How to Throw A Successful, Stress-free Dinner Party

I absolutely love having family and friends for dinner. Sharing and breaking bread is in our DNA after all!

It is such a treat and so very personal to being invited into one’s home. Your relationship has crossed the line from acquaintance to friend. Guests also relax more “at home’ and in my case, the added bonus is I can use them as my guinea pigs, testing new recipes or enjoying tried and tested ones.

Dinners are stressful. The list is endless from cleaning the house to getting food on the table, painting your nails, picking up wine, getting the kids to bed……….and so on!

Just remember the most important aspect of a successful dinner is a “relaxed host”. You set the tone for the whole evening. It doesn’t matter if the odd thing goes slightly awry! Simply put, guests want to feel welcomed and slightly pampered and see you. Everything else is gravy.

Simple tables
Simple tables

Here are a few essentials to consider

  • Nibbles and welcoming cocktails, so if dinner is running a little late, no one will starve or get too tipsy.
  • Music creates warmth, atmosphere and talking points.
  • No bright lights, dim them or light candles.
  • Keep table decoration simple, maybe some old jam jars filled with fresh herbs or a nice tablecloth. If you choose the latter, my advice is to use an inexpensive one. Many of mine have been ruined with wine spills!
  • Wine and Water, don’t run out of either! Below are some examples of good wines that always work.
    • Fabulous red that works well with most flavours
    • Moorish rosé for warmer weather
    • Excellent white, drink with white meats, fish, cheeses
  • Good company: choose friends and family who compliment each other. More than 8-10 at a table can separate the group. 6 is probably the ideal number of guests.
  • For the main event, make life easy and plan ahead. I always prepare and cook the majority of food in advance, and leave the meat/fish to the last minute. A BBQ is a great idea. Cooking outside means no major smells inside.
How To | Successful Dinner Party | Food & Travel | Discover Out Loud
Impress and turn a roasted potato into a Hasselback potato
  • Buy seasonal to maintain a reasonable budget.
  • Allergies and dislikes, double-check everyone eats fish for instance.
  • The bathroom, ensure there is toilet roll, soap and a candle with matches!

Easy and Delicious Recipe Ideas

  • Baby gem lettuce leaves filled with ricotta, pomegranates and chopped mint is a quick and simple pre-dinner nibble
  • Make the starter a sashimi with al dente green beans, chilli, citrus dressing and edible flowers
  • Schoosh up your main with quail’s breast instead of chicken and Dragon Curry (Altes Gewürzamtspicing then add a simple lemon garlic mayonnaise (recipe below)
  • Add a cheese course with a bought chutney and fruit to elongate the dinner and make your guests feel extra indulged
  • Try poaching pears in Riesling and serve with cream spiced with ginger or cardamom
How To | Successful Dinner Party | Food & Travel | Discover Out Loud
Filled baby gem lettuce
How To | Successful Dinner Party | Food & Travel | Discover Out Loud
Riesling saffron and cardamon poached pears with cardamom cream

Seasoning & Spicing change a simple dish into something extraordinary!

Lemon Garlic Mayonnaise
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Pinch salt and pepper (adjust at the end)
  • 300ml sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • Ensure the ingredients are at room temperature and the bowl is clean.
  • Whisk the egg yolks, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper together in the bowl for ca 1 minute. They should slightly thicken.
  • Then slowly pour in the oil in a slow steady stream whilst whisking continuously. When this basic mayonnaise is ready, only then whisk in the lemon juice and garlic. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

You can adapt the basic recipe as you wish:

Herb mayonnaise: add freshly chopped herbs instead of lemon and garlic
Wasabi mayonaise: add wasabi paste
Pimenton mayonnaise: add tomato puree and smoky pimenton
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