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OH NO, YOU'RE HAVING A DINNER PARTY!

Its 6.30pm Saturday, the kids need dropping off at mum's, you still have to shower, the Hors d'oeuvres are not made and your guests are due to arrive any minute. Sound familiar? The dreaded dinner party is about to begin. The one which stresses you all day, and inhibits you from spending any time with your guests, and finally as the last glass of wine is being poured, finds you lurching for an antacid. Once all your guests have finally left, and the neighbors can rest that your driveway has now relinquished being a taxi stand, you slip into bed and unable to sleep, start the autopsy of another disastrous evening.

The answer is simple! Follow these 5 easy steps to blissful dinner parties.

1) THE SETTING

Make your home relaxing. Hide all those expensive tricky cooking appliances. Create an atmosphere. Dim the lights and place candles around the room. Add some fun. For example if you are serving Indian, light some incense or place scatter cushions on the floor for Japanese style food. Set the mood with music. Choose light background styles. Music which is soft and not overpowering. Try not to cram everybody into a small area. Keeping the number of guests to four or six people makes it more manageable. Seating your guests depends on the style of dinner, formal or informal. Place cards are not used much today and by keeping the number of guests small are not necessary. Avoid the boy/girl syndrome. Allow your guests the freedom of sitting where they want; they will feel more at ease. If a guest is bringing a partner nobody else knows, sit them close together. Making everybody comfortable is part of being a successful host. Getting your guests in the right frame of mind makes your job that much easier.

2) RESEARCH

Know the likes and dislikes of your guests. The last thing you need is to serve seafood and find one of your guests is allergic to crustaceans. Or that a guest is on a special diet. When is the best night and time to have a dinner party requires research. Saturday night is usually the best night. It suits most people, as they do not need to work the next day. Checking with your guests is the best way to find out what suits them. Many people will accept an invitation to be polite, although the timing may not suit them. Avoid all of this by asking. What time to start usually depends on three things. When is it convenient to your guests? Traveling time for your guests. The seasons, an early start in winter is preferred and the opposite in summer. Finding out your guest's needs is simple, when you invite them ask if there is any thing they prefer you not serve. You will be surprised how appreciative they are about the caring host.

3) DRINKS

Serving pre dinner drinks depends again on the guest list. The best way to overcome a situation of asking people what they would like, and then being asked for something you don't have is to, make some easy cocktails like Martinis or a summer punch. Offer beer or champagne as the two choices, most people will be happy with one or the other. If your guests are driving , it is wise to supply soft drink or spring water for the designated driver. No matter what red or white meat you are serving, supply your guests with both red and white wine. Let your guests determine what they want to drink with what food. Traditionally it is true that certain wines complement certain styles of food. The trend today seems towards people drinking the wine they like with the food they like, and so they should. Wine is to be enjoyed.

4) RELAX

It does not mater how formal or informal your dinner party is, the most important thing to remember is your guests are there to enjoy your home, the food and most of all your company.

5) THE MENU

A dinner party menu does not need to be complicated. The trick is to find simple dishes that are tasty and look great. Easier said than done you say. In today's supermarkets, there is an amazing array of food pre-cooked or simple to make. Recently I held a dinner party where all the food served came out of plastic or a packet, and my guests left content, surprised and in admiration of my cooking skills. The secret to a successful dinner party is to be well prepared, choose your menu wisely, plan a menu that can be prepared a day in advance, such as meats in marinades, and soups, which taste better after a day or two. Choose dishes that are easily put together on the evening and can be plated with little fuss. Cook food in advance, rice and vegetables for example. Utilize the dust covered thing in the corner, which is called a microwave, to heat the side dishes that you have prepared. Shop for food items the day before. Take the strain out of the day of the dinner party.

Supermarket Menu

Pumpkin and Seafood Soup

Ingredients:

1 can of pumpkin soup

500g green prawn meat

1 can of seafood bisque

400 mls milk

Fresh coriander

Method:

Pour both cans of soup into pot and add milk. On a high heat, bring to simmer. Place prawn meat in fry pan with a little butter and cook for 3 minutes. Serve soup in bowls, top with prawns and a sprig of fresh coriander

Sun dried Tomato Cheese Fagottini

Ingredients:

2x375g sun dried tomato & cheese Fagottini (ready made and pre cooked)

2x425g shrimp and mushroom pasta sauce (ready made from supermarket)

Shaved parmesan cheese

Fresh basil

Method:

Place pasta in a saucepan of boiling water, cook for 5 minutes, drain. Heat sauce in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring every couple of minutes. Place pasta in bowls, pour sauce over pasta and garnish with shaved parmesan and a sprig of fresh basil.

Aussie Cheese Platter

Australia makes some of the best cheese in the world including Brie, Gouda, Blue Vein, Goats cheese and many more. Finish your dinner party with a cheese platter. Place lettuce on a platter and cheese on this, serve with dried apricots, raisins and water crackers.

Menu serves 4 people.

Now get on that phone and invite your friends over for a dinner party. When they arrive, kick back your heels, relax, oh, and don't forget to indulge in a little guilt on just how easy it all is. It won't take long for the word to go around that you hold the most relaxing and enjoyable dinner parties.

by Gary Keenan, © 1998

rev. 10/12

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