining so am always willing to learn new things.
Until next time,