Take the stress out of entertaining

LIFESTYLE | October 2019

Whether you throw just a few lunch or dinner parties a year or one every weekend, being well prepared and armed with the right kitchen appliances can make entertaining a breeze.

Having people around for a meal should be fun. You should be able to enjoy the occasion as much as your guests and not feel as though it’s an unpleasant chore you have to get through because it’s ‘your turn’.

Getting set up with efficient time-saving tools and being well prepared are the keys to success. They’re the best ways to ensure you answer the doorbell in a calm and relaxed state, ready to wow your guests. It’s all about not putting yourself under unnecessary pressure.

To help you get started, here are some tips on easy ways to look like a culinary star without spending all day in the kitchen.

Choose a winning menu

The first step is to plan a menu that sets you up for success. Take time to identify dishes that will delight your guests, but require minimum effort to prepare, especially after your guests have arrived. It’s hard to enjoy the occasion if you’ve been slaving away all day and are still tied to the kitchen. Stick to dishes you’ve cooked a few times before. Go for favourites you can prepare beforehand and simply reheat, or dishes that only need a few quick finishing touches just before serving.

Clear plenty of working space

Nothing adds to entertaining stress like lack of space. The day before your occasion, empty your fridge of as much as you can. Also clear your benches of clutter and appliances you won’t be using. If you struggle with refrigeration at parties, it might be time to upsize your appliance. Modern French-door fridge freezers give you wide shelving for pre-prepared serving platters and dedicated climate-controlled spaces for fresh fruit and vegetables.

If your kitchen fridge usually gets overtaken by beer, bubbles and wine right at the wrong moment, consider investing in a purpose-built refrigerated wine cabinet or small bar fridge, even if it lives in the garage. Want to go ever cheaper? Set up buckets, however large or small you want, fill them with ice and place your beers and wines in them to keep them cool.

Prepare food in advance

It’s a good idea to write a detailed step-by-step timeline of all the tasks you need to do. That way you can spot and fix any stressful bottlenecks before you’re into them. It’ll also help you to stay on track and feel confident about getting everything done in time.

Start your prep the night or morning before. Be alert for lengthy processes, like marinating meats, or dishes that take time to set and put them high on your list. Then look for anything that can be cooked ahead of time and reheated, such as roasted vegetables. Slicing and dicing is much more enjoyable when you’re not pressed for time, so get as much done as you can and keep your handywork in containers in the fridge.

Planning your oven and stove-top use is also important, so you’re not doubling-up on the use of space, pots or pans. Upgrading to a good-sized oven or duo oven, and a cooktop with plenty of burners is a sure way to streamline your entertaining preparations.

Don’t forget the glassware

Checking your glassware is sparkling clean is another task that can be done way ahead of time. A welcome drink is a great way to kick things off, especially if you have a theme in mind. Many fun cocktails can be quickly prepared in a large, good quality blender and set aside to chill, ready for when guests arrive.

Setting up your glassware and a small bar away from the kitchen will help you join the party from the kick-off and stop everyone congregating in your food-prep area. A couple of insulated ice buckets on small tables with nibbles will also help to locate the party where you want it to be (or everyone will end up in the kitchen!).

If you’re planning an after-dinner drink - like a small glass of port, ouzo or raki - or a dessert in sundae glasses, be sure to check, clean and set glassware aside early in the day.

Creating an entertainer’s kitchen

If you love entertaining, but your cooking space is cramping your style, an upgraded kitchen might be something you and your family can enjoy for a long time to come. Whether you decide to start from scratch or simply rejig the main problem areas, it pays to get expert advice and take your time with planning. Many appliance retailers and kitchen design shops are happy to share their expertise and experience, in the hope of gaining your business as a customer. Just make sure the advice is focussed on your needs, cooking styles and preferences.

Don't forget to talk to your insurer before undertaking any renovations, big or small, to make sure you remain covered.