Summer entertaining should be chill
With New Year's Eve upon us, Neighbourhood Media’s own Robert Everett shares his tips and tricks for hosting your own summer dinner party.
I love to cook and inviting friends over to eat has always been one of my favorite things to do. However, dinner parties and BBQs can stress me to the point where, once the last pot is washed and the dishwasher has been loaded, I have been known to exhale a passionate “never again!”
That’s why I have some hard and fast rules when it comes to hosting dinner parties, and they have held me in good stead and made life much easier.
KEEP IT SIMPLE.
My first rule is simple: keep it simple.
Beans on toast is maybe too simple, but unless you’re cooking for your boss or Nigella Lawson the food at any dinner party is and always should be secondary; it is the conduit, the excuse for conversation, friendship and a good evening.
Sweating away in the kitchen for the day only to be too tired or frustrated to enjoy some good company is no fun for anyone, so keeping things as simple as possible leaves you free to enjoy the reasons for inviting friends over in the first place.
And this brings me to my second rule:
TRIED AND TESTED
Whether it is the traditional BBQ in the garden or a sit-down at home, now is not the time for experimentation. Just because Nigella can do it with one eye closed while writing her latest best seller doesn’t mean us mere mortals can as well.
Do what you know.
Dinner parties can and often are a stressful minefield, so lessen the stress and rustle up an old favorite you absolutely know you can nail.
ACCEPT FAILURES (and serve them anyway)
We all have failures, but does it really matter if it looks like it’s already been eaten?
My Steamed Orange pudding incident of 2018 has gone down in the annals of dinner party infamy amongst my friends and still causes mirth to this day. I may never live down serving something that looked like a steaming pile of something else, but the laughter it caused made it worthwhile.
IT’S ALL IN THE PRESENTATION
Setting a table, or decorating the garden or terrace makes the simplest of servings something special. I have a tendency to go a bit far when I’m setting my table for friends, but for me that’s the fun part. Candles in jam jars, swathes of Rosemary in terra-cotta pots from the Reject Shop (if not the shed), a dozen vases and mismatched teacups from Vinnies with a few flowers and tea-lights. It is a chance to really set a mood for the evening’s entertainment and conversation.
I have repurposed pretty much everything in the house at one time or another in the pursuit of knocking up a centrepiece that makes the table look inviting. There is no right or wrong way to achieve this. Whether pauper or prince, using one’s creativity to garnish the table and the food is such a fun way to delight guests and welcome them.