The dizziness of hosting a dinner party. Finding recipes fit for kings and queens. Tapping our cards for the best ingredients and wine we normally wouldn't reach for. And turning into a foreign alien in the kitchen - manic and suddenly stupefied at the tasks in front if us.
We can try to simplify the dinner party, with an effortless air that can translate to a refinement in dishes and a calmer, more present experience for you and your guests.
1. Try a roast dinner
Like a pot of hot tea, a home-cooked roast dinner is comforting, nourishing and pulls us in together. It's a centrepiece for sure - A wild terrain of flora & fauna, coloured and blackened, erupting with built-up juices and flavour.
Instead of spending too much time looking up recipes, visit a trusted, if possible, organic butcher. Have a chat with them about your plans and preferences - They'll put you at ease on what to pick and any cooking specifics. Next, visit your local farmer's market or greengrocer. Grab a basket and simply shop with your eyes - Find familiar vegetables and not-so-familiar ones. And some essentials - a punnet of a woody, hard herb like rosemary or thyme, garlic and an onion. Instead of a recipe requiring many new ingredients that will end living a hermitic life in the pantry, opt for recipes that will enable you to afford quality, fresh ingredients you can use fully.
Lay your meat at the centre of a baking tray, roughly chop your vegetables and spread them around the tray along with broken up herbs, garlic and onion. Lather with oil, sea salt and pepper. Don't think, just do. The oven temperature depends on how much time you have to spare - 150 degrees Celsius if you have 3 hours, to 180 degrees if you only have 1.5 hours. The hardest bit is leaving your roast be and not checking too often. You've eaten meat and vegetables before, so you can sense-check to see when it's done!
2. Grill & graze
This is super easy and transforms simple ingredients into a luxe sharing platter to start. You can cook this as you do your other dinner party prep - while prepping the main dish, cleaning, setting the table and getting dressed. Get your grilling pan on medium and char slices of sourdough, grill-friendly veggies (think sliced capsicum, eggplant, zucchini, tomato), and even a bit of seafood like calamari or prawns. Don’t overload the pan and cook patiently in batches, ensuring that you get nice, blackened marks on each slice.
You can cook with just olive oil, sea salt and pepper, or add in extra flavour like onion, garlic and chilli. Serve with lemon wedges, fresh parsley and optionally, dips and colourful raw fruits &veg.
3. Set the mood
We put so much energy into the cooking that we forget about the bit that matters - Making the night truly felt. Buy a bunch of flowers for the table. Afterwards, you can hang these upside down to dry and keep as a memento. Take out some vintage, mismatched plates. Sample a few dinnertime playlists. Light a candle.
I remember visiting a friend who had just moved in. Even though there were still moving boxes strewn around, I felt instantly warmed. There was a cosy rug and cushions waiting for us on the floor, surrounded by tea lights an old wooden bookshelf.