food

"I have a confession to make: I'm a home-body at heart."

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’ve always preferred entertaining at my place to going out to dinner. No exceptions."

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.

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"I try not to go overboard. I like to have a couple of starters, a main and dessert. Always dessert."

I don’t touch my iPhone. I don’t turn on my computer. The TV stays off. I can hear the kids playing and they are excited too. They help their dad set up the outdoor tables. They decorate them. They fight over which outdoor plate they will eat off – purple for my daughter, green and blue for my boys.

The music stays on as our guests arrive. Once when I made pizza scrolls with cheese, bacon and fresh tomato and basil as a starter my guests said they could smell it from the end of our driveway. They were a big hit and are especially good when your guests are bringing kids along. Phew.

The beauty of having a dinner party is that we can take our time, eating and drinking and talking and laughing for hours. There’s no pressure to leave, no tired staff cleaning our table or dimming the lights to try and get us to go.

"The beauty of having a dinner party is that we can take our time, eating and drinking and talking and laughing for hours."

The best part about the whole process for me is that you are creating beautiful memories with your friends and family at home. I do enjoy eating out, but dinner parties at home are extra special and extra memorable because they are so much more intimate and cosy.

I’ve never had the most beautiful house, the fanciest outdoor furniture, matching platters or expensive wine glasses, but dinner parties at my home are some of the best times we’ve had.

For me, there’s nothing better than entertaining guests, feeding them wholesome and tasty home-cooked meals and enjoying each other’s company in my own home.

I’m planning the next one already. Wish me luck...

 

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Whether you’re still finding your feet in the kitchen or you’re a self-confessed master chef, Pampas’ range of pre-rolled pastry sheets and shells are your blank canvas to create. Be it the humble family pie or pastry wrapped asparagus sticks for entertaining, Pampas provides you an easy way to create something new or simply make something that little bit better; so you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying delicious meals with those you love.

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