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Tips to throw a stress-free party from catering to eco cutlery

Need a reminder of how to host? We’ve got all your catering needs covered (Picture: Getty Images/Maskot)

Freedom Day is almost upon us and understandably we’re all a bit rusty when it comes to organising a decent shindig.

The secret to a successful celebration is to plan ahead, says food writer, stylist and entertaining guru Jennifer Joyce.

‘We’re all looking forward to letting our hair down after the past 18 months and expectations are high,’ she says. ‘But prep in advance and you’ll be able to enjoy the party as much as your guests.’

Here are Jennifer’s top tips to hosting the perfect Freedom Day party.

Design your menu

Check your cookbooks and Instagram for inspiration. Avoid complicated dishes and choose recipes that can easily be adapted for vegans and dietary needs.

BBQs are a great option as you can use the same marinades for meat, fish, veggies and tofu. Serve with a huge fresh salad.

Keep a budget in mind. Three full courses can be costly, time- consuming and formal – serve canapes as a starter and replace dessert with fruit
or cheese.

A classic BBQ is always popular for a big get-together (Picture: Getty Images)

Think presentation – your food should look as good as it tastes so balance colours, textures and big flavours.

Savvy shortcuts

If you’ve been following restrictions, this is probably your first party in 18 months, so you need to enjoy it, too! Here are a few easy cheats.

If you’re expecting a big crowd, think about hiring china, crockery and glasses. Check online events companies – they rent out huge BBQs, plus tables and chairs. They deliver and collect, and you won’t even need to do the washing up!

Bamboo tableware cuts down on plastic waste and time spent washing up afterwards (Picture: Alamy Stock Photo)

Ask friends if their older teens want to earn cash by taking coats, pouring drinks, clearing plates and washing up dishes.

Just one person helping out is a life saver – your friends have come to see you, not be served by you.

Disposable bamboo plates and cutlery look classy and will cut down the washing up. They’re great for serving food as well as being sustainable.

But use proper glasses, not plastic, for drinks.

Know your portions

Top tip: guests consume surprisingly less food when standing and talking while eating, so adjust your quantities depending on your party.

Starters:

  • Make 4 different canapés and allow 5 per head.
  • For a canapé party: 6-8 different canapés, allow 10 per head.
  • Canapés served instead of a meal: 8 different canapés, allow 16 per head.

Main meals:

  • Don’t serve too many different dishes or the flavours will just merge into one. A spectacular main course dish works well with no more than two side dishes.
  • When ordering prime cuts of meat or fish, which have no bones or fat to tackle, allow 4 servings to the pound.
Canapes are a smart way to get guests fed without the faff of a sit down meal (Picture: Getty Images)

Booze:

To keep it simple, stick to beer, wine and sparkling water. For the wines go one third white, one third rosé and one third red.

As a rule, order a bottle of wine per person – buy more than you need because you don’t want to go short.

Wine merchants like Majestic will deliver your wine – on sale and return so over-order as you don’t want to run out of booze! They often provide wine glasses, too, and even bags of ice.

Although, of course, wine does keep, and we’re pretty certain you’ll find there’s another opportunity to get through it!

A bottle of wine per person is the standard party rule (Picture: Getty Images)

Shopping

Once you’ve chosen your menu, think quality, quality and quality again. And remember: the most expensive doesn’t always equate to the best quality.

Street markets, farmers’ markets and greengrocers are ideal places for finding superb foods at reasonable prices. Shop seasonally as this affects flavour and prices enormously.

Keep guests safe

Some guests are maybe nervous about congregating in crowds, so it’s a good idea to keep the party in the garden.

The drinks table is the first place they will go so put a posh hand-sanitiser on the table and another on the food table. Serve rather than let people help themselves to reduce contact. And top up glasses so people don’t put them down in search of a refill.

Countdown to the big day

One week ahead

  • Choose your menu, write out your shopping lists and order your dry food and drinks online.

Two days ahead

  • Make dressings and keep covered in a cool place.
  • Prep rice and couscous dishes but ensure to cover well, chill in the fridge and reheat thoroughly when serving.

One day ahead

  • Pick up last-minute ingredients like meat, cheeses, breads, fruits and fish.
  • Marinade meat, cover and chill, and turn over several times.
  • Wash herbs and salads, dry well and chill in large airy plastic bags.
  • Prep veg and chill.
  • Make salsas and sauces but leave out fresh herbs until ready
  • to serve.
  • Most desserts can be made successfully a day ahead.

On the day

  • Decorate the garden – this is the fun bit. Put on your playlist, cut flowers and foliage from the garden, pop them in old jam jars and scatter them between chunky candles on the tables. Solar fairy lights will create a fabulous atmosphere. Arrange outdoor rugs and cushions, prepare the fire pit, fill ice buckets to chill the booze (allow four hours). Put crisps and snacks in bowls. Then get ready.
  • Once guests arrive, serve the canapes (with napkins to save on washing up). Then fire up the BBQ. Cook the meat first, then the veg and tofu, keeping them separate on the grill.
  • Assemble salads and garnish dishes with fresh herbs just as you serve. For real wow factor, serve up on big plain white platters as this makes the food the star.
  • Then kick back, soak up the compliments and enjoy your freedom!

My Asian Kitchen by Jennifer Joyce (Murdoch Books, £9.99), Instagram @jenniferjoyce01

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