Hosting a dinner party and impressing your friends with your culinary skills might not be as difficult as you expect. It really rests a lot less than most people realise on your actual cooking ability, and a lot more on careful planning and common sense.
Here are our top tips for producing restaurant-quality food for your friends and family at home, and most importantly, successfully hosting an event that lives up to the food.
1) Don’t go crazy creatively
It’s easy to be tempted into going all-out on your first attempt and creating something completely original. Even if you follow an exact recipe, never cook anything for the first time for a group of guests. Practice in advance and cook something you know well.
2) Pick a theme
To help you stay on track and pull in all the different elements of hosting your party, a theme is always a great idea. This also adds an element of cohesion with the food, and it’s likely that a range of courses from the same cookbook will actually go well together. Mixing different exotic influences can be confusing and often less enjoyable.
3) Make sure everyone can eat your food
Perhaps this seems obvious, but you might not always realise someone you’re inviting has an allergy or intolerance to a certain kind of food. They might just really hate one of your favourite ingredients. You should make sure there are no unpleasant shocks for your guests on the night by checking beforehand.
4) Carefully plan your time-saving
You will need to spend a reasonable amount of time preparing your food, and then you need to know how long each course needs to be cooked for. Meanwhile, your guests will need entertaining and will expect a sensible amount of time between courses – a chance to relax, but not a long wait. This is too much to leave to chance, so make a logical plan first.
5) Use seasonal ingredients
To save money in the supermarket and help you create the appropriate atmosphere at your dinner party, opt for traditional winter meals during the colder months and save the summer menu for when it’s actually warm.
6) Do as much as possible yourself, but in advanced
Your guests will be able to tell if you’re claiming to have made something from scratch when it’s clearly been bought in a shop. However, you don’t need to slave in the kitchen all day making every single thing you plan to serve. Using a combination of shop-bought essentials and pre-making as many elements as you can, it’s possible to cut the time you spend in the kitchen right down.
7) Presentation is everything
The thing that could really set your food apart and take it from home cooking to a professional dinner party standard is your presentation. Here’s your chance to work on recreating the little flairs you’ve picked up from fancy restaurants and recipe books. Adding a splash of a different colour can make a huge difference, as can any small and attractive garnish as long as it isn’t completely mismatched.