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Waitrose web series: add your tips and questions on the ultimate dinner party and have the chance to win £100 of Waitrose vouchers

(32 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 17-Jul-09 10:27:50

Mumsnet are working with Waitrose to produce a six-episode web TV series that will launch in September and they want your feedback to help shape this episode on cooking for the ultimate dinner party.

What's your secret weapon that amazes at dinner parties? How do you manage to produce a great meal but still enjoy yourself?

Whether you're offering advice or looking for it, please post here and we'll try and take the best tips and questions and build some of them in to the microsite where the web TV series is going to be shown.

Everyone who takes part in this or any of the Waitrose threads will be entered into a draw to win £100 of Waitrose vouchers.

And if you want to star in the web series, you can find out more and volunteer here.

When I do dinner parties I always do indian food and do a range of dishes. This way people aren't embarrassed about eating all they are given or not, as they help themselves and you can have a range of dishes - some very unchallenging and curry-phobe friendly. Works well in trying to get people to try new things.

OhBling Fri 17-Jul-09 11:51:02

Everyone thinks a roast is easy but it's a PITA for dinner parties as there's too much careful planning required. So the only roasts I ever do are:
- Roast chicken in summer, served at room temperature with gorgeous green salad and perfect new potatoes
- Slow cooked roast lamb, served with mashed potato (that I buy ready made so just have to slam into the microwave while DH is carving) and green vegetables lightly steamed and buttered.

Normally though, I think you can't go around with a good baked/casseroled dish that already has your veggies in it - you can do all the prep, and washing up (key in London where everyone's kitchen is tiny) in advance and simply waft around filling up drinks when people arrive.

OhBling Fri 17-Jul-09 11:51:44

Oops. Can't go "wrong" with a good baked/casserole dish...

georgiemum Fri 17-Jul-09 11:56:03

Home made bread and ice cream (I do give them other things to eat too). People are so impressed that you actually make your own bread and ice cream that they don't mind what else they eat!!

Sunshinemummy Fri 17-Jul-09 11:58:18

The main thing is to make dishes which can be largely made in advance. Examples in my repertoire are fish burritos (just a bit of frying at the end), Keralan fish curry, Lamb tagine with pomegranate relish. Slow cooking is also a good one - I have a great pork and a great lamb recipe.

Everyone is always blown away by Nigella's my white chocolate mousse dessert grin and it's so easy to make.

HerHonesty Fri 17-Jul-09 12:08:38

I always do little nibbles/canapes which seem to go down well, instead of usual crisps and nuts and sometimes instead of a starter.

if i do do a starter i do a salad of somesort - post lettuce, crispy apple and crab or beetroot and smoked mackerel. proscuitto and roquefort or pear and stilton go down very well. and easy to make in advance.

risotto in my book always a winner.

Housemum Fri 17-Jul-09 19:10:26

Sunshinemummy - another fan of cooking in advance here. Nigella's "Slut Red Raspberries" in Chardonnay jelly from the Summer cookbook are a big hit with us - nice light dessert that looks lovely too (and people think it's a lot harder than it is).

cocolepew Fri 17-Jul-09 19:12:02

Go to M&S and pass it off as your own.

cocolepew Fri 17-Jul-09 19:14:15

I don't want the vouchers thanks, we don't have a Waitrose.

<bitter>

aristocat Fri 17-Jul-09 21:48:05

at my dinner parties i usually cook indian food too, lots of variety and different textures.
the most important thing is the alcohol!
make sure there is enough wine/beer and your guests will be coming back for more!!!!!!!!

HerHonesty Fri 17-Jul-09 22:24:29

sorry should have written, posh lettuce, not post lettuce...

HerHonesty Fri 17-Jul-09 22:25:43

have to say if you start with a glass of bubbly things just seem to go swimmingly afterwards....

HotToastAndButter Fri 17-Jul-09 22:27:01

If yous sevred me raspberries in jelly I would feel shortchanged.

its my frozen chocolate mouuse slice or nothing

Consider the balance of courses - both from the perspective of cooking (if you have to have something which requires 'last minute' cooking, make sure it is only one course) and also crockery/cutlery - choose the food to suit what ever you have enough of - there is nothing worse than having to wash things up between courses!

I would second the home-made ice cream tip. Home-made pasta (especially with sage leaves in it) has the same effect.

stickylittlefingers Thu 23-Jul-09 13:47:33

Definitely second the home made bread. Also drinks and substantial nibbles rather than a sit down starter - I found that once our friends had children they found it much more difficult to definitely turn up at 8 or whatever the set time was, as there's always some disaster with a baby sitter/original dress now covered in half digested biscuit or something to slow them down. By having a little party, followed by a sit down main course, it makes things easier for later comers.

And buy dessert, like the French do.

Always have Really Scrummy Chocolates to go with the coffee afterwards.

snigger Thu 23-Jul-09 13:56:44

I'm assuming you mean 'proper' dinner party as opposed to relaxed dinner with mates?

Make sure you pitch your cooking at an appropriate level to your experience.

Shop the day before, or by mid-morning, latest.

Make sure at least one course can be prepped the night before or that morning.

Serve a cheese course - don't put it on a board for people to hack at, do it civilised - a small 1-2" square of 4-5 varieties, spanning blue, creamy, hard cheese, and a couple of wild-cards, with a couple of pieces of thin rustic bread or a 2-3 oatcakes, arranged prettily on individual plates with sliced apple or figs or some such. You can do all the slicing before hand and plate it up in minutes, and it's a nice lingery course to include for no more effort than shopping and chopping.

Have 3-4 small courses, rather than a heaped platter of main course and pudding.

Relax, don't come to the table explaining problems or delays, just pour more wine.

Don't wear pale colours unless you're very tidy, or someone else is doing the catering.

Take some real effort over presentation - I have offered spectacularly ordinary chicken liver pate which received more praise than its worth due to its neatly moulded shape dressed nicely with leaves, and drizzled dressing, and curls of lemon zest.

My dinner parties are either well-oiled machines or shrieking disasters, no middle line - I agree with a glass of something interesting at the start to set things off on the right foot.

BonsoirAnna Thu 23-Jul-09 14:24:14

I had a dinner party last night.

I served a green summer minestrone (River Café Cook Book 1), which I made in the late afternoon, followed by fresh pasta (buffalo mozzarella ravioli) that had been flown in from Milan the evening before (DP had been on a business trip for the day) and a tomato sauce I had made myself and frozen. For pudding I made panna cotta in glasses, with blueberries and raspberries on top.

That's a fairly typical dinner party meal for me: lots of vegetable and fruit based dishes, fresh food, and something that people cannot get for themselves (the pasta). But simple, and easy to digest.

BonsoirAnna Thu 23-Jul-09 14:28:06

I don't like dinner party food that is pretending to be restaurant food ie that is overly "presented". I like to keep the presentation (indeed, the whole table) very simple with beautiful but unostentious china and glass. I want the flavour of the food to stand out more than any other aspect.

BonsoirAnna Thu 23-Jul-09 14:31:38

I never do a cheese course. Sometimes there is cheese in the starter or main course. I rarely go to dinner parties where there are cheese courses these days, unless the people inviting us are of a generation above us.

snigger Thu 23-Jul-09 14:50:08

<<stands corrected, huffily>

grin

BonsoirAnna Thu 23-Jul-09 14:59:21

I think it's a healthy eating thing: we try to eat healthily in our family and most of our friends are fairly health-conscious in a quiet way and don't want to overeat. So the cheese course has quietly disappeared, or is reincarnated as starter or main course.

I don't serve bread on the table for the same reason, nor do I serve chocolates after dinner unless my guests have brought me a box (in which case I think it would be rude not to open them and offer them some).

I tend to produce cheese (self-service) at the same time and as an alternative to dessert - but that is probably mainly because DH rarely eats puddings (thereby reducing my day-to-day excuses to make/eat them angry). If people want to have both, that's fine too - it tends to stay on the table during coffee for anyone who wants to 'pick'.

mollyroger Thu 23-Jul-09 18:53:41

we are not poncetastic enough for proper dinner parties. but when we have people over we tend to go for a tapas-y approach of having ante-pasta style good bread, meats, tapanade, tomatoes in oil/garlic etc to start; followed by 5 or 6 tapas style dishes (a fish, 2 vegetarian ones, 2 meat ones and encouraging guests to bring one to share as well.) So last one, for example, we had chilli baked prawns, deep fried whitebait, fritata, patatas bravas, chorizo in red wine, butterbean and tomatoes stewed in garlic and white wine, stuffed aubergine and chicken in tarragon cream. All the dishes (bar the whitebait and prawns which only take 5-10 mins to cook) were easy and could be prepared in adavnce and people like the informality and the chance to try or share new dishes.

Our friends get very excited about trying to outdo each other and we often end up with too much dessert wink

Tortington Fri 24-Jul-09 10:41:11

Choose recipes that you can make in advance. This will ensure that you don&#8217;t need to rush around cooking for the entire night and ultimately give you more time to socialise with your guests.

Also ensure that you have made the dish at least once before. You will want to know that everything works on the night.

Don&#8217;t cook everything from scratch and in fact it&#8217;s quite okay to buy one or more courses already pre-made like the dessert or the appetizers.

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