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the new dinner party

April 22, 2010

You’d never guess, I’m sure, but I used to be rather the dab hand at throwing a dinner party.

Starters, entrees, mains, desserts. Matching beverages. Food served piping hot, straight to the table and me, ever the hostess-with-the-mostest, alternating between swanning around with a tea-towel thrown over my shoulder and quietly freaking out in a corner about whether I’d overcooked the chicken.

Or worse, undercooked the chicken.

Dinner over, and the clean up would begin. Long nights of me, a pair of gloves and a teatowel. And a mop. And a broom. And some stain remover.

Exhaustion the next day and the promise-to-self to never, ever, hold a dinner party again.

And whilst I loved (and still love) cooking for my friends and family, it was tiring. And stressful. And expensive. And did I mention tiring? So I did away with the practice altogether, and fell into the practice of inviting a couple of people over at a time for pizza or an easily thrown together meal.

But I missed dinner parties.

The special occasion food. The dress ups. The good cutlery and crockery. The “proper-ness”.

So I started doing them differently.

how to host a “dinner party”

Instead of cooking, serving, cleaning and hosting, I get my friends to share the burden (and the fun!) My guests are told to arrive a little earlier, are split into teams of two and given one or two courses per team to “host”.

But in order to make this work just right, you’ll need to do a bit of preparation. Here are my tips for how to help the night go smoothly.

before the party

tip: pick all of your ingredients up before you start

Tip 1: Choose your recipes well.

Pick recipes that can be completed within a one to two hour timeframe (including any cooling or resting time). Ideally, they shouldn’t involve more than half an hour of hands on cooking time.

Think about the level of cooking skill your guests have. Make sure there’s a selection of easier and mroe challenging dishes.

Tip 2: Equipment.

I ask my guests to each bring a knife, chopping board, mixing bowl, small saucepan and teatowel. It means that they’re working with equipment they’re comfortable(ish) with, and it also means that no-one will ever be waiting too long for equipment.

Tip 3: Ingredients

It may be easier, when picking your recipes, to start by thinking about what ingredients are in season. Then, consider ingredients that your guests may not have tried before – this will make it more interesting for all involved! Unless they’re deathly allergic to it. In which case it’s far less fun. Hm.

Pick all of the ingredients up before your guests arrive. Don’t forget to check that you have enough of the basics (flour, sugar, butter, milk). If the ingredients are expensive, arrange to split the costs.

during the party

recipe hazards – never assume knowledge

Tip 1:  Assign yourself with low-maintenance dishes

Why? So you can help everyone else out!

This is especially useful when team SuperDanny / the Bean are overheard saying “Do you want to stir, or shall I?” to a bowl of flour, with a well duly made in the middle, and three eggs carefully placed in said well.

cooking hazards – recipe failure

Tip 2: Remember that it won’t always be perfect

Sometimes the dough for your breadrolls will turn Miss Shiny’s hands into those of a flour-based yeti. And sometimes, just sometimes, you may have to scrape the dough off of her hands, and off Mak’s hands, add some flour and knead it into a workable ball before giving it back to them to play with.

And that’s ok. Even if they leave a trail of flour behind them for the next five minutes. (Mainly because they’ll clean it up later. I love you guys!)

Tip 3: Enjoy yourself!

Because there’s nothing funnier than a dish of lamb stuffed with a burghul, currant & za’atar mixture being introduced as “Lamb with booger”. Or having SuperDanny & the Bean introduce their speck, chilli & brussel sprout orechiette as “Old Man Ear pasta with… what’s the word? Bits? Oh! Specks!”

And the best bit?

Having Mak glow with pride as the “very first bread rolls I ever made… ever!” and herb butter are downed with gusto. And hearing him ask Miss Shiny if they can make the recipe again for his family.

Watching everyone try raw radish, and freshly roasted beetroot, and basil microherbs for the first time. And watching the Bean eat grapefruit. (“I hate grapefruit!” she will say “but this red stuff is pretty ok.”)

And then, at the end of the meal, realising that you’ve just eaten six courses that were made by the people sitting around your table. And that it was the least stressful (and the most hilarious) dinner party you ever did hold.


  • #1
    April 22nd, 2010

    You have lots of really handy tips. I’ve always been too nervous to host a dinner party for the fear of over cooking or under cooking a dish. Getting people involved in the process certainly takes the pressure away.

  • #2
    April 22nd, 2010

    Sounds like a fabulous dinner party was had! I’ll keep your tips in mind 🙂

  • #3
    Mak
    April 23rd, 2010

    You missed the most important tip – careful selection of great friends!!

  • #4
    April 23rd, 2010

    This sounds like fun! I wish I could have dinner parties, but our unit is just too small 🙁

  • #5
    April 23rd, 2010

    Great tips! and hahahah wtg at lamb with boogers :P?!??!?!

  • #6
    April 27th, 2010

    thanks for the tips shez – i had a few friends over the other week and i was really stressing to get everything done on time i was about an hr behind but some friends came abit early to help out 🙂

  • #7
    May 1st, 2010

    Hello!! My name is SIMAUMA. I write blog about the food.Please look.And I am glad if I link to your blog. (URL)http://food-collection-simauma.blogspot.com/

  • #8
    May 2nd, 2010

    Love friends who help out, or who will bring dishes, or who are happy to take instruction. Worst case is when friends think they’re being helpful but keep asking questions…lots of questions…every, little step of the way =p

  • #9
    May 3rd, 2010

    great post as usual!

Shez