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Prepping the perfect dinner party

Thursday, 23rd November, 2017 9:11am

With Christmas approaching, we tend to invite friends over to catch up and entertain them at home. Some people take the easy option and buy either ready-made fingerfood from the supermarket or hire a caterer. Either can be okay, but I love to prepare everything myself.

Yes, it takes time and effort but with a bit of planning, it is easier than you might think.

First thing you have to do is decide on your guest list. I know most of my friends’ likes and dislikes as well as allergies, which is helpful when I choose what to prepare.

Write down the menu - next to it, what you need to buy (check your cupboards).

Now look at the time you will need for each item on your menu. Try avoiding dishes that you have to do on the spot and/or serve straight from the oven (like soufflés etc.) as they add a lot of pressure and rely on people being at the table when you serve.

Keeping in mind that your guests are not coming all at once but in intervals, having platters of canapés and cocktails at the ready will help to bridge the time without anybody getting bored. I personally find fingerfood and canapés easier to serve as you can place the platters on tables etc and enjoy your friends’ company.

But when you are serving dinner that includes several courses, timekeeping is the most important part. When you want to serve dinner at 6pm, invite your friends about 30 minutes earlier.

Chances are, they won’t be on time and your food doesn’t get spoiled!

Write a timetable that includes time for sitting down to have a cup of tea and a shower. It might sound a bit too ‘German’ but these timetables help me make my dinner parties look easy.

My dinner party would start with said platter of canapés and a cocktail (make sure to have non-alcoholic options as well).

For the first course, I would serve a cold starter like a slice of terrine with leaves or poached pears with blue cheese and walnut salad. You can prepare this in advance and it looks stunning on a plate.

I always serve a soup for second starter – try making soups that you wouldn’t normally make yourself (remember, you want to treat your guests) – I had great success with avocado soup or a courgette and orange soup.

If you like it a bit fancy, you could now serve a sorbet. Supermarkets do have some good options available if you don’t want to make your own.

This is a good palette cleanser after the two starters. Choose a flavour that isn’t too heavy (I once had an awesome green apple sorbet).

For mains, I either slowcook the meat (I like to be relaxed) or something that is quick in the pan.

A roast always looks great when brought to the table, especially when you arrange it nicely on a large platter with roasted vegetables etc. scattered around.

For a more informal setting, casseroles are a great tasty way to feed your friends.

Following the main, the dessert is where you can impress but don’t worry, a simple chocolate mousse looks great if served in a glass and can also be prepared in advance.

In case you like to serve a cheese board, this is traditionally served before the dessert (or serve instead of a dessert).

I like to follow the dessert with handmade chocolates just to finish the evening on a relaxed note. We always stay at the table, chatting away and keep nibbling on the chocolates. However you are going to entertain your friends, enjoy it.

By the way: Why not pop into the Blarney Christmas Market this Sunday? It takes place in Blarney Golf Resort from 10am–6pm with a great array of crafters and artists.

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