As the peak entertaining season draws nearer and anxiety descends, let’s tackle those feelings with my favourite five ways to enjoy the process of hosting a festive get-together at your place. It's as simple as drawing on a collection of dishes that are tried and true, right for the season, easy to make ahead, and preferably freezer friendly, and that you can make in large quantities.
1. Have I made it before?
This is not the time to choose a recipe from a source you aren’t familiar with. Nor one that stretches your skills too far. Choose reliable recipes that will give you confidence. When entertaining, it's always a good idea to sit a little within your comfort zone, even if it means making something you've made before – in fact, I say it’s definitely best to stay with something you have successfully made before. In truth, something simple done well will always be far more impressive than something elaborate done not so well.
2. Is it seasonal?
When it comes to cooking, I am a big advocate of using what is in season. The more seasonal the produce you use, the less preparation will be required to make it taste great. With the summer months ahead, make the most of wonderful stone fruit, luscious berries, flavoursome green peas and juicy tomatoes.
3. Can I prepare it in advance?
At all costs, avoid recipes that need to be prepared at the last minute. There are so many that can be prepared well before that first knock on the door, and these are the ones you need to be looking for. It’s a great feeling knowing that everything is already done before your guests arrive. These fennel grissini sticks are perfect to make ahead – a whole week ahead if you need!
4. Will the freezer come in handy?
When the ingenious prep-ahead bug bites you, the freezer becomes a great friend. Imagine making recipes weeks in advance – perfectly possible with these lamb and harissa sausage rolls and chicken and olive empanadas – leaving only the reheating to be done. Check the recipes for freezing recommendations, and make sure you wrap well and then label and date everything you freeze.
5. Will it feed an army?
Fussy and fiddly is for intimate gatherings of four or less. If you’ve invited the whole gang, opt for recipes that can feed a crowd. Look for those that are satisfying, flavoursome and easy to make in reasonably large quantities, and choose recipes that will make good use of your time in the kitchen. This caramelised onion and goat’s cheese flatbread is one of my automatic standbys.
Easy entertaining recipes
Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. Read our interview with her or for hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Sarah O’Brien. Food preparation by Tina McLeish.
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