Heatlie’s Andrea Mead gives us 7 simple tips for hosting the perfect dinner party without any of the hassle
It’s great to have family and friends over for a meal but often the thought of all that preparation, cooking and cleaning can be so daunting, we end up avoiding social situations at home altogether. We’ve all got a disaster story of a dinner party gone wrong or a memory of being so frazzled in the kitchen that you barely have time to talk to your guests. Maybe you’ve even sworn off entertaining forever. Luckily, there are ways to minimise the stress and take the effort out of cooking for family and friends.
For many, the iconic Aussie barbecue is the ideal way to entertain without fuss. And it’s easy to see why — all the cooking can take place outside, you can do most of the preparation before people arrive and your guests can serve themselves. Although there’s nothing wrong with a traditional barbecue featuring good-quality snags, chops and a few salads, there are ways to take your barbecue entertaining to the next level without loads of work. Here are my top tips for easy entertaining with impact.
Liven up the menu
Our tastebuds have matured significantly in recent years so keep food lively with interesting seasonings and quality olive oils. Try pesto and chimichurri sauce for something different and don’t be afraid to use herbs — not only do they bring another dimension to your food, but they also add a splash of colour.
Keep it simple
We all have less time these days to prepare, so keep food preparation for your dinner party to a minimum and enjoy the company of guests. Make sure to think and plan ahead as well. Prepare your menu and make a list, make use of online shopping and rope in other family members to help. It’s all about working smarter,not harder, when it comes to entertaining.
Practice makes perfect
Barbecues are meant to be fun and relaxing for everyone, including the cook. Practice and perfect a few favourite recipes, rather than trying something new every time you wheel out the barbie.
Serve food on large platters or boards. These not only look great, they’re also an easy way to serve food to guests and save on washing up. Use garnishes and contrasting colours in dressings to make your platters pop.
Dress your meals
Use plenty of condiments. Good-quality store-bought or home-made chutneys, pesto, pastes and chillies are ideal for dressing up simply cooked chicken, beef, lamb, pork or seafood. Likewise, don’t skimp on the salads. They’re easy to prepare, add colour to the table and are a health shot for your meal.
Keep it whole
Larger cuts of meat, such as roasts or whole fish, and large, chunky salads may take longer to prepare and cook, but they need less attention during the cooking process and look great when presented on a platter and served at the table. Our whole baby snapper is a good example of a recipe with minimal effort, but maximum impact.
Know your hotplate
Learn how to work with different temperature settings on your barbecue — not everything needs to be cooked at the maximum heat setting. Likewise, many hotplates will have areas that become very hot and others that carry a more moderate level of heat — the trick is to discover where they are as this will enable you to cook different types of food at the same time. And don’t forget to pre-heat your hotplate before use.
Andrea Mead owns and manages Heatlie, a producer of quality Australian-made barbecues. She is an avid barbecue cook and outdoor entertainer and fires up her Island Gourmet Elite most weekends for family and friends.
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Originally in Outdoor Rooms Issue 36