With most places opening up to the new normal, we’ll be hanging out with family and friends again! That also means dinner parties, hosting friends and family, and sharing a meal with people outside our bubble.
With little chance to entertain over the past year and a half plus, some of us may need to refresh our hosting game. (Small talk, how do you even do that again?!) Toastee reached out to #TheGanglyChef, Sam McArdle, known for his hilariously entertaining and delicious cooking videos. Here Sam shares his tips, tactics, and recipes for hosting a great dinner party!
I’m living proof that anybody can cook. My first ever dinner party meal was steak and pasta with tomato sauce! Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated or challenging to be delicious and healthy. It’s something that once you learn the basics, it’s simple to create an amazing meal.
Then, inviting friends and family over for a meal is just a nice thing to do. It can really cheer someone up, and it’s a way of showing appreciation for someone, especially after the hardships of the past year. To help you get back into cooking and hosting guests, here’s The Gangly Chef's Guide to a Dinner Party.
1. The Menu
I don’t want to be stressed when I’m having a dinner party. I want something that's easy to put together. When you're trying to make a dish for someone, you want to have maximum output, minimum effort. Nobody wants to be slaving over a kitchen for six hours to create a huge big dish, and you don’t want to be in the kitchen cooking and fretting over the dishes when you should be hanging out with your friends.
Choose an easy dish. Something that you can batch cook and make ahead of time. One of my go-to’s is my Cashew Carbonara and Berry crumble. If you make an extra-large batch, you’ll have extra. I like to give my friends a little leftover dessert, like the crumble, that they can enjoy the next day.
Also, don’t forget to let your guest know about the meal ahead of time. Ask them if they have allergies or any dietary restrictions. You want to always give people the option to opt-out ahead of time and a chance for you to change your menu if you need to. You don’t want your guests to show up and find out that they can’t eat the food.
2. The Ambiance
Being stuck at home for the last 18 months has made everyone more aware and appreciative of their home space. Taking the time to give it a thorough clean before having guests over will pay off. Candles, communal smoking areas out the front or the back - helps guests relax straight away.
Throughout the night, I check in on how hot or cold the guests are. Do we need to crack open a window or boost the heating?
I always cook with music, and it’s an easy win for a dinner party. Here’s a playlist I always use: The Gangly Chef.
When I first moved to London, I went to a buddy’s dinner party, and a nice touch was name cards and dinner menus beside the plates. Little things like that add a cool touch, only if you have the time though!
When it comes to drinking, I’d rather be looking at it than looking for it. As host, I’m always topping up people’s glasses. Check if people are having alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks and make sure their glass is never empty throughout the evening.
Timing is everything. You want your guest to experience a meal. The food should come at the right time. Your guests shouldn't be famished, they shouldn’t be full. Space it out.
When you finish your main, take 15 to 20 minutes. Pop that crumble in the oven to cook. Quickly clear up the dishes. Offer your guest another cocktail or coffee tea. Give them time to digest, relax, and smell that crumble in the oven to be ready for dessert.
I recommend using an egg timer or a stopwatch to help you with the timing because you don’t want to look like you’re always checking your phone. I would also give yourself 8 to 10 minutes more time than you think.
Remember, take your time, don’t rush, and let your guest savor the meal.
5. Enjoy Yourself
If you’re worried about messing up, don’t be. Just use the time when cooking to focus on what’s in front of you. If you mock up one part, it’s okay. Just take things step by step. Recipes are guidelines.
People appreciate a home-cooked meal. Not to sound like an Italian gangster, there's something about coming together and everyone eating a meal. Especially now since we're all starving for human contact and being together in the same space. If you're new to a city, a dinner party and cooking are great conversation starters and a way to get to know each other. It’s like playing golf, you’re stuck together for at least 4 hours with questionable taste in clothes.
Sam McArdle is #TheGanglyChef. He creates healthy, delicious, and hilarious cooking videos that you can check out on Instagram @smcardle5. He’s also an actor and playwright whose playwriting debut The Manny will be performed at The Carlton Tavern 33 Carlton Vale, London NW6 5EU on Wednesday 24th November and Thursday 25th November. You can purchase tickets on Eventbrite or contact email@example.com.