My top tips for successful, stress-free entertaining

Cooking for guests: exciting and enjoyable or scary and too much pressure?

Here is how you can make cooking for guests an enjoyable experience for all involved!

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Check Dietary Requirements

Different people have different dietary needs, and it might not always be obvious whether your guests have any. Before you start planning your soiree, have a quick check all of your guests’ dietary requirements. It’s better than not checking, and ending up serving food they can’t or won’t eat: my husband took over the reins recently when we had very good friends round – he wanted to prove that he could actually cook and whipped up his famous spaghetti vongole… unfortunately, neither of our guests ate seafood!!!

Write a plan

I have a book where I record who is coming round, what I am intending to cook and the timings; from this I write a shopping list. As well as being very useful for the dinner party, it also acts as a lovely reminder of our social occasions over the years!!

I have lots of suitable recipes in my recipe section: I like dishes which I can make in advance as I don’t want to be slaving over the hob while my guests are sipping wine!!

Put Hygiene First

Hygiene should always come first when cooking: make sure you defrost everything properly (and safely) and if you precook anything, ensure that you cool it and store it properly. And always check things are properly cooked through: a thermometer is a good purchase, or you can just cut a piece open and take a look!

As well as food hygiene, I always make sure I have plenty of hand soap and hand sanitiser available for my guests – I am a big fan of the soaps from a company local to me called Handmade in Harpenden: they add a touch of class to my bathroom (and you can get candles to match!!)

Cook Plenty

Better to have too much food than not enough! I always over cater as there is nothing better than having leftovers the next day (just make sure you cover everything and pop it in the fridge/freezer before you get too carried away with the wine!!)

If hosting a BBQ, consider having some dishes that you can cook in the oven and prepare lots of side dishes ( they are always my favourite part of a meal!)

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It’s Not Just About The Food

Finally, try to remember that it is not only about the food – think atmosphere! Can you come up with a theme: I have gone Mexican before (I have lots of recipes in my recipe section) and served margaritas on arrival and had some sombreros dotted around the kitchen. You could pick a decade: how about going back to the 80s with volovents and angel delight or you could go Italian and serve pizzas, meatballs and tiramisu!

Enjoy x

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