Whether you are cooking dinner for 15, having 50 for drinks and canapes, or feeding your family comforting food at lunchtime, choosing the perfect menu for your seasonal spread is, more often than not, the most frustrating and time-consuming part of planning a party. Inevitably you pour over magazines, scour your dusty shelf of cookbooks, surf the web and then always end up with too many dishes or not enough time. Here are a few suggestions to make throwing a party, as easy as pie.
Balance and harmony is good when planning the menu. If you are planning a traditional three-course menu, pick the main course first, then choose the other dishes to wrap around it. Stick with a common theme, such as country or flavours, to bring the dishes together in a harmonious balance. A theme makes it easier to choose dishes.
Match the occasion. Anything goes these days. You don’t have to serve three formal courses. Your event could be starters enjoyed informally, or perhaps a few canapes before moving straight to the main course. Casual platters of family style food, where everyone grabs a plate and tucks in, are lots of fun or for big numbers, bowls of food.
Cheat a little and choose a balanced work load. If you are stretched for time, cook only one involved recipe, and serve other dishes which are easy to prepare or already prepared. Save time by choosing at least one dish which can be prepared days ahead. It saves time on the day and you won’t feel overworked.
Think about the colours of your dishes. If the main dish is brown, then it would be wise to have a green, orange or red vegetable to brighten up the plate.
Choose some side show stars. A filling side dish to accompany the main such as potatoes or rice, or a pile of freshly sliced breads, as well as seasonal vegetables or bowls of crunchy salad to pass around.
Great party food does not have to cost a bomb. Choose affordable cuts of meat, such as pork shoulder or belly. They will feed a big group and taste wonderful slow-cooked. Consider the seasonality of vegetables and fruit when choosing dishes. Out of season tends to be more expensive and not as tasty.
Or, if you fancy summoning your inner Hollywood or Berry, why not share the burden and challenge your guests to a Bake Off. A table, fit to bursting, of homemade desserts looks impressive and is bound to be the talking point of your gathering.
Good luck and enjoy! And if you need more inspiration pop over to our Pinterest boards, for mouthwatering meal ideas.