It's that time of year folks, diaries become chock-a-block with social gatherings, Christmas drinks and fun festivities. Almost everyone will at some point during the festive season be hosting or heading to a dinner party of some sort, so today I wanted to share how I plan to dress, cook and host my own - for a stress free, enjoyable evening for you and your guests.
Any friends coming around my place soon for dinner, look away now or there'll be no surprises ;)
First up, getting your table decoration looking wow (but simple to do in a rush)
Placemats and tableware
If you can invest in a matching set of tableware and placemats, this will save you a tonne of time at every dinner party for the foreseeable future.
Monsoon for Denby have a beautiful selection of placemats, porcelain plate sets and glassware for every occasion. The set photographed is the Denby Monsoon Filigree Silver set, with matching placemats and glasses. As I don't usually host dinner parties at any other time than the Christmas and New year period, it's ok to invest in a set with a silver winter themed look. If you're looking for something more classic for everyday or weekend use, check out the Lucille Gold set that looks great at Christmas and any other time of the year.
My table cloth I actually made myself with an off cut of herringbone fabric from Ulster Weavers in Sligo Oatmeal - I love it.
Centrepieces I often struggle with. I never want anything too big, as it can crowd our small table and be difficult to store in our small flat. So I got creative this year and bought some simple baby's-breath flowers on my shop around Tesco for £1.50. I broke it into two parts and placed it around some gorgeous tea light votives from the Dotcomgiftshop (only £2.95 each, bargain!)
Another very cheap decorative element I added to the table, were a handful of silver bells scattered across the flowers which were a nice talking point and felt really Christmassy.
I love the thought of having place names, and looking at pinterest gives me way too many creative ideas to make my own. But I will say, when you only have a small group of people calling over, it feels a bit pointless writing names out, and it takes ages to make them. Instead, I popped a Lindt bear beside every glass. The great thing is you can buy these in packs of 5 for less than £3, and it's a thoughtful idea for visitors.
Next, choosing a meal that's not going to take you all day to prepare, guests will love, and you aren't spending most of the night in the kitchen
It's the party season, so all supermarkets are stocking party platters at the mo. Canapés are really simple to make, but if you want something even quicker and just as tasty, opt for ready made throw in the oven spring rolls and present them with some delicious dips to tide people over until mains.
I actually stole this recipe idea from a friend when I asked what for quick, easy and tasty dish ideas. Salmon fillets with oil and pesto, green beans and baby potatoes is the simplest meal I've made but looked like I'd spent a little longer than I did on it. It tasted really good! I can't recommend it enough because if like me, you get a bit flustered when entertaining, this you just pop in the oven, leave it alone and it frees up your time to make cocktails instead.
During the festive period, it's SO easy to overindulge in profiteroles and cream. I'd recommend snack dishes for after dinner, filled with healthier treats like raw goji berries, dark chocolate chunks and mulberries so that guests can pick without being so stuffed there's no room left for cocktails (the most important part of the night, let's be honest). These I got from the Raw Chocolate company - they were great as there's no faffing or cooking needed, just chuck them in a bowl and you're off!
I'm keeping the recipe for this Freixenet cava cocktail under lock and key until Freixenet share it on their blog very soon. It's absolutely delicious and PERFECT for new year fun.
Finally, finding something to wear you feel comfortable and nice in!
I usually opt for a simple cut black dress when I'm entertaining as clumsy me usually spills wine and food splashes all over myself when I'm preparing meals. If I chose a dress light in colour I would panic about it being ruined making black a great choice for me. This dress in particular has a nice lace detail at the top and is really easy to throw on with some tights and heeled boots. It's from Wallis, they have some nice sophisticated dresses in for entertaining at the mo.
Well that's it, those are my tips for hosting a stress free dinner this winter. I hope it's given you some food for thought ;)