Never feel like that again. Be the host (est) with the mostest.
-Plan your gathering in advance. Try to visualize the ambiance, mood and the food you want to create. Make a list of cooking supplies you will need for your meal, as well as music choices for the night, beverages that you will serve and of course, dessert. Make a list also of when you will be making each of the edible components of the night. Make sure that there are a few you can make in advance to reduce the fluster and time spent in the kitchen when your guests are over. Ensure one option is non alcoholic, for those who are the designated drivers, or pregnant.
-Make sure you take into account any of the guests who may have allergies or intolerance when planning the menu.
-Feel free to buy any food from the store to make your job quicker and easier, as long as some components are home made (okay, lets leave that packet of quick cook pasta Alfredo on the shelf, though). You can buy things like meringue nests that can make putting together a dessert effortless and quick, and it looks like you've slaved the whole afternoon over the stove for your guests.
-Keep the food simple. You may want to look like Mather Stewart, but refrain from creating anything too complex and time consuming. At least make sure this is not the first time you are cooking the meal-it may go terribly wrong or just not taste as good as you thought it would. Also, if you are planning a three course meal, ensure there is a variety of textures and flavours. Too much of a good thing can often be a bad thing! (for example, risotto for entree, curry and rice for main and creamed rice for dessert. Too much rice, obviously. Keep the entree and dessert lighter than the main.)
-The first bite is taken with the eyes. Keep the dishes looking good! A sprig of fresh herbs here and there goes a long way and makes it look like you've made efforts where you have not.
-Have your table set in advance, if possible. Also, any mood lighting such as tealights or candelabras should be lit before guests arrive so that they can experience the ambiance change as soon as they enter your house. If you are dining outside, such as the garden, fairy lights or tea lights set out in mason jars is a lovely way to make the even magical by creating warm glowing surroundings. If you're not planning on lighting any wicks, see if you can dim the lights a little.
-Prepare a welcome charcuterie platter in advance. You can whip this out of the refrigerator as soon as you hear the first knock on the door. Place it somewhere central where the guests can see it and help themselves to it while you fix the last bits and pieces of the food or set the table. You could also have a tray of drinks ready and waiting to be given for after your guests put down their coats and bags.
-Have a small table or coat rack handy so you can take jackets and bags when your guests enter. Your friends will love to be waited on, and it makes them feel more special.
-Surprise your guests with something unexpected. When my girlfriends come for tea, for example, I like to pamper them by offering to give them a Jamberry Manicure while we chat. This works well for an afternoon tea, but you might like to try something less time consuming if you're holding a dinner party. A friend of mine has a drinks trolley that he wheels out when he entertains. There's a cocktail book on the trolley along with a selection of liqueurs, and the guest chooses one, and the host will create it for them. You could also have a little take home gift of chutney or something you have made as a thank you for the guest's company.
-Make sure there is something on your charcuterie platter or tea and coffee tray that your guests have never tasted before, just to add to the experience. It might be some cookies from a foreign country, or wasabi covered dried peas to snack on-something exotic and unusual. These sort of surprised are often pleasant and make the night memorable.
-Chill out! Have a glass of wine or something to relax before any one arrives. Turn that groovy music on. And if anything goes off plan, go with it, just roll with the punches. Your guests are actually there for your company-the food, atmosphere and the rest are just a bonus. Enjoy yourself!
Do you have any other tips for entertaining? What's your fool proof go to? We'd love to hear! And while I'm waiting for your responses, I'm going to be sipping this delicious iced tea. Its delightful on hot summer days and so easy to make in bulk, you could pour some into a bottle and tie a ribbon around it and send it home with your guests! Perfect for sipping on a balcony with a good friend in the afternoon too, with a side of cake. There should always be cake.
APPLE & RASPBERRY ICED TEA
4 strong black tea bags
4 cups boiling water
2 cups iced water
1/2 cup concentrated Apple Raspberry cordial (add more or less to taste)
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup mint leaves
In a large heat proof jug, place the tea bags and boiling water. Stir the tea bags around and let steep for two or three minutes. Discard the bags. Add the chilled water and concentrated cordial to the tea. Add lemon to taste. Before serving, garnish with mint, ice and a slice of lemon if desired.
NOTES: this recipe is largely dependent on your tastes and the strength of your chosen tea and cordial brands. Alter as desired. A few tablespoons of sugar or honey may be added to the hot tea if desired to increase the sweetness. You can also use other flavours of cordial to change the type of iced tea-the options are endless!