There are times in all of our lives when we have to make dinner for our friends. There is no point trying to avoid it, your turn will come. Dinner has been made for you seventeen times now and you haven’t volunteered to do it once. Not once. People are starting to talk. There are no more excuses.
If the thought of hosting a dinner party causes your heart to start beating like a dryer with shoes in it, I understand. I’ve felt the fear and done it anyway, and when I did I realised there was nothing to be afraid of after all.
There is nothing scary about The Dinner Party. We’ve already established that you will eventually have to feed your friends at some point – it’s just good manners. The Dinner Party is merely a way of feeding your friends in a predictable environment. The last thing you want is to find yourself staring into your kitchen cupboard during an unplanned feeding crisis, wondering how you can make two tins of beans and an old potato look like dinner? (Real life). The Dinner Party allows you to plan, to buy fresh ingredients, to arrange some soft lighting and put together a chilled-out playlist. The Dinner Party is indeed a grown-up affair, but it’s nowhere near as stuffy or pretentious as you thought.
Still afraid? I have some tips.
Don’t do it by yourself. Co-hosting is easier than hosting. A three-course meal is daunting for anyone to undertake alone; taking charge of one course is much more doable. Baby steps.
Have everything ready. Only cook things that can be prepared (and ideally completely finished) ahead of time. When your guests arrive, you will want to spend time with them. Things to avoid: steaks cooked to order, recipes with the word flambé anywhere in them, risotto, roast dinners or anything with lots of ‘sides’, béarnaise sauce or homemade custards, anything that needs last-minute ‘assembly work’, soufflés or anything else that will require your attention when you should be refilling everyone’s drinks.
Stick to what you know. At a dinner party a couple of months ago, I served Spaghetti Bolognaise as the main dish. There is nothing sophisticated or showy about Spaghetti Bolognaise but I’ve been making that dish (dare I say well?) since I was fifteen. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and all the plates were cleared. Success. Do you watch Come Dine With Me? (My Mam is obsessed). It always baffles me how often the contestants attempt a recipe for the first time on the show. That’s just taking a bath with a toaster. There is nothing wrong with easy and simple, if it tastes good.
Eat later than usual. I’m slightly hesitant to reveal this one but… giving your guests a little time to work up an appetite will make whatever you serve taste better – so make them wait. Leaving some time between the main course and dessert has the same effect. My secret’s out.
It’s not all about the food. I mean it’s not really about food at all, is it? It’s about spending quality time with friends. Of course. You knew that. My friends and I started this little tradition recently. Every time we sit down to eat together, before we dig in, everyone shares one thing they are grateful for and (just for fun) one thing they are not grateful for. It’s a nice way to start the dinner conversation.
Make it special. Clean up, tidy up, dress up. Light a few candles. Heck, string some bunting. Buy the good wine. People will notice.
€5 has been donated to UNICEF Ireland for the completion of this ‘thing’. Click here if you too would like to donate online.