How to plan a dinner party
A dinner party is a fantastic excuse to spend an evening wining and dining with your closest friends and family. However, if you’ve never hosted an evening before, it can seem a little bit daunting. With the menu, the décor and the guest list to consider, it can be challenging to decide where to start with the planning and preparation.
We spoke to Natty from Natflat Supper Club, a bespoke culinary experience in the heart of Tel Aviv. A unique dinner party experience for small groups of tourists, locals and business travellers, who shared why she loves hosting these events: “Dinner parties are all about sharing and hospitality. Whilst food is certainly a key element, good wine and good company also contribute immensely. That aside, however, when planning a dinner party, every aspect of the plan should be infused with “vitamin L” (love). In meditation communities the chef is always the person with the best meditation practice- this is based on the concept that they will be pouring their energy into the process and into the food and consequently all that good energy will be received and consumed by the recipients of that food. So, with this in mind, I believe that preparing your dinner party with adequate time to plan and prepare, and with love and good energy (rather than begrudgingly, half-heartedly or with bad energy) is essential – I guarantee that as a result, love and energy will be felt by each and every one of your guests.”
Take a look at the tips and tricks below to guide you through your first dinner party experience.
The guest list
When planning a dinner party, it is of paramount importance that you consider who you’re going to add to your guest list. From reunions with old friends to a family affair, the people who you decide to invite can have an immense impact on the overall event. If this is your first attempt at hosting, you may feel overwhelmed with details. This is when a carefully curated guest list comes in useful.
Keeping the numbers down comes with a variety of benefits. Not only will it be easier for you to juggle multiple dishes, getting the timing right, you may also have the chance to socialise. It’s important that you manage to spend time chatting with everyone, pulling yourself away from the kitchen occasionally, so cooking for fewer people might be the option for you.
“I love adding personalised aspects to my dinner parties because I think it shows guests that special thought and effort has gone into it and it makes them feel special”, shares Natty. “I have these fantastic wine glasses with black stems and bases that I can write names on with a chalk pen and usually place a handwritten card in an envelope for each guest to open when they are seated. It’s these little touches that really stick in people’s minds!”
Depending on the season, the menu and the people you’ve invited, you can be as creative as you’d like with your décor. From an al fresco supper in your sunny garden to a luxuriously indulgent occasion in your dining room, you have the freedom to choose the décor. Candles, balloons and flowers are great ways to inject a splash of colour into your dinner party’s backdrop, whereas place names, placemats and runners can accessorise the table.
If you’re looking to take your décor one step further, Pinterest is a great source of inspiration. From themed seasonal dinners, such as Christmas and Easter, to planning for a wedding or baby shower, there is plenty of pictures for your next get together to take inspiration from.
Natty shared her favourite dish to prepare with us: “It has to be ‘Jeremy’s Famous Cherry Chicken’ served with crispy roast potatoes and roasted Mediterranean vegetables from the local market. The chicken dish is a recipe created by my youngest brother which I’ve adapted over time. It combines succulent juicy chicken with fruits and a variety of Middle Eastern spices such as sumac, star anise, za’atar (hyssop) and a few other secret ingredients, to make the most perfect, tender and aromatic winning dish!”
It can be tempting, especially if it’s your first dinner party, to want to wow your guests. However, keeping it simple with dishes that you know each of your guests will enjoy will take some of the stress off of you. When planning your menu, look through your fridge, freezer and cupboards for what ingredients that you have before writing down any additional things you’ll need to pick up. Planning one trip to the supermarket will give you more time to prepare each dish.
We spoke to Isabel from The Orchards School of Cookery who shared with us her essential piece of dinner party information: “Who are you catering for? For example, are there any special diets, food allergies or does the menu need to be low in fat or sugar? If so, try to choose a menu that will suit all guests to make it easier for you”. So, what dish does she love to prepare if trying to impress? “Roast chicken with all the trimmings!”.
Another great thing to think about is the timings. If there are any desserts which you can make ahead of time or elements of your starter that need to be refrigerated, prepare these first. This will reserve the evening to cooking your main meal, as well as for entertaining your guests. Although you’re making dinner for everyone, you need to spend time with your friends and family also, so allow time for both.
For some menu inspiration, take a look at some easy to follow recipes below:
Starter – Spinach and bacon stuffed mushrooms
This recipe on All Recipes is an easy starter to make. Although they take 45 minutes, most of this can be prepared beforehand in order to just be warmed up when your guests arrive.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 5 slices streaky bacon or pancetta
- 285g frozen spinach, roughly chopped
- 12 large mushrooms
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 85ml double cream
- 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Prep: 15 min
Cook: 30 min
- Preheat oven to 200 C / Gas mark 6. Grease a 23x33cm (9x13 in) baking dish with 2 tablespoons butter.
- Place bacon in a large, deep frying pan. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Remove, dice and set aside.
- Place frozen spinach in a medium saucepan with 4 tablespoons water. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook spinach covered 10 minutes. Uncover and stir. Remove from heat and drain.
- Remove stems from mushrooms. Arrange caps in the baking dish. Finely chop stems.
- Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and mix in onion and garlic. Cook until tender, then mix in bacon, spinach, chopped mushroom stems and double cream. Bring cream to a simmer. Remove from heat and mix in Parmesan cheese.
- Stuff mushroom caps generously with the mixture. Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes until lightly browned.
Main – Roast Chicken
As Isabel mentioned, she loves cooking a roast chicken to wow her guests when hosting a dinner party. This one of the BBC Good Food Website serves four but is easily adaptable if feeding a bigger party.
- 1.6kg whole chicken
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons cold-pressed rapeseed oil
- 4-5 thyme sprigs, leaves roughly chopped
- 500g butternut squash, cut into chunks
- 300g carrots, cut into chunks
- 300g parsnips, peeled and cut into long batons
- 1 medium red onion cut into thin wedges
- 1 garlic bulb, cloves separated
- 100g baby spinach leaves
Prep: 30 min
Cook: 75 min
- Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Put the chicken in a large roasting tin.
- Remove any trussing elastic and re-tie the chicken’s legs with string, if you like.
- Rub the lemon juice into the chicken, then rub in 1 tbsp of the oil and sprinkle with the thyme and plenty of seasoning. Roast for 25 mins.
- Mix the squash, carrots, parsnips and onion in a bowl with the remaining oil, lemon zest and plenty of ground black pepper, and toss together well.
- Take the chicken out of the oven and put on a plate. Scatter the vegetables into the tin, nestling the garlic cloves underneath, then put the chicken on top. Return to the oven for a further 45 mins, turning the veg after 20 mins until the chicken is cooked and the vegetables are tender and lightly browned.
- Take the chicken out and place on a warmed platter. Cover with foil and leave to rest for 10 mins.
- Cook the spinach in a saucepan with a drizzle of water, and season with black pepper.
- Scatter the vegetables around the chicken and serve with the spinach.
- Squeeze the garlic out of the skins and smear over the chicken, if you like.
Dessert - Chocolate and caramel sponge pudding with chocolate custard
For the dessert, selecting a dish that will delight your guests is essential. However, the most beneficial thing for you to do is find a recipe that you can prepare ahead of time, giving yourself longer on the evening of your dinner party for entertaining. This one from the Delicious Magazine is a real winner.
For the sponge
- 200g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to grease
- 200g soft light brown sugar
- 3 large free-range eggs, beaten
- 50g cocoa powder
- 200g self-raising flour
- 130g soured cream
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 120g Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel Nibbles
For the custard
- 570ml whole milk
- 2 tablespoons Bird’s Custard Powder
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons soft light brown sugar
Prep: 30 min
Cook: 55 min
- Heat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas 3½.
- Put the butter and 200g sugar in a large mixing bowl and, using an electric mixer, whisk for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. With the beaters still going, slowly add the beaten eggs, a little at a time, until fully incorporated.
- Sift the 50g cocoa powder and flour into the mixing bowl, then add the soured cream and 2 tbsp milk.
- Using a large metal spoon, gently fold everything together to combine, then fold in the caramel pieces.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 50-55 minutes or until the sponge is well risen and the top springs back to the touch.
- Meanwhile, make the custard. Put the 570ml milk in a saucepan and heat gently over a low heat until just steaming.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the custard powder, 2 tbsp cocoa powder and 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar.
- Using a balloon whisk, mix in a little of the warm milk to make a paste, then slowly whisk in the rest of the milk.
- Pour all the custard mixture back into the pan and stir continuously over a low-medium heat with a wooden spoon until the custard has thickened and starts to gently bubble.
- Continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring every now and then with the wooden spoon and scraping the bottom of the pan to make sure the custard doesn’t catch (burn).
- Serve the warm sponge with the custard poured over.
If you use a curved stairlift in your home, you’ll understand the importance of having your home accessible. Your entertaining space will need to take everyone’s needs into consideration, leaving enough room around the table for those who have mobility issues or even need to use a wheelchair. In between courses, your guests will chat amongst themselves at the dinner table. However, before and after, some light entertainment may be necessary to keep the conversation flowing.
When selecting your entertainment, you need to look at your guest list again. If younger family members are present, your option will need to be accessible for them. However, when serving after dinner coffee or opening a bottle of your favourite wine, having some music in the background can be a perfect way to end the evening. If you notice that conversation begins to dwindle, encouraging people to play a card game or charades is sure to get it flowing again.
How to plan the perfect dinner party
If you’re planning a dinner party soon, make sure to take these things into consideration to make yourself the hostess with the mostess:
- Carefully select your guest list
- Keep numbers low
- Make a menu
- Think about dietary requirements
- Consider table décor
- Personalise place names
- Choose easy to prepare dishes
- Prep the food ahead of time
- Keep everyone entertained
- Have fun!
This news article is from Companion Stairlifts. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.