Most of us thoroughly enjoy a good dinner party. Delicious food, good wine, great conversation – what’s not to love? But evening get-togethers can also be incredibly stressful, especially if you’re a busy professional and don’t have a lot of spare time to dedicate to preparing an elaborate meal.
As the most intimidating part of entertaining is often deciding what to serve, we thought we’d make it a little easier for you by offering up some tips for planning the perfect dinner party menu. Follow our advice below and prepare to enjoy a memorable night spent dining with friends and family.
6 hassle-free menu planning tips
KEEP IT SIMPLE
You don’t need microgreens and complex gels just to impress. Sometimes the simplest of dishes are the most enjoyable, and as they’re the easiest to prepare, you get to reduce to stress levels and make the most of the evening. So, don’t overthink the menu; rather dish up comfort food and crowd pleasers that you know will go down well with guests. For instance, you could opt for a favourite like Beef Lasagne, Chicken à la King or Country-style Oxtail Stew. If it looks and tastes good, no one’s going to care that it’s not perfect.
DO THE MATH AND CONSIDER YOUR GUESTS
The number of guests you’re planning on hosting will impact your menu – if you’re having a large group over, it might work better to dish up a sizeable stew or bake of some sort; if you’re expecting only three or four friends to arrive, you could more easily opt for individual plated courses. Remember, it’s also very important to know your guests’ preferences and dietary restrictions before you plan a menu. If your visitors are vegetarian, for example, you’ll have to adjust your strategy accordingly, and go for something like Lentil and Sweet Potato Bake or Melanzane Parmigiana rather than a meaty curry.
HAVE A CLEAR BUDGET IN MIND
It’s always worthwhile having a clear idea of what you’re willing to spend on dinner before you head to the shops. Your budget will help to guide what’s on your menu and rein you in if you’re getting a little too ambitious. You don’t want to end up on spending so much on a heap of ingredients for those extravagant appetisers you planned that you feel compelled to skimp on mains and dessert.
PICK A MAIN AND LET IT GUIDE THE REST OF THE MENU
Start by deciding on your main dish. Once you’re clear on this part of the meal, you can plan around it to ensure a good balance of flavours, textures and tones. For instance, if you’re serving lasagne, you might want to go for a side dish like crunchy raw vegetables tossed in a vinaigrette to offset the creaminess of the bake and add some colour. As this is quite a hearty dish, you’d probably want to go with a lighter starter and dessert, too.
DON’T FEEL PRESSURED TO COOK THE WHOLE MEAL YOURSELF
If you’re a busy working mother, it’s difficult to find the time to prepare every part of a dinner party menu from scratch. So, don’t put that pressure on yourself – buy gelato from the store for dessert, or even consider defrosting a delicious home-cooked frozen meal, like those in the Food Matters FOMO range, for mains? If you keep your main dish simple by going the ready-to-eat route, you buy yourself time to get more creative with sides, appetisers, dessert and drinks.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE DRINKS
Beverages are as much a part of a good menu as food is, so give this part of the meal some thought too. You could serve up a creative welcome drink, craft a signature cocktail (or cocktail) or pair a different wine – based on texture and flavour – with each course.
As a full-service catering company with years of experience, we at Food Matters are ready to help.