Dinner parties have the potential to be one of the highest forms of socialising there is, however, they also have the potential to be extremely stressful. What a disappointment it is to slave for hours over a meal only to be so busy in the kitchen that you don’t have time to enjoy the company. A dinner party should be a celebration, not just for the guests but for the host as well. The host, after all, is the great orchestrater of the gathering, the one responsible for bringing everyone together and creating a shared experience. They deserve to have a good time!
It’s taken a bit of practice, but I think I’ve finally got the knack of hosting dinner parties that I can actually enjoy along with the guests. The key is advanced preparation. Choose a menu of dishes that can be made ahead and get as much done as possible a day before the event. Loads of foods are amenable to advance preparation, and many dishes even benefit from having a day or two for the flavours to mingle.
I recently hosted an Italian-themed dinner party for my family, featuring minestrone soup, eggplant parmesan and tiramisu. All of the dishes were made the day before. On the day of the dinner party, all that was left to do was to put together a salad, make some pasta and pour some wine. It was so stress free that I almost felt like a guest at my own party.
Menu for 8:
Celebratory cocktail: Prosecco with a splash of Chambord, ~£30
Starter: Minestrone Soup with Garlic Bread, ~£30 Wine pairing: Côtes du Rhône or other medium bodied rustic red, ~£30
Main course: Eggplant Parmesan (salad and fresh pasta on the side), ~£60 Wine pairing: Chanti Classico or other Sangiovese-based red, ~£30
Dessert: Tiramisu, ~£50 Wine pairing: Sweet Oloroso Sherry, ~£15
Ready made versions of Tiramisu, which are fluffy and over-sweet have given this traditional Italian pudding a bad name. The real thing is rich and strongly flavoured with coffee, vanilla and brandy. Tiramisu literally means ‘pick-me-up’ from its energy giving combination of raw egg, coffee and cream. This recipe comes courtesy of Demuths Vegetarian Cookery School.