You’ve invited half a dozen friends over for dinner and are now panicking at the thought of what to serve them. Or perhaps you have to host a dinner party for your extended family. Whatever the reason, you’re faced with the prospect of serving up dinner to a hungry horde. What do you do?
First, consider dishes that will please everybody. You don’t want to be too innovative and serve up a dish based around pigs trotters when the likelihood is that many people won't enjoy that. Instead, stick with time-tested recipes that can be made in large quantities. Dishes like Chilli con Carne and Shepherd’s Pie are perfect as they can be made ahead of time and reheated when your guests arrive. The idea is to keep things simple: it's easier to get simple recipes absolutely right.
These dishes are especially perfect for a cold winter evening as they are warming, comforting, nutritious and tasty. Standard recipes for both dishes can be multiplied to feed larger numbers of people.
The great thing about these recipes is that they will work with even the tightest budget. Cheap cuts of meat are available from local butchers and supermarkets or if you can afford to splash out, then buy the best organic cuts. Prepared packets of spices from companies like Schwartz are now sold in supermarkets, so you don’t have to buy an entire spice rack to create the authentic flavours of the dish.
Now that you’ve decided on a menu, think about the kind of ambience you want to create in your house for the evening of your dinner party. These dishes suit a down-home relaxed atmosphere and you should serve them in a setting where you feel comfortable and relaxed with people who you know well.
Tidy the dining and living areas and turn off the main lights. Either place candles strategically around the room or turn on a couple of lamps to provide some soft backlighting. Create a welcoming atmosphere with fresh flowers, and a soothing tone with soft music like jazz or bossa nova playing in the background.
Try to have everything prepared before your guests arrive. That way you can spend time entertaining them and making sure that their drinks are always topped up. Shepherd’s Pie can be reheated twenty minutes or so before you want to serve, and eaten with peas, which only take a few minutes to prepare. Make sure you have a choice of red and white wines available for your guests, as well as soft drinks for guests who don’t drink alcohol.
Ultimately, the people are what really make a dinner party successful. The food, music, and atmosphere are simply there to help to foster conversation. Even if some of the details of your dinner party go awry, don’t worry. Just enjoy the company of your friends or family.