• A good dining table is a must. (Getty Images )Source: Getty Images
And stress-free — after all, they're all about having fun.
Caterina Hrysomallis

10 Jun 2021 - 11:54 AM  UPDATED 10 Jun 2021 - 12:05 PM

Ever heard of 'deipnophobia'? It's a fear of dining or having dinner conversations.

Dinner parties can be stressful for a multitude of reasons, especially if you're hosting. But there are ways to make it more manageable and enjoyable for both host and attendees.

Great dinner parties aren't about perfection. They're about great company and bonding over equally as great food. Here are four tips to set your dinner party up for success.

Slow cook the main event

Regina Meehan is the owner of Hoy Pinoy, a Melbourne-based Filipino food business that caters to crowds as big as 5,000. 

When it comes to dinner parties, Meehan says it's important to make dishes that you can prepare before guests arrive. "Dishes that you can put in the oven, pull out and place on the table, so you spend your night enjoying your company," she says. That makes Filipino favourite lechon (roast pork stuffed with aromatics) a go-to centrepiece.

Cebu lechon, the Filipino whole roasted suckling pig that draws crowds across Sydney
So famed is the Cebu version of lechon, it's not uncommon to fly a whole pig from Cebu to Manila, but we've got a version right here. Be prepared to queue at Sydney Cebu Lechon.

Adam Liaw, chef and host of SBS Food's The Cook Up With Adam Liaw, says, "for dinner parties, I'm always looking for those recipes that take the least amount of effort, but everyone's really impressed."

Liaw suggests serving something like tortillas filled with slow-cooked lamb, topped with salsa.

"I think this makes for an easy dinner party because there's really not a lot to do. The real time effort is about 10 minutes of actually putting stuff together," he says.

Go for a slow-cooked option that doesn't require too much effort but is big on flavour.

Lamb shoulder tacos with horiatiki salsa

When it comes to an easy dinner party, there are two things that you can do to really take the pressure off: use time to your advantage and take advantage of your guests’ manpower to save yourself effort in the kitchen.

Don't be afraid to delegate

"One useful thing with dinner parties is to make a list of things you need to do and sticking it on the fridge," says Liaw.

When guests kindly ask what they can help with, instead of telling them 'Oh, nothing!' refer them to your list and ask them to select a task. This not only helps the host with their duties for the evening, but it can also make your guests feel useful. Plus, it may help those experiencing deipnophobia.

Trofie al pesto

The Ligurian city of Genova is the home of true pesto Genovese made with basil, salt, oil, garlic and pine nuts.

"People also like challenges. So, I will sometimes put together a dinner party menu and specifically allocate dishes to people," Liaw says, who even sends recipe links to attendees to assist with what they can bring along.

"If people feel like they're invested and involved in the dinner party, rather than just being an attendee, then it becomes a shared experience."

"If people feel like they're invested and involved in the dinner party, rather than just being an attendee, then it becomes a shared experience," he says.

A bit of wow factor at a dinner party is achievable, even for novices and especially if you get your guests involved.

Lobster hand rolls

My family used to holiday every year in Robe, South Australia, a town internationally famous for its rock lobsters.This is, in my opinion, the best way to eat crays.

Have your drinks ready to go

Organising drinks is something easily done in advance. Find a sizeable vessel — a big tin drinks tub or even a wheelbarrow if your dinner is outside — and fill it with bottled drinks so guests can self-serve throughout the night. Simply fill your vessel with ice just before the party begins.

To avoid fumbling around for cocktail ingredients when your guests arrive, pre-mix them. "A mango daiquiri or mojito always hits the spot," says Meehan. 

Keep your cocktail mixes in the fridge and top up your jugs as the night goes on. However, have some options for guests who don't drink alcohol. If you're making a particular cocktail, simply make a mocktail from the same recipe.

Takeaway, anyone?

"Coming from a Filipino background, dinner parties are memorable if you have lots of take-home food after the party," says Meehan.

Preserved lemon and pearl couscous salad

A warm, wholesome salad with tender couscous, chargrilled zucchini and a fresh lemon and olive oil dressing.

"As a general rule, I will prepare food for twice as many people than what are actually coming," she says. This also means the hosts don't need to worry about cooking in the days that follow.

Finally, an edible memento for your guests to take home is a great way to send people off and remind them of your epic dinner party.

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