I am working on a very exciting summer series with the lovely folk at Carlisle Homes to deliver recipes and advice about how to hit the ground running this delicious summer. Without giving too much away, it will include some delicious festive inspired recipes as well as some healthy and wholesome recipes to get you started for the New Year. Are you hosting a dinner party over the silly season? Rest assured, we will have you covered with the perfect guide to planning a perfect party as well as some sumptuous party foods. I will also be chatting healthy breakfasts and how to make simple, healthy food resolutions in the New Year.
This week, I chat how to be the ultimate dinner party host. Here’s a sneak peek below. You can find the full article accompanied by some delicious recipes here.
Party Food – Planning the Perfect Dinner Party
Get the party started with this fuss free guide for dinner party planning. Whether you’re planning a large soiree or something more intimate in your home, here are some tips to entertain like a pro with sumptuous party food to take the stress out of entertaining.
Preparation is key
The last thing you want is to be exhausted and stressed when hosting a party. When it comes to party planning, lists are your best friend. It’s a good idea to plan your menu at least a week in advance, around food which is in season to make sure it’s as fresh as possible. Confirm how many guests will be in attendance and if there are any dietary requirements or allergies. Prep as much of the food as possible in advance before guests arrive so you will have time to relax and mingle. Cook the dishes the day before if possible so they can just be ‘finished off’ or reheated in the oven or stove top. Marinating a dish the night before is not only convenient but it brings out the flavours of the dish more and is likely to make the protein of choice more tender.
Plan the menu structure – shared family style or courses
Fortunately, hosting a dinner party these days tends to be a lot more casual than it used to be. A cocktail option for stand-up style parties tends to be focused on finger food or canape options, while a three to five course menu or shared plated options is more suitable for a seated dinner at home. If you’re looking for a more casual approach, shared family-style dishes are the way to go, rather than individually served courses. Just position the shared platters in the middle of the table where guests can help themselves or pass around. The dinner can still be served in courses starting with appetisers followed by entrees, main courses and sides and then dessert – they’re just not individually served and portioned.
It’s a good idea to plan the main course first since it sets the tone for the rest of the dishes. For example, a roast leg of lamb may be complemented by a plant or seafood-based entrée and a side of crispy potatoes, while an oven-baked fish may be teamed with a simple salad of greens and a lemon and olive oil vinaigrette to bring out the flavour of the dish.
Don’t forget dessert: it’s always nice to end a party on a sweet note. These espresso brownies (insert link) are the perfect dessert to prepare in advance: Just reheat slightly and add cream and ice cream. Drinks can often be an afterthought, so it’s recommended to match each course if possible, with a wine and a non-alcoholic option for guests who have to drive.
Keep it simple
Don’t get too complicated or fussy, the notion of a home-cooked meal is exactly that. Choose dishes that can be prepped in advance for example a tray of roast vegetables that just need to be popped into the oven or a salad with the dressing prepared on the side. In general, a dinner party focused on shared plates needs a main centrepiece, usually a protein with a couple of sides like roasted vegetables, pan-fried greens, a simple salad and something a little more starchy like potatoes, pasta or whole grains.
Ensure you have a sustainable party and opt for ‘no waste’ party foods where possible, that can be stored in the fridge or freezer after the party.
Provide a grazing option to start
Start with finger food or a grazing platter before moving on to the main event. This will give guests a great opportunity to mingle before sitting down to the main affair. Think platters brimming with cheese and charcuterie, Spanish-inspired tapas, dips with freshly-sliced veggies or even some oysters or scallops if you’re looking for something more indulgent.
A dinner party is a perfect opportunity to celebrate your new home. Create a lovely ambience with low lighting, candlelight, fresh linens and flowers.
Consider food presentation during the planning process. Dress it up or keep it simple and fuss-free!
- 225g unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 240g white sugar
- 210g brown sugar
- 30g strong espresso
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 4 eggs
- Pinch of salt
- 125g plain flour, sifted
- 100g cocoa powder, sifted
- 200g choc bits
- Preheat oven to 180C (less for fan forced). Grease and line a 20cm x 30cm baking tin with baking paper.
- Whisk the butter, oil, sugars, vanilla and espresso in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs and beat for a minute or two until the mixture is lighter in colour.
- Fold in the salt, flour and cocoa until just combined ensuring not to over mix. Stir in most of the choc bits and pour the batter into the prepared tin. Top with remaining choc bits.
- Bake for 25 – 30 minutes for gooey fudge consistency. Add another five minutes for less gooey brownies.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.
- Allow to cool for another 15 minutes before slicing into pieces. Serve immediately with ice cream or save for later!
Simple home-cooked food that can be prepped in advance is perfect and lets you unwind and mingle during the party.
Creamy Potato Gratin
- 1 cup cream
- 1 garlic clove, finely diced
- 25g unsalted butter, melted
- 1 kg Potatoes thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper to season
- 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
- Fresh rosemary and thyme leaves to finish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 180 C. Lightly grease a 8 cup capacity baking dish.
- Combine butter, cream and garlic in a bowl and stir to combine.
- Arrange a layer of potato slices over the base of the dish then drizzle over a third of the cream mixture then season and sprinkle with a third of the cheese. Repeat to make three layers. Top with rosemary and thyme.
- Cover and bake covered with foil for one hour. Then cook for another 20 minutes uncovered until cooked through and golden on top.
Stay tuned for more of this three-part series soon. For more home inspiration check out Carlisle Homes Home Files, an innovative online blog that is packed with design inspiration, expert advice and the latest news about designing, building and decorating a new home.
Want more from the Home Files? Visit the Inspire section of their blog here.