Beth Thomas’s top tips for a stress-free Fish Supper
Planning a dinner party can sound like a terrifying prospect, but it shouldn’t be! With the right tools and tips, you can have your cake and eat it too - that is, cook a cracking dinner for your guests and actually eat and enjoy yourself with them at the same time. As recipe developer for the ethical grocer Farmdrop and MasterChef 2015 Semi Finalist, Beth Thomas has had her fair share of cooking under pressure. Here are her fail-safe top 5 tips to guarantee a successful stress-free dinner party:
Preparation is key
Even for the seasoned dinner party-thrower, cooking nearly always takes longer than you envisage, so always start earlier than you think you should. Avoid spending the whole night flapping about in the kitchen while your guests have fun and do as much prep as possible beforehand. Set the table, chop veg, precook grains, slow cook meat and let curry, chilli or stew simmer on a low heat until guests arrive. All you need to do then is reheat where needed and plate up with any cook-to-order elements, like fresh meat or fish, and you’re done. Remember, meat needs time to rest once cooked so try and finish cooking 30 minutes before you intend to serve the course to ensure food arrives at the table on time. Dinner served super late usually results in guests drinking a little too much and perhaps even forgetting what you put in front of them the morning after!
Most set menus will have a selection of cold and hot courses. This gives variety to guests but also helps to ensure dishes come out of the kitchen on time. Choose a cold starter like this chilled avocado soup, poaching the eggs in advance, then simply serve into soup bowls once your guests are seated. You can do the same with dessert. All the elements for these messy strawberries and cream pavlovas can be made a day ahead, then assembled quickly in the kitchen before serving.
Sharing is caring
There’s nothing like a bit of sharing to get people into the spirit at a dinner party. Instead of plating individually, try serving on big platters for guests to help themselves (this will also save you time in the kitchen). These crispy beef and egg fried rice lettuce cups are wonderfully simple to whip up, and look great in the middle of the table with plenty of chilli oil and toasted peanuts for dipping.
Well dressed plates
People really do eat with their eyes, so take a moment to think about presentation before the big night. Fill plates from the centre and give plenty of height to make them look appealing. Make sure dishes have plenty of texture (try chopped toasted nuts on grains, chopped herbs on stews or curries or fresh berries on top of puddings or cakes). If the colour of your dish needs a pep, have a think about which accompaniments would add flavour and brighten up the plate - sliced red chillies on beige noodles and curry or a drizzle of herb infused oil on pasta never goes amiss. Remember not to overfill plates - this not only looks unappealing but leaves guests needing to be rolled out of the front door, rather than leaving them just the right side of satiated.
Go with the seasons
Let seasonal produce be your guide. Instead of choosing your favourite berry recipe for dessert in the middle of autumn, only to be disappointed by their underwhelming lack of flavour, try searching for what’s in season at that moment and let that drive your dishes. Ingredients that are in season at the same time will work well together on a menu, so your dishes will flow from one course to the next beautifully. Think asparagus, peas and broad beans in spring, or game, squash and beets in autumn. Always go for the best quality ingredients you can too as they speak for themselves. Great ingredients make it much easier to create an incredibly tasty menu with less work required to make them sing.
If you’d like to host your own dinner party, we can help you with menu planning and sourcing great ingredients from the best local farmers and food makers. We’re on hand to help you host!
Farmdrop is the ethical grocer delivering delicious food across London, Bristol and Bath direct from local food producers and farmers and who are paid properly.