From tableware to menus and seating arrangements, throwing a dinner party is never easy. Not only do you have to create the perfect ambient setting to enjoy a meal, but you also have to plan, prepare, cook, and serve the food! It can sound like more trouble than it’s worth but don’t be put off. Dinner parties are an amazing way to get family and friends together.
If you struggle to find the time to catch up with loved ones individually it can be a great way to get everyone in the room for a wonderful evening. It’s also a good test of your organizational skills and hosting abilities! Above everything else, it’s a lot of fun. As long as you have a plan in place, the evening will be a huge success. This dinner party guide takes you from the menu planning process to the dinner table decors, all the way to puddings and party favors:
The Guest List: The first thing that you need to decide is who you’re inviting. If you’re co-hosting the dinner party with a friend, partner, or family member, sit down together and work out a list. You need to work out what you want out of the dinner party. A big celebration with friends, intimate family meal, or perhaps an open-to-all buffet style event. Whatever the occasion is, this will indicate who you should invite.
Of course, the amount of space you have around the table will also dictate the number of guests. If you’re inviting more than eight people, a sit-down meal might not be the best idea. First of all, who has a table big enough for over eight? Also, you might want to consider a more fluid set up. For large numbers open up the garden and kitchen to guests, too. That way people can mingle without feeling cramped and confined to one room.
Creating The Menu: If you’re having a sit-down soiree you’ll need to prepare a menu. If you’re having six people or under round for dinner you can probably cook individual courses. If you’re having more than six people or over, sharer style dishes and one-pot recipes are the way to go. If you’re having a huge gathering, then a buffet station set up in the garden or kitchen for food is best. You’ll have to determine whether any of the guests have allergies or intolerances before you come up with a menu. Also come up with some vegetarian and vegan options, too.
For Smaller Groups:
Get your prep done before guests arrive, this goes for all group sizes. If you’re hosting for a smaller group of people you can afford to have more attention to detail and more ambitious dishes. Prawns are a good starter because they’re easy to prepare in advance. Buy prawns which have been cooked, cleaned, and peeled already. This will save time. There are so many different ways to serve prawns. A fail-safe option is a simple grilled prawn with a pre-prepared sauce. Get some char on your prawns to increase the smokey flavors in the dish. This goes particularly well with a romesco sauce.
For the main course, food preferences permitted, herb crusted lamb is a real show stopper. To make the crust, combine breadcrumbs, parsley, mint, and oil. Smear some mustard over the fatty side of the lamb and top with the breadcrumb mixture. Be sure to brown your lamb before cooking. www.StoneFryingPans.com/the-best-stainless-steel-cookware has some great stainless steel cookware, perfect for searing and deglazing to make a jus for the lamb. Finally, make sure you leave your lamb to rest for at least 10 minutes. This will ensure that the meat is nice and tender and the juices won’t leak onto the plate. Dessert needs to be something that can be prepared in advance and left to chill. Cheesecake is a good idea, because you can make one large one and portion it before serving. It’s also a great ‘blank canvas’ dessert, so you can add your own preferences, too. Lemon, chocolate, hazelnut, berries, and basically any topping ever work well with a cheesecake.
For Larger Groups:
Cooking for larger groups needn’t be challenging, you’ll just need to tweak the menu accordingly. Choose some large platters or boards and arrange some cured meats and cheeses on them. Serve olives over ice and sourdough bread, too. Balsamic vinegar and oil make a great dip to go alongside this sharing starter, as does tapenade. For the main dish, consider doing a one-pot wonder. A homemade curry or a big paella served straight from the pan works really well for larger groups. You can stick these on and leave them to cook with minimal effort, apart from stirring. Serve curries with homemade flatbreads, onion salad, and a yogurt dip. For dessert opt for an easy crowd pleaser like ice cream or mousse. This can also be made ahead of time and left to chill.
Buy some spelt pasta from a health food store and use this as the base of your dish. Blend spinach and basil in a blender with some oil, seasoning, and pine nuts. This will create a pesto to use as a sauce over your pasta. Cook some courgettes and asparagus, too. Toss the pesto through the pasta and top with the cooked courgettes and asparagus.
Which Drinks To Serve: Setting up a drinks tray is the best idea. Nobody wants to have to make drinks all night for their guests. Prepare a table in the living room or kitchen with a variety of soft drinks and alcohol for guest to pick and choose. Another good idea is to make one signature drink. Making jugs of cocktails is an especially good idea if it’s a summer party which spills out into the garden.
To make a mojito simply mix lime juice, mint, and sugar in a large jug or bowl. Mash these gently to let the flavors start to seep out and sugar dissolve. Top with rum, soda, and plenty of ice. Put slices of mint and lime to garnish in little bowls next to the jug.
Setting The Scene: Whenever you go to a great dinner party, the atmosphere is one of the things that makes it so special. Creating the perfect atmosphere is partly down to planning. If you are having a sit-down meal you’ll need to dress the table. It can be tempting to go overboard with accessories and cram the table but try to avoid this. Guests want to be able to talk, share food, and relax without having to navigate lots of decorative pieces. A few tea light candles with lantern-style covers are a pared back but sophisticated touch. Fresh flowers are also a great centerpiece, but if you have a small table don’t clutter it. Station a drinks table with an ice bucket nearby so that you don’t have to keep rushing backward and forwards.
A seating plan shouldn’t be necessary and can feel a bit too formal. Adding a little gift for each person is a nice touch, too. They don’t have to be expensive, in fact, the more whimsical the better. Masks or joke shop presents are a great idea for a group of friends. Family members may appreciate birthstones or small bags of truffles. These tokens will help to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, plus they’ll lift your guest’s mood!
After Party? Some dinner parties can continue long into the night and become a party as well as dinner. Make it clear to guests on the invite whether you’re open to that. There’s nothing worse than wanting to go to bed but still having a few guests. If you’re having people stay over, set up the guest bedroom early on in the day. By the end of the night, you won’t feel like changing bed linen and arranging flowers!
Nobody wants to clean up after a party, either, but facing all the debris in the morning is probably worse. Compromise and go around with a bin liner and chuck in any bottles or plastic cups. Wash up your plates and cutlery and leave them to dry. Leave larger pans to soak overnight, and head to bed. That way there will be a manageable amount to tackle in the morning.
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