How to be the host with the most this summer
With the longer, warmer evenings already upon us and the holiday break looming, there’s no better time for gathering a few friends and family together over a cool drink and something delicious. So, if you’re in the mood to entertain, here are a few tips for some fun summer gatherings.
There’s nothing as quintessentially Kiwi as the great summer barbecue and, with a little preparation, it can be a fuss-free occasion for everyone – even the host!
The easiest of options for a barbecue is to ask your guests to bring a salad or dessert but if you’d rather not go down the potluck route, try to prepare as much of your food as possible before guests arrive. Keep things simple and stick to sausages and burgers, with a few vegetarian options thrown in. You can always go big on the condiments and sauces if you still want to impress the crowd. As far as dessert goes, get out the baking pan and whip up a batch of delectable brownies beforehand for an easy crowd-pleaser.
Be sure to set up a drinks station complete with glassware and an ice bucket so your guests can help themselves to a drink while you cook up the food. Again, keep things simple by offering beer, wine and soda. A glass dispenser of water infused with summery flavours is also a nice touch. And if you really feel like a cocktail is going to be needed, keep it to something that can be easily mixed up in a big pitcher ahead of time, like sangria.
Finish setting up your barbecue area by providing a bit of shade and adding a little atmosphere with either comfy rugs on the lawn or some twinkly fairy lights. Then grab your barbecue tools and get to the grill!
The family dinner
Time with the family seems all the more precious in 2020, so make the most of the long summer evenings by hosting a dinner for your loved ones. Again, preparation and keeping the menu relatively simple are key to a relaxing evening.
Once you’ve figured out any dietary restrictions amongst your guests, choose tried and true recipes to work from. Dinner parties are usually not best for trying out that complicated new recipe for the first time!
Choose simple appetizers that can be assembled in advance and served cold or at room temperature. Some good options include a crudité platter and dips or bowls of homemade spiced nut mixes. Pick a couple of sides for your dinner's main event that can also be mostly prepared beforehand, such as a green salad or a roasted vegetable and grain salad - opt for a dessert that can be prepared ahead of time too. That leaves you to focus on whatever you’re cooking in the oven for the main event – and time to enjoy a glass of something bubbly with your guests.
Of course, you could keep things even simpler and tell your
guests it’s potluck! You can instead focus on creating a well-stocked drinks
area and a beautiful dining setting for all to enjoy. Think flowers in vases, beautiful napkins –
and maybe a few twinkly lights amongst the serving ware.
Platters with friends
If a dinner party with your nearest and dearest sounds too daunting, putting together a few platters and glasses of wine is another great option for entertaining friends. When they’re loaded with beautifully fresh fruits, cheeses, and other quality produce, grazing platters can have real “wow” factor and are easy to put together ahead of time so you’re free to enjoy your friends’ company. Your guests can pick and choose as much or as little as they want to eat – and you’ll have far fewer dishes to clean up at the end of the night. Bonus!
Last, but by no means least, the biggest social occasion of the season is Christmas lunch – and many of the above rules still apply. Keep things simple, fall back on tried and true recipes and make sure to enlist your guests and ask them to bring something along to contribute (but be specific – you don’t want to end up with three potato salads and no dessert!).
Of course, Christmas lunch lends itself to a little more care and attention when it comes to decorating the table. Choose an eye-catching centrepiece, even if it’s just some beautiful fresh flowers or a few festive candles complete with a festive surround to pull the table together. Go for classic white dinner plates that you can then pair with festive themed napkins or placemats. And if you have them, now is the time to bring out the best cutlery and your best quality wine glasses – with options for both red and white wine. And don’t forget the Christmas crackers!
But however you choose to celebrate these holidays, try to relax and enjoy the occasion – a happy host makes for happy guests, after all.