Colourful platters filled with delicious and appetizing food. Tables laid out with aromatic dishes and things you’ve never tried before. Several candles are lit all over the house giving off a lovely aroma that makes you feel welcome. This is the ideal dinner party!
Candles, flowers, napkins, cutlery, dinnerware all add personal touches that are very unique to you. Over the years you will gather items that will help you entertain better such as a cutlery caddy, better dishes, table cloths in various colours, chafing dishes for large parties and glassware for different occasions. You will also learn methods of serving and plating which will work for you. As you can see from the pics, I had a theme for the dishes, napkins, plates and platters. I used a red table cloth, with a black basket for naan. I used red and white napkins, red, green, black and white dishes. There was a white cutlery caddy, with black and white plates and red or cream candles lit up all over the main floor. This made everything look seamless as it was well put together. You don’t have to have a lot of dishes or dinner sets to make this happen. However, it is very important to always buy things that coordinate with your existing collection.
If something isn’t working, try to figure out a better and more efficient way of doing it. For example, I do not prepare dishes after my guests have arrived. Therefore anything that requires baking, assembling or cutting is already done beforehand. Some people can manage this, but I am not one of them. I like to have everything food related ready before my guests arrive. I don’t like being an unprepared hostess. I find it very odd when I go to someone’s house and they are cooking while I am there. It makes me feel like I showed up too early!
It’s wonderful having people over for dinner, but it takes a lot of prepping and planning. My style of prepping works for me, but it isn’t the only way of doing things. Various factors have to be taken into consideration. Are you going to be doing the grocery shopping and cooking? Are you having the food catered? Are you prepping, cooking, cleaning and tidying up the house by yourself? Do you have house help? Do you have an extra family member who can help you with cutting and washing pots and pans while you do the cooking? Will there be someone to help you when you are serving? Do you have a dishwasher in your kitchen? Is there a cook or a maid who can do all of the cleanup for you and put away all the clean dishes in the kitchen cupboards? Do you have a spot where you can “hide” your pots and pans as you reheat food in them? Is your kitchen in an open space or is it in one corner of the house behind closed doors? Yes, there are many factors to consider! Do not compare yourself to others and do not allow others to do it either as your situation is more than likely different from others. Keep your current situation in mind and do the best you can.
Experience has taught me that what others think suitable might not be suitable for you. Do whatever works for you by thinking everything through. Plan ahead where you are going to place your food on the table. Each platter or dish should have a designated spot so that you don’t have to think about where to place the piping hot dish while it is in your hands. Please refer to the other blog posts on party planning as I have gone into more details there. It should all look effortless where in fact you have spent several hours preparing yourself and your home for your guests.
In the past I used to be very concerned about having everything piping hot. Now, I have discovered a way of avoiding stress by having a couple of items that can be served at room temperature such as appetizers, salads and yogurt based items. Also, I always cook on the day of the party. As I am done with a dish, I plate it and let it cool. Then I cover it tightly with aluminium foil and leave it on the counter. An hour before I am ready to serve dinner, I preheat the oven to 350F and place all the dishes in there for 15mins. Then I lower the temperature to 200F and leave the food in there until I am ready to serve. Naan bread is a bit tricky to warm up. I find that it dries up in the oven if you place it in there directly. I usually warm up it up on a frying pan on the stove and keep it in a hot pot or I wrap 5 naans in foil and keep it in the oven along with the other food.
Here’s an example from the last dinner I held at my home. There were 16 of us and half the guests were children. When there are several ages at a dinner party, lots of factors have to be taken into consideration. Some of the dishes were spicy, while others were very mild. As usual, I had a table for dinner items and another table for dessert, tea, juice, water and pop. This way there was something for everyone. The same goes for desserts. I always make a fruit platter and on this day I used honey dew melon, pineapple, green seedless grapes, strawberries and kiwi. Fruit is always a great idea as almost everyone will eat fruit. I had brownies for the kids which I had prepared in cupcake liners. I had laid out several colorful bowls for homemade mango icecream. Tea was in a thermos with tea cups, milk and sugar right there for whoever needed it. Lemonade, pop and water were on a tray with lots of glasses and ice. This is the menu we had.
Dinner Party Menu
Macaroni, vegetable and cream cheese puffs
Sweet chill Thai sauce
Cucumber and mint raita
Mexican cob salad
Hara masala chicken
Home made brownies
Home made mango ice cream
As you can tell from the menu, 6 items needed to be warmed up. I prepared the biryani using the oven method for steaming in two separate oven proof dishes two hours before dinner was going to be served. I took them out of the oven and left them on the counter tightly covered with foil until I was ready to serve dinner. I then placed naan, hara masala chicken, tandoori chicken, tuna kebabs and seekh kebabs in the oven. When I was ready to serve dinner, all I had to do at that point was wear my oven mitts and place the dishes and platters on the designated spots and dinner was served. This method has created controversies in the past as some people think that it makes the food dry or that the flavours might disappear. Ideally the kebabs will be barbecued by one person while the curries were being heated by another and everything being served by another. This is not the case in my house, so I do what works for me and so should you. It’s nice to be a relaxed host who doesn’t need each and every guest helping out. That takes the fun out of being a guest. We all work hard in our kitchens in our own homes. We want to be pampered and enjoy dinner when we are invited somewhere else.
Make your guests have a pleasurable experience when they are at your house by having everything ready beforehand so that you can spend maximum time with them. Obviously this isn’t always possible especially when you have an occasion at home with more than 30 guests. Then you surely need the help of whoever is willing to help you.
hAPPY eATING & kEEP sMILING
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