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Do ahead dinners make parties a pleasure!

Posted on February 8, 2018 at 7:56 pm

February usually brings a new desire to socialise as dry January fades into the distance and friends put their fun hats back on.  Rather than brave the cold and bluster for a night out in town, I think it's the perfect month to invite good friends over for a cosy night in.

I expect I'm not the only person who's made the mistake of trying out a new, overly complicated recipe for a dinner party?  Only to end up stressed and alone in the kitchen, resenting my happy guests who are merrily drinking and chatting oblivious to the unfolding kitchen nightmare.  Ring any bells?!

These days, if I have friends over for dinner I follow a few rules to ensure that I have as good a time as my friends:

1.Keep it simple:

A cold, plated starter is a great idea as you can put it together in advance and not worry about temperatures and timings and you can serve it when you and your guests are ready.  Hot, plated main courses are tricky - it's be quite a feat to get everything onto plates while simultaneously seating guests, filling glasses, answering questions about the kids, and giving someone your butcher's address.  A more convivial option is to serve something that can be put on the table for guests to help themselves to.  A really delicious, well made casserole with perfectly creamy mash beats under/overcooked tepid rack of lamb any day!  Puddings can go either way, just make sure that you have heeded the next point...

2.Prepare as much as possible ahead of time:

If you're going to enjoy a stress-free evening, all the prepping and cooking should have been done already so that on the night you'll simply be putting dishes together and finishing them off.  For instance, vegetables can be blanched and refreshed a couple of days in advance.  On the night, heat about a centimetre of water in a frying pan with a little olive oil and seasoning, warm the veggies through and serve.

3.Enjoy your guests – after all, they’ve come to see you, not your food:

If you've obeyed steps 1&2, step 3 will be a shoe in! 

To help you on your way, I’ve put together a three course "make ahead" menu of delicious, eye-catching dishes which you can download from http://www.forkfulfood.com.  Easily smart enough for a dinner party, but also fitting the “oh, it was no effort – I threw it all together just before you came” vibe of a more informal kitchen supper.  

The starter - Glazed roasted beetroot with goat’s curd and caramelized nuts – is as tasty and really pretty. All the elements can be made well in advance before being assembled just before serving. The only slightly tricky thing is caramelizing the nuts, but if you don’t feel up to this, just roast them for 6-7minutes in a 180°C oven.

The main course is Easy-peasy Paella, and it really is easy! A well-made paella is totally irresistible, but making this Spanish speciality in the traditional manner can be quite a performance.  Our version, on the other hand, offers all the great taste and texture of a good paella, but as it is cooked in the oven and needs minimal attention it’s a great dish to cook for a gathering of friends or family.  You don’t need any special equipment, and the only speciality ingredient that you really can’t substitute is the Spanish short grain bomba (aka Calesparra) rice.  A good quality stock is a bonus – and other than that, you can play around with the ingredients – for instance use rabbit or pork instead of chicken, leave out the shellfish, add different herbs.  Whatever you use, this is a great sharing dish to plonk in the middle of the table and sit back as your guests dig in.

Finally, the pudding:  my “Ultimate” chocolate brownie with salted caramel sauce & chocolate sorbet.  Everyone claims their brownie recipe is the best, but mine really is! It’s totally foolproof and super chocolatey thanks to added cocoa powder.  It’s definitely dinner party-worthy served warm with a good salted caramel sauce (lovely homemade, but no shame in using shop-bought!) and an ice cold chocolate sorbet.  And do not fear - we’ve got a super-easy method for making ice creams and sorbets that doesn’t require an ice cream maker or frequent mixing.

I hope you give these recipes ago and enjoy them as much as I have! 

If you love the idea of entertaining at home, but just don’t have the time for the shopping and prepping, our Forkful Food Drop-off Dinner Party service might just be the answer…


Forkful Food is a Wandsworth-based catering company run by Leiths-trained chef Ruth Weighill.  We offer a range of catering services to private and corporate clients mainly, but not exclusively, in South West London.  These include sharing food (buffets, finger buffets, teas & picnics), party food (canapés, manapés & bowl food), and formal food (lunches and dinners), as well as our highly popular drop-off food.  Founded in 2009, our reputation is built on word-of-mouth recommendation and our mission is to deliver delicious, beautiful, and well-thought out food that meets our clients’ taste, budget and style.

info@forkfulfood.com / www.forkfulfood.com / 07711 034928



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