I love being at home, and entertaining at home.
I’m the first to admit that there is a LOT of work involved. But you know what? It is always, always worth it.
I remember Nigella talking about cooking for a dinner party while stressed and how you dread the arrival of your guests and hate them more and more as dinner time approaches. But I’ve never been able to relate to that – because I find it enjoyable, despite the effort involved.
Food allergies, intolerances and preferences are always a factor. After organising a guest list, date and time I text everyone and ask what their latest food preferences are. Then it’s time to plan the menu.
I try not to go overboard. I like to have a couple of starters, a main and dessert. I also stick to dishes I can cook well because something always goes wrong ahead of a dinner party. It's no time for experimenting – it’s time for quick and easy (and delicious) menu choices.
My favourite foods to cook change from time to time but the old favourites I always go back to are camembert baked in puff pastry with sweet chilli sauce, a barbecue with lots of different meats and salads and then something fruity for dessert like trifle with pomegranates or shortcrust pastry baked and stacked with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
These dishes are always crowd pleasers – they never fail, and the baked camembert is rich and decadent, the barbecue creates a fun social atmosphere and the trifle and dessert pastry are both light and perfect for the warmer months.
Just as an FYI, this post is sponsored by Pampas Pastry. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100 per cent authentic and written in their own words.
Another menu plan I love starts with something light, like lots of different dips and fresh vegetable sticks, and then pies - lots of pies. I make a chicken and vegetable pie, a beef pie and a cheesy fish pie, all made with crispy, golden puff pastry. I’m talking about the kinds of pies that contain lots of thick gravy, the kinds of pies that don’t need tomato sauce...almost. They are hearty, warming and comforting, especially during winter, and even the fussiest of eaters can’t resist them.
I shop for ingredients the day before and spend all day cooking, listening to music, and eating nothing except for samples of the food I am cooking. Making it fun is a de-stresser. I just remind myself I'm not on a competitive reality cooking show and that my friends aren't keeping score.