Dinner parties can be fun. It’s an opportunity to socialise with friends, to show off your culinary skills and your beautiful kitchen. That said, unless you’re the Domestic Goddess, your cooking ability may restrict what you can serve up, which can be frustrating. Then there’s the pressure to get everything ready on time and your home spotlessly clean while you play the role of the effortlessly glamorous hostess.
If you want your dinner party to go smoothly and with the minimum of stress, here are your 7 steps to success.
1 – Check for dietary needs
First off, don’t forget to ask each guest about their diet – you’d be surprised at just how many people don’t eat the ‘standard’ diet. From life threatening nut allergies to kosher food, gluten intolerance, vegan or low carb diets, knowing what everyone will/won’t eat is essential in preparing a dinner that will suit all palates.
2 – Cook what you know
It’s tempting to want to wow your guests with a culinary taste sensation, but if you haven’t cooked it before, this is a high risk option that’s highly likely to stress you out. Better to stick to a recipe you know and love, safe in the knowledge that it will turn out beautifully.
3 – Balance your menu
Plan your menu in advance, making sure you choose dishes that complement each other. As a rule of thumb, stick to one cuisine only. A light starter means you can opt for a rich main course and a small dessert, while a robust first course followed by a stodgy main might leave your guests struggling.
4 – Make cocktails
Break the ice and get the evening off to a great start by serving cocktails. If you’re not a natural mixologist, don’t worry – there are recipes aplenty online. From Bellinis to Martinis, Manhattans and Mojitos, pick a few easy cocktails, stock up on ingredients and learn to mix them ready for the evening.
5 – Prepare in advance
The more you can prepare in the morning or the day before, the less there will be to do on the night and the more relaxed you can afford to be. Puddings, for instance, can be made beforehand and kept in the fridge, while ready prepped veggies will speed up the cooking time when the guests have arrived.
6 – Clean as you go
Unless you want to welcome your guests into a messy kitchen full of used pots and pans, clean while you cook. That way, the mess doesn’t build up, you don’t run out of worktop or sink space, and there’s less washing up to do at the end of the evening.
7 – Enjoy the evening
Hosting a dinner party carries a lot of responsibility, but the whole point of the exercise is to have fun! Make sure you’re not stuck in the kitchen all night, so you get to spend time in the company of your friends and enjoy the meal you’ve cooked.