I read this really interesting article in The Guardian yesterday about how eating alone is one of the biggest factors for unhappiness. Lack of time and confidence can make it difficult to make a meal that feels worthy of sharing. Inviting someone who might be otherwise eating alone, or feeling down is such a kind thing to do, but we all get so busy that we can put it off.
I hope I can help to make entertaining friends and family easier so we can all eat together more and therefore help with this happiness thing. So here are my tips and tricks for stress free summer entertaining as well as a collection of recipes that are perfect for the warmer months.
My top tips for stress free summer entertaining:
- Entertaining doesn’t have to be formal. Sitting on a step in the sun with an old friend, a pizza and a bottle of fizz can be as good for the soul, if not better, than a house full of people.
- Don’t over stretch yourself. Simple food cooked well with love and served by a calm host will always go down better with your guests than a frazzled host serving an attempt at a restaurant-style dinner at home. If your friends wanted to eat restaurant food they’d go to a restaurant! – they want your food and your company in your home.
- Don’t cook anything that requires precision timing – dishes that allow you to do all of the prep and mostly make them ahead of time are ideal.
- Serve a pre-made (by you) cocktail when people arrive. Chilling your glasses in the freezer for Champagne and cocktails feels special and keeps drinks cold. A few drinks also means people won’t notice is anything goes wrong.
- Skip the hassle and formality of a starter – serve nibbles on platters in the kitchen if you want people to hang out in there. Or somewhere else if you’d rather them stay away. People will follow the food.
- Ask people to bring or buy something – a dessert, a cheeseboard or a side dish.
- Plating up individually adds stress, pile lots of lovely platters (rather than bowls) on the table and let people help themselves.
- Use long folding tables outside, cover them with brown wrapping paper and write everyone’s names where you want them to sit. Leave crayons in jars for children to draw on their bit of the table. Pick flowers or herbs and dot them around the table in mismatched jars. String up fairy lights or light tealights in jars. If you prefer a cloth, head to Ikea and buy their cheapest cream cotton which they sell by the meter. You can pick up a cloth for a 4 meter length of table for around £10. I bought it assuming it would be ruined after a party but it washes brilliantly.
Grill or BBQ tips
I wrote a blog all about grilling/BBQing a while ago. You can read it here
Once you have the technique down you can really start to enjoy cooking food on your grill/BBQ. Here are some of my favourite BBQ recipes:
To make your BBQ stress free, don’t stretch yourself – one or two meats done really well is better than 3 or 4 done badly. You can’t beat a great steak or a burger with a pile of good bread and a couple of salads.
Summer is all about salads for me. Whether its a side for your grilled meat or fish or as a lunch/dinner in its own right, here are some of my favourites:
Here’s a video on how to make the perfect caprese salad
Sides for stress free summer entertaining
These are perfect sides to accompany those grilled meats or fish:
Perfect party food
So, what do you cook if you don’t want to BBQ or have a salad? Here are my essential party foods, most of them are make ahead to take the stress out of entertaining.
Drinks and small bites
The ultimate in entertaining ease is cocktails and nibbles. Here are a few ideas of easy drinks and small bites to serve to your guests. If you don’t fancy a cocktail, offer gin or Fino sherry and tonic with a wedge of orange.
The Markle Sparkle – gin, lemon and elderflower cocktail inspired by the recent Royal Wedding (watch my video of making this here)
Homemade tortilla chips and guacamole – check out the following video of how to make this with any children who need a job.
So to finish it all off, here’s some simple but delicious seasonal dessert ideas:
Or just serve a pile of perfectly ripe fruit with ice cream and shortbread.
One final thing to remember, enjoy! Here’s to a summer of stress free entertaining and let’s hope the Great British weather doesn’t disappoint (you guys in California don’t have this problem!)
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