In anticipation of our upcoming "An audience with Donal Skehan" event at the Alex Hotel on September 6th, we sat down with the man himself to hear what it takes to host a successful dinner party, and how he manages to stay calm throughout.
When it comes to hosting a dinner party, the prospect can either bring a sense of delight and excitement to a person, or indeed it can fill them with absolute dread.
There’s picking the meal; shopping for ingredients; cleaning the house; preparing the food; serving up everything on time; ensuring that people are mingling; topping up drinks… And then the clean-up after it’s all said and done? It’s no wonder that people hate it.
Donal Skehan is not one of those people; admitting that he loves nothing more than having friends and family over for an evening of delicious food and good company. This hasn’t always been the way, however - it’s just that Donal has figured out a few tricks and tactics over the years which make hosting as stress-free as possible.
Here, we list some key do's and don’ts to consider when hosting your next dinner party, with some pearls of wisdom from host-with-the-most himself.
Keep it the dish simple and straightforward
Cooking up a complicated creation might impress your guests, but the reality is that it often causes more hassle than it’s worth. Keep things simple with an easy dish that can be prepared in advance and requires minimal attention.
“When it comes to having guests over, I hate having a stressful dish to produce. A pot of slow-cooked beef ragu, where all you have to do is cook the pasta and leave the pot to simmer away on the stove for hours is my go-to dinner party dish.”
Embrace the weather
Try to make your meal match up with the season and weather outside. If the weather looks set to be roasting hot, maybe think twice about that Shephard’s Pie and go with something lighter, or even a BBQ. The same goes for a cold winter’s night; people will want something comforting when it’s nippy, so leave the cold salad starter for warmer months.
“I love to grab whatever vegetables are in season and incorporate them into the dish. Chargrilling is always a good call when it comes to veg; chargrilled tenderstem broccoli is a personal favourite, especially when it’s poured over with some gorgeous chilli vinagrette.”
For Donal, it’s all about arranging the meal in a relaxed, serve-yourself manner; this keeps the overall dinner dynamic open and crosses off “waitress” from your list of additional hosting duties.
“I love the idea of people sitting down to a proper feast and being able to help themselves to whatever they want; picking and choosing according to their own tastes and hunger levels. For me, family-style serving is the way to go!”
Pay attention to dietary requirements
Adhering to various dietary requirements can be a real drag; it seems like people are allergic to everything under the sun these days. Nonetheless, it’s really important that you take any dietary requirements that people mention seriously. Peanuts really can kill certain individuals, and some people truly are allergic to gluten. Make sure you ask your guests if there’s anything you should be aware of before you set out your menu, and then cook accordingly.
Don’t forget about your timer
Even a cooking pro like Donal Skehan admits to having once ruined a Christmas dinner when he forgot about the ham and left it to boil for hours longer than it needed. With this in mind, having a timer - and paying attention to that timer – is crucial.
Don’t overlook the presentation
It’s the little things that make all the difference, so when you’re hosting, try to think of things that will add a bit of occasion to the night; be it handwritten place names, a nice tablecloth or a garnish to top your dishes with. There are also countless YouTube videos that will show you how to fold napkins in different ways; which is a really easy way to make the evening feel that extra special from the get-go.
Don’t forget to enjoy the company of your guests
This goes back to the family-style serving options and easy dinner dishes. If you’re busy running around like a headless chicken all night, then it means you’re missing out on quality time to spend with your guests. Plus, it can make people feel uncomfortable. Try to be as organised as possible prior to anyone arriving, so that you can enjoy yourself after all the hard work has been done.
“At the end of the day, it’s as much about the quality time you get to spend with your guests, as it is about the food itself”.
Tickets now available for "An audience with Donal Skehan"
Join us for an evening with Donal Skehan at the Alex Hotel on Thursday, September 6 to celebrate the launch of his brand new book - Meals in Minutes.
WHEN Thursday, September 6
Drinks & canapés from 6.30pm
WHERE The Alex Hotel, Dublin
*Including gift bag & treats for all plus a few surprises along the way!
To book tickets, click here and for all enquiries call 01 271 9609