Always wanted to throw the perfect dinner party? Now that the pandemic restrictions are easing, gathering with friends and dinner parties are back on. Hurrah – time to show off the excellent cooking skills you honed in lockdown. However, when you have guests for dinner, nothing kills the mood quicker than a stressed host. So how do you create an easy dinner party meal and make sure you get the timing and the vibe right, all with a smile on your face? The trick is to keep things uncomplicated but still impressive. Read on to discover our top tips for being the perfect dinner party host.
It’s all in the preparation
Nicola Oaten, Head of Innovation at Plenish, is known amongst the Plenish team as an excellent dinner party host. She says, ‘choosing dishes that can be prepared ahead of time works really well for dinner parties. Anything that is slow-cooked or baked can be made in advance and just gently warmed through for your guest’s arrival.’ Making food in advance reduces the pressure on you to cook while your guests are there, and instead, you can spend time being the perfect host and socialising. You can make something awe-inspiring that won’t leave you slaving over a hot stove all night and missing out on all the socialising. Here are some easy dinner party meals you could prepare in advance:
Make sure you know your guests’ dietary requirements and make something delicious for everyone
Need to make your dinner party vegetarian or vegan? Make sure you know everyone’s dietary requirements so that you can plan a menu that will work for all guests in advance but aim to keep the number of different dishes you need to make to a minimum. That way, you reduce the complication. So if you have a guest that’s gluten-free and a vegan guest – there is no harm in choosing a vegan and gluten-free dish for everyone. Check out Fearne Cotton’s healthy dinner party recipes from the Cook Healthy, Cook Happy cookbook. The vegan dinner party menu works for those who are gluten-free, too, as long as the oatcakes you use in the dessert are gluten-free.
Canapes and drinks on arrival can set the mood
If guests are arriving at different times, it can help relax everyone if you have glasses of Champagne or sparkling water ready for when they walk through the door. In addition, canapes can help to stave off hunger before any latecomers arrive. These Beetroot Carpaccio Blinis can be made in advance and plated just before your guests arrive.
Always serve dessert
Nicola Oaten says, “Desserts that are chilled or set in the fridge can be made a day in advance and just finished off with fruit or a sauce on the evening. It means you are relaxed and free to socialise with your guests during the evening instead of being stuck in the kitchen all night.” So, for example, this beautiful Rhubarb panna cotta recipe from Chantelle Nicholson’s Planted book can be made in individual ramekins and chilled until it’s ready to serve.
Use recipes from your favourite chef, but practice in advance
Want to try an Ottolenghi dinner party? Some of our favourite chefs have already prepared the perfect dinner party menu’s for us. It doesn’t hurt to serve up a menu directly from your favourite cookbook, and your guests will undoubtedly be impressed at your culinary talents if you get these dishes on point. It’s probably best if the night of the dinner party itself is not the first time you have tried to recreate the dishes. So practice at home before the big night, and on the day, everything is more likely to run smoothly. For a great Ottolenghhi dinner party, try this summery Tomato and Watermelon Gazpacho to start your line-up.
Set up a DIY bar for your guests
While you are busy keeping guests entertained and getting the food presented beautifully, it can help set up a DIY bar, a tip from Caitlin O’Malley, the Food Editor on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop website. Caitlin recommends setting up an area with spirits, mixers, beer, wine, ice. Plus a little mixing station with garnishes like cherries, limes and olives etc. Leave a couple of cocktail menus to give your guests some inspiration too. Try these Plenish milk cocktail recipes.
Our last tip, and probably the most important, is to make sure you enjoy the evening and relax. Set a playlist before the evening, and make sure you have time to sit down and chat with all of your guests. The main point of a dinner party is to enjoy the company you have – especially since it’s been a while since we could have family and friends over.
Do you have any tips to share with us for hosting the perfect dinner party? We’d love to know. Share them with us on Instagram using #Plenish.