I love having my favourite people round for dinner. There's no better feeling than getting all your loved ones together for a slap-up meal, and feeding them well. I know some people find the thought of cooking for a crowd a bit daunting, so here are my ultimate tips on how to throw the laid-back dinner party of the decade.
Here's a good guide to seasonal British ingredients:
Menu planning: go big and impressive
"Family service" – serving everything on platters, in big dishes, or on big boards – is perfect for a big group of ravenous friends. It encourages everyone to get stuck in, and makes the whole experience more fun and sociable.
Think trays of dauphinoise potatoes or dishfuls of steamed Jersey Royals, whole baked salmon or sea bass, or a roasted chicken or shoulder of pork with flatbreads or tacos – anything that guests can gather round and help themselves to.
Keep people entertained and get them involved
You'll take considerable pressure off yourself if your guests are relaxed and enjoying themselves. Keep hands busy podding piles of fresh peas or shelling pistachios while you finish things off.
You can go a step further with the pre-meal snacks by rustling up a simple smoked-
mackerel pâté in advance – guests always go mad for it, and it'll look super classy served alongside a stack of griddled toasts. Or, make it even easier for yourself by leaving out a load of nice loaves on a big board with a toaster, and letting your guests slice and toast their own receptacles!
So, you've got all the info – now pick a killer menu. Here are some suggestions:
Start with some Baked Veggie Samosas
Then dish up a Perfect Chicken Balti
Served with Incredible Naan Breads.
Start with the Easiest Sexiest Salad In The World
Enjoy Pesto Pasta with Chicken
And finish with Summer Panettone Cake.
Start with Vegan Summer Rolls
Enjoy Vegan Chinese Noodles
And end with Vegan Chocolate Pots.
Start with Smoked Salmon on Toast
Then Hit 'n' Run Traybaked Chicken
Then tuck into Tarte Tatin.
Start with Incredible Salsa and Guacamole
Tuck into Posh Pork Kebabs
Mop up with Easy Flatbreads
And cool down with Mint Caipirinha Fruit Salad
And try to remember these general tips & tricks:
If it's a hot dish, I won't serve it on anything other than warm plates – there's nothing worse than food that's meant to be hot getting cold by the time it reaches somebody's mouth. A few minutes in a warm oven will do the trick.
In terms of setting your table – make it look nice, but again, go simple. A few jam jars of
flowers and the odd candle here and there to set the scene is cute.
Flavoured waters are far more exciting than a jug of plain old tap water, and super easy. Just throw slices of citrus fruit, strawberries, fresh mint leaves, cucumber ribbons or pieces of ginger, or a combo of course, into a big jug, add a handful of ice and top up with water.
The most important tip for your guests' peace of mind – don't try to discreetly clean up before it's all over. As the host, people will look to you to set the tone throughout the night, and if you're bustling about, they'll feel they should be helping.
Remember: if you're relaxed, they will be too.