You don’t need the biggest dining space to entertain… Hosting is all about enjoying food and friends together – there’s nothing I love more than squeezing friends into my tiny flat and enjoying some delicious food, a good old catch up and a few glasses of wine.
Keep the menu as fuss-free as possible… I like to keep the food seasonal and simple to make cooking as stress-free as possible. It’s easy to get overexcited about what you’re going to make, but over the years I’ve learnt not to try anything new or adventurous – cooking dishes you’re familiar with means you’ll actually relax and spend time with your friends on the evening.
I love sharing dishes for a few different reasons… The first is that you can dress the plates in advance and then pop the dishes in the middle of the table for everyone to dig in (and go back for seconds). Secondly, by doing one or two main sharing dishes, it avoids any stressful plating up scenarios in the kitchen, where you never seem to have enough space. Lastly, by doing a one-pot main with a fresh sharing salad, it avoids a huge pile of washing up to tackle post meal. Win-win.
Prepare as much as you can ahead of time… You always want to feel at your best when cooking and prepping in advance, where you can, will make things much simpler. This will also leave you enough time to get ready before your guests arrive, and you help avoid last-minute panics.
But don’t worry if it doesn’t go totally to plan… Your guests will enjoy the evening regardless – who doesn’t love being cooked for?!
A few simple additions can bring your table to the next level… Using a flowerpot in the middle is a great way to display the cutlery; this keeps it simple yet stylish. Having a water jug on show is also must for me, try putting some stalks of mint in: it’s cost-effective, looks and tastes great and everyone will comment – trust me.
Personal place names make your guests feel special… These can be anything from a small luggage label with lovely writing, a piece of coloured card pegged to a glass, or even a leaf. I often use a gold or silver pen to write on a large leaf, which is a fun and cheap way to add a personal touch.
And there’s a trick to making any table look effortlessly impressive… At home I don’t have full sets of plates, cutlery or glassware so I tend to mix and match – but I’ll use one matching element throughout the table to tie it all in. For example, by using matching napkins and place names, it doesn’t matter if the glassware and cutlery isn’t a full set.
Finally, set the mood before your guests arrive… Light some candles, put on your favourite tunes and you’ll be ready to entertain. And don’t forget to ask everyone to bring a bottle to keep it affordable, too.
For more entertaining advice, and to find out more about Social Pantry, visit SocialPantry.co.uk; or check out Alex Head’s catering tips and favourite recipes at AlexHead.co.uk