Back in the 1970s, entertaining at home was the “in thing”. In those days, dinner party standard fare was prawn cocktail, gammon with pineapple and Black Forest gateau to follow. The hostess would proudly wheel out her top of the range Hostess Trolley and open up a variety of compartments to reveal and serve up the food.
Whether it was the choice of grub, the effort required or simply because couples had better things to do, dinner parties unfortunately lost their appeal.
But TV cooking and entertainment shows like MasterChef and Come Dine With Me have inspired ladies and gents to once again plan the menu, issue invites and compete to impress their friends.
So if you want to achieve culinary perfection in the comfort of your home, here are a few tips to help you become the Host/Hostess with the mostest:
Whilst you should consider the dietary requirements of your guests, menu planning is also about making sure that you get everything done with the minimum amount of effort. Dinner party guests will expect three courses at least, so you will need to consider what you want to serve. Ideally, it is best to use fresh, seasonal ingredients you can easily source locally. Accomplished menu planners will always choose at least one course that can be prepared well in advance.
Get yourself organised and down the shops at the first available opportunity. Never leave dinner party food shopping until the day of your event. If you leave everything to the last minute you may have to re-plan your menu because you can’t find all the ingredients.
Cooking & Baking
A time plan helps you figure out when you need to cook the individual elements that make up your entire feast. This also helps you know when to plate up and serve. If you have a willing helper divvy up the jobs so that you share the greeting, heating and serving responsibilities.
Setting The Table
Don’t rely on a dishwasher if you seriously want to impress your guests. Hand wash the cutlery and crockery prior to setting the table to ensure everything is sparkling clean. Iron the tablecloth and cloth napkins too! Check your condiments and any table decorations. Don’t forget to create the perfect ambience with candlelight and music.
Prepare a toast
Many wine merchants provide information and help to assist you with pairing food with wine. If you are at a total loss, off-licence and supermarket staff are usually happy to make suggestions. Start with chilled fizzy bubbles, cocktails or spirits. Choose a selection of red and white to go with the food. Half a bottle per person is a good measure to determine how many bottles you need.
Welcoming Your Guests
If you have an iconic Hostess Trolley you can pop your prepared food inside to keep it warm until ready to serve. This frees you up to welcome your guests and to enjoy a glass of bubbles or two. Otherwise, greet your guests warmly on arrival and get back to the kitchen.