A guide to summer entertaining
Monday, 6th July 2015, Jane Gibson
Some of us are born hosts, while others are destined to be guests.
The hosts are those whose house you go to for every family meal; who throw parties for both their own and friends’ birthdays; who invite everyone over for Wimbledon or the World Cup because they have the big TV screen.
The guests are those who have become particularly adept at spotting the great deals on wine and beer in the shops; who always leave at the appropriate time without overstaying their welcome; and who never forget to bring nibbles.
If you’re a natural host, you might pick up some tips in this guide that will serve to bolster your party-throwing reputation. Perhaps, however, you’re a natural guest who wants to play host this summer. If so, you’ve come to the right place.
In this guide we’re aiming to inspire you with some summer entertaining tips for both inside and outside the house, including fantastic recipes that you can whip up to leave your guests mightily impressed. Let’s get to it.
A warm welcome
Everyone knows what it’s like to arrive at a party or social gathering only to find that you’re the first one there; the host is still busy setting up (understandably) and now you feel a little uncomfortable as you continuously look at your phone just hoping that another guest arrives soon.
To counter this for your guests, invite some of your closer friends or family over a little earlier than the arrival time specified on your invites. Not only can they help you prepare, they’ll make those first couple of guests feel welcome, not awkward.
If you’re all set up and ready to go, that means your bar is too. Offering a drink upon arrival is always a nice touch, whether it’s a cool glass of Pimms or a sparkling drop of Prosecco. Oh, and make sure music is playing when guests arrive – it indicates the party vibe is alive and well from the off!
Decorating your garden
Besides the delightful weather, one of the main reasons we love the summer is because it gives us a chance to make use of our outdoor space. What would really let it down, then, is if the view of the gorgeous blue sky was met with a rather shoddy one down here. The day before your summer party, get out there and spruce things up. Remove any weeds and sweep any dirty off the patio, water the plants and, heck, plant new ones if need be.
When it comes to setting the table outdoors, you might want to look for some exotic flowers to use as table decorations. Wild flowers change even throughout the summer, so if you begin to host more regularly your arrangements can be different every time – just head down the farmers’ market.
One of our favourite decorative items is a DIY pond, i.e. a bucket or plant pot filled with clean water, beautiful floating flowers, and even lit candles. You can always pop a bottle of unopened wine in the cold water for a bit if it becomes a bit too warm.
Of course, flowers will attract some stinging pests, so bug repellent candles are a great idea (they look stylish, too). Also, not everyone will want to bathe in the sun for the whole party, so make sure there are some shaded areas outside. A simple canopy or garden umbrella is all it takes to provide respite.
Simple summer party recipes
Just as you’ll want to offer your guests a drink upon arrival, some finger food snacks wouldn’t go a miss either. Whether it’s something as simple as salsa and tortilla chips, or you want to go the homemade route, it’s sure to please your guests.
For homemade finger foods, you could try a mini quiche; all it takes are prebaked puff-pastry shells topped with chopped hard-boiled egg, grated Fontina cheese and fresh sage. Bake at 204°C until the cheese melts (this usually takes about five minutes) and you’ve got yourself a delicious amuse-bouche.
Melted Manchego Tortas with Romesco and Chorizo is both a visual delight and a taste sensation. Tortas are essentially Spanish flatbreads – a staple in any tapas menu – and these bite-size hors d’œuvres are firm favourites that can be prepared in advance in just 25 minutes.
Put half a cup of sliced almonds, two tablespoons of sherry vinegar, half a teaspoon of dried oregano, a quarter teaspoon of salt, a quarter teaspoon of crushed red pepper, one tablespoon of chipotle sauce, two red bell peppers, and one garlic clove into a blender - adding half a cup of virgin olive oil during the process - and blend until smooth.
Cut your Spanish flatbread into small circles using a biscuit cutter and arrange on baking trays, before topping them with Manchego cheese. When the cheese melts, remove them from the oven and top each with a slice of chorizo, a dollop of romesco sauce, and a parsley leaf. Divine.
Mini oat cakes (or rice cakes) topped with salmon and crème fraîche is another easy yet scrumptious treat. You can prepare these the night before and leave them in Tupperware in the fridge, ready to be put out when guests arrive.
For a light summer salad, try a simple feta, rocket and olive pasta salad. It couldn’t be easier to make; boil some pasta and frozen peas, drain, and them into a large bowl. Throw in some feta, rocket, lemon zest and juice, and some good quality green pitted olives – as well as a glug of olive oil – and you’re laughing.
It’s likely you’ll be barbecuing when entertaining in the summer, but that’s been widely covered. How about some quick-fire advice on being a good host instead?
The host with the most
SEATING: This isn‘t musical chairs; it’s hot out, so make sure you have more than enough chairs to go around.
CLEANING: Don’t let empty plates with leftover food ruin your beautifully decorated table and garden. Stay on top of things by having bins nearby.
DRINKS: Unless you’re in the middle of a deep conversation or you’re manning the BBQ grill, make sure you regularly ask guests if they have everything they need. If you spot some empty glasses in hands, offer to fill them up.
MUSIC: We know it’s your house, but that doesn’t mean it’s your rules when it comes to the music being played. If you want everyone to enjoy it, create a playlist that has something for everyone.
HEATING: It can get a bit chilly late at night, so either be prepared to move the party inside, or bring out an outdoor heating system to allow guests to remain outside.
LEAVING: Always see your guests out when they go to leave. It’s just polite.
Now you’re ready to be the perfect summer party host!