Ah, dinner parties. Although attending them is usually a lovely way to spend an evening, the mere thought of hosting one can send some people into a 10/10 tizzy.
Being the host can definitely be stressful. There’s buying the food and drink, getting your home in ship-shape before, setting the table, cooking the food and arranging everything to look effortless and exquisite in equal measure.
And after it’s all said and done, then you have the post-dinner party clean-up, which is often carried out alongside a thumping head the following day...
“I can’t cook!”
“I don’t have the time!”
“My carpet stinks of dogs!”
Whatever your excuse, you’ll find that all it takes is a few tactical food hacks (and spritzes of Febreze) for you to throw a dinner party that has the air of an event that has undergone weeks of planning and consideration.
Here we lay bare some very simple – but very effective – ideas that have gotten the green light from a range of reluctant dinner party hosts here at IMAGE HQ. Here’s hoping their practical powers reign as strong for you as they have for us.
1. Accept the offers of help
After you send the invitation, odds are that one of your guests will reply with a “Can’t wait! What can I bring?” message. While the temptation is often to turn down the offer in an effort to uphold your sense of pride, you’re much better off to graciously accept it.
People actually like to feel that they’re being helpful, so replying with a grateful “Ok, that would be wonderful!” and a suggestion of something simple for them to bring is sure to be met with a thumbs up. Whether it’s a dessert or a side, this just takes one task off your list and can act as a good conversation starter when hosting a group of people who don’t know each other; “Allow me to introduce you to Joanne, she brought that incredible-looking pavlova over there!”
2. Drinks on arrival
If it’s minimal effort and clean-up that you want, go for drinks that don’t require any work at all (this tactic means that you can spend your time working the crowd instead of working the bar). Bottles of craft beer set a really nice and relaxing backdrop to any gathering, as does rosé during the summer months, while a pop of prosecco is sure to add an extra “oo la-la” effect to the evening.
Having cute little tags attached to each glass with your guests’ name on them means fewer glasses are used and less clean-up after.
Platters of hors-d'oeuvres are the way to go; they encourage lots of ice-breaking as people gather round in a comfortable, casual dynamic and tuck into the chips, dips, hummus and veggies at their leisure. People only really need a napkin at this point too, which is an additional win for hosts who are restricted in terms of plate reserves…
Don’t forget, you can buy pre-cut crutiées in most supermarkets now, and the hummus, guacamole and pestos can all be shop bought, too. As far as presentation goes, just pop the various array of chips, dips and dunking edibles into a few small bows and you’re laughing.
Photo by Kelsey Chance on Unsplash
The last thing you want is to be slaving over the stove while the party is in full swing behind you. Avoid doing steak or anything that requires meticulous attention to detail, instead try to make your meal ahead of time so that all it requires is a gentle re-heat in the oven. And for people who fancy skipping the cooking bit altogether, you’ll find a huge selection of delicious, pre-made curries and stir-fry dishes in supermarkets.
Here are a few of our favourite quick-fix/ supremely easy dinner recipes to use:
- Easy Veggie Korma
- Slow Cooker Chicken And Lentil Stew
- Add this gorgeous red sauce to any pasta dish alongside some meatballs or easy roast veg
And then all that’s left to prepare is a simple green salad, which you can buy in bags in the supermarket dump into a big bowl, add some olive oil, salt and pepper, and leave on the centre of the table for guests to be passed around.
By going “ice cream parlour” style with your dessert offering, all you have to do is crack open a few tubs of ice cream and fill some accompanying bowls with sweets, chocolates, berries and whatever other toppings you fancy. Lay them out for your guests to help themselves to, and voilà! Dessert sorted in three minutes flat.
Photo by Michelle Tsang on Unsplash
6. Background music
Don’t worry about creating the perfect playlist, we have that covered too. Check out our Spotify channel and take your pick from our array of composition choices - from the fun and upbeat to the calm and relaxing. We recommend the “The Happiness Playlist” which consistently acts as a universal crowd-pleaser for events such as these.
Nothing is as simple, as cheap and as effective as tea lights. For something so small they add an incredible amount of magic to any sort of gathering. Just be sure to pop them in a small glass or jar to avoid any accidents. Investing in nice napkins will also add a sense of occasion to your evening, and you can follow these easy steps to make your table look all the more impressive!