On the weekend we were lucky enough to cook for 10 fabulous people alongside the king of hospitality John Lazarou (The Coffee Club and ambassador for the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre) for a charity dinner. It was like a second round a My Kitchen Rules episode with planning the menu, shopping for ingredients and prepping for hours on end for a dinner event for 10 people, but this time we weren’t subject to scrupulous judging!!
The event made me wonder…just what makes a dinner party so special? Of course it’s all about the people you share your evening with, the endless laughter over a couple of good glasses of wine and most certainly some delicious food. We kicked off the dinner with eggplant and buffalo mozzarella antipasti, followed by a trio of soups – wild mushroom, garden pea and cauliflower cream and seafood bisque, all individually served in cute glassware. The entré was a very tasty but easy to prepare lamb cutlet duo with cumin spiced sweet potato stack and labne, a delicious Lebanese yoghurt cheese made by Shadi’s mum!
Check out the recipe here
I’ve chosen to share this recipe with you this week as it is easily transformed into a great family dinner with some additional sides if you wish. We also had slow cooked beef ragu with tagliatelle pasta and to finish off we shared our orange blossom custard dessert that won us the Grand Final on My Kitchen Rules.
It was a most enjoyed evening by all, especially for Shadi and I who felt like we were in our element, cooking for a group of lovely people for a good cause.
Here are our top five hints for a great dinner party event:
1. Be prepared
Plan at least 2-3 days in advance. Once you know who is coming (and have sussed out any dietary requirements) plan your menu. It’s always nice to have starter/entré, main meal and dessert on the menu and it doesn’t have to be fancy! If you are a beginner’s cook, an antipasto platter with cheese, olives and cured meats is the perfect starter that requires little preparation.
2. Make a list
Make a shopping list for all the ingredients for each meal. When storing your ingredients a helpful tip is to stack the ingredients you need together in a pile and check them off your list so you don’t leave anything out! This happened to me on the weekend and we had a last minute trip to the deli to buy a vital ingredient – not good for the nerves trust me!
3. Set the scene
Decorations and theme really set the mood for the event and whilst you don’t have to overboard, having matching cutlery, plates and glasses and some candles or flowers really helps to communicate to your guests that you’ve gone to some effort to create a special night for them. I love using whatever is in season, so you could use green apples in a glass jar for or even lemons to brighten up the room winter.
4. Get chopping
Prepping your ingredients early is a good way to keep organised throughout the cooking process. Have your onions and garlic chopped, garnish ready to go and stocks made the day before. It really helps when you only need to make final touches to a dish so you can spend more time with your guests at the table!
5. Have fun!
Enjoy yourself! Shadi and I truly believe that if you are stressed, rushed or feeling negative it will show up in the food and atmosphere that you present to your guests. Relax; you are not in front of a judging panel but a group of friends who are there to make memories and have a good time with you.
Veronica & Shadi xoxo