If the thought of throwing a dinner party breaks you into a cold sweat, you’re not alone. It’s right up there with public speaking as one of those big, scary things that turns fully-functioning people to mush. Not that I’m judging you. I’m not a big fan of public speaking and I have been known to have the odd freak-out attack at the prospect of hosting a dinner party. Performance anxiety often sets in and I draw a blank at what to cook.
Sound familiar? Food Crush has put together the ultimate fuss-free dinner party menu to take all the fretting out of your next soiree.
1. The ice breaker:
Jamie Oliver’s Charlotta champagne cocktail
Charlotta champagne cocktail | Jamie Oliver recipes.
Serve a welcome cocktail on arrival. It’s a nice touch that gets people talking and makes you look like a bit of a legend. Easy peasy. Grab some cocktail glasses (or champagne glasses will do), place a sugar cube in each one and sprinkle a few drops of Angostura bitters into each glass. Fill with bubbles and a splash of brandy, and finish it off with some finely-sliced orange rind. Tres chic!
2. The starter:
My cooking hero, Nigella Lawson believes entrees make everything too complicated. Talk about taking the pressure off! Instead, take the less formal approach of serving an Italian-style antipasti plate which your guests can graze on whilst sipping on their cocktails. Jamie Oliver serves his antipasti plate with ciabatta bread, but in the interests of being gluten-free, you can serve yours without bread or with gluten-free soda bread.
3. The main meal:
Jamie Oliver served this lamb dish at one his first-ever barbecue dinner parties. He describes it as a “show stopper” and I must say that I agree. It gets the thumbs up from lovers of red meat and spicy Thai flavours. There’s a fair amount of chopping involved and you’ll definitely need a food processor or spice grinder for the marinade. I think the longer you leave the meat to marinate, the better the flavour (up to two hours). We cooked the whole thing on the barbie (unlike Jamie who uses the oven and then charcoal barbie), so we had to slightly reduce the cooking time to ensure the meat was medium-rare (the best way!) The best part of the dish is coconut milk gravy. You can cook up any leftover gravy into a curry the next day!
BBQ leg of lamb recipe (with Thai spices)
BBQ leg of lamb recipe | Jamie Oliver recipes.
4. Side dishes:
You can always count on Nigella for a great side dish. Take these lemony beans, for example. They are zesty, crunchy, buttery and easy to cook. Since I don’t eat dairy, I substituted the butter with Nuttelex (none of my guests seemed to notice!). Nigella recommends boiling them for six minutes, but I think around four minutes would have been ideal (depends on quantities though).
Nigella’s green bean and lemon casserole
This brings me to Paultatoes. You may remember these starchy dynamos from a previous post on Food Crush. They always go down a treat, especially when cooked in duck fat. Credit goes to my talented co-chef, Paul for cooking the Paultatoes. You won’t believe how good they are until you try them.
So, back to Jamie Oliver. The boy from Essex never fails to inspire me with his amazing recipes and passion for cooking. This salad recipe has style written all over it – simple, minimal and it features my new favourite vegetable, radicchio. The purple leaves of the radicchio contrast beautifully against the fern green of the rocket. If you are sensitive to dairy, just leave out the parmesan cheese… it still tastes great!
Cheese plates are always a good option for dessert as you can make them ahead of time (just be sure to leave the cheese at room temperature). To save you some extra work, you can always ask one of your dutiful friends to bring along some cheese. Failing that, this strawberry dish is a winner. I served it with gelato and used red wine instead of white. Delicious!
Strawberries with Balsamic Chardonnay Reduction | The Sensitive Pantry.
Now, that you have the ultimate dinner party menu, all that’s left to do is enjoy yourself! If you’re not having fun, your guests won’t either.