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The Last Minute Dinner Party

By: Laura Farrant - Updated: 10 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
The Last Minute Dinner Party

If your idea of cooking normally involves a microwave and a ready meal, then the thought of catering for a dinner party might be a daunting one. Add to the mix, the thought of cooking for guests who are due to arrive in an hour or two

The first rule is - don't panic. Preparing an attractive and tasty meal and creating a welcoming atmosphere is achievable in that time-frame, even for novices. Here are our top tips for entertaining when time is critical.

Make the Most of the Supermarket

It might be tempting to panic and load up your basket with an array of food items but pick carefully. Visualize what you need before you arrive at the supermarket and once there focus on simple and fresh ingredients. Freshly baked bread, cheese, fruit, salad items, and smoked salmon are good options to start with and can form a flexible foundation to your menu.

Don't be afraid of resorting to ready-made dishes. The chilled section of your local supermarket should not be ignored. For last minute dinner parties it is a treasure chest of options. Meals that take minutes to heat, when served in a homely surrounding, can easily pass off as your own creations and your guests will be none the wiser as to their true origin.

Be Realistic About Your Cooking Abilities

This is not the time for fussy, time-consuming recipes. The best dinner-party menus are the least intensive ones and you won't want to slave over a hot stove while your guests sit in the living room, waiting for their host. A test-run of your impromptu menu is just not possible and remember your guests will be grateful that someone else is cooking for them, especially if the dinner party comes after a working day.

If you are not comfortable serving up ready-made meals, opt for a dish that you are confident in preparing. Even pasta, served in a rich sauce and accompanied with a good bottle of wine will make your guests happy.

Keep Out of Your Kitchen

Your guests are not visiting a restaurant. They have come to visit you spending your entire evening away from them will make everyone uncomfortable. By keeping the menu simple and taking shortcuts you can keep the kitchen time down to a minimum.

Presentation is Everything

Food is only half the story. Paying attention to the overall presentation will reap dividends. You can make the simplest meal extraordinary with great presentation. Put some gentle background music on, set the table up with good quality linens, light some candles, even cheap tea light candles create a delicate and intimate atmosphere, and make use of unique quality serving dishes.

Be Ready for Their Arrival

Guests will arrive hungry but that doesn't mean that the starter, main and dessert have to be ready to serve. In fact no one would expect it to be. Buy yourself some time and have some small snacks and drinks ready. Crudités, served alongside dips and a glass of wine will give everyone a chance to relax before the main course.

And Finally - Relax
One of the most important tips is to sit back and relax. If you are tense then your guests will be too. Partake in the food, wine and conversation and enjoy your evening.

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