Planning the perfect night in can be nerve-racking when you have to juggle everything from the food, drinks, decor and the guest list. Add a few special dietary needs to that, and you may be tempted to cancel the whole thing.
No one knows this stressful feeling better than the contestants of the popular cooking reality show, Come Dine With Me South Africa.
It doesn’t get more intimidating than hosting a dinner party at your home for total strangers with their own dietary preferments.
The latest season of the show is packed with awkward, and sometimes hilarious moments, and obviously lots of food.
So to avoid the anguish and take away the stress of hosting your next dinner, here are some expert tips from Come Dine With Me South Africa to help you conquer some of the more challenging dishes and ensure you and your guests enjoy a great night.
When deciding on a menu, choose dishes that can be prepared beforehand to avoid the last minute rush.
Consider hearty meals that go the distance. Stews, curries and a South African favourite potjiekos are great options.
Set your table the night before or in the morning, allowing you to spend some time on your décor and settings and allow yourself time to enjoy the process.
Make sure you have your ingredients bought or organise delivery ahead of time so there is no need for last minute shop visits for forgotten ingredients.
Quite a few meat dishes taste even better if they are allowed to marinate overnight – do the prep the night before, let the meat soak in marinade and the next day simply pop it in the oven.
Know your guests:
Ask your guests their food preferences beforehand, especially if you are serving pork or shellfish both of which many people don’t eat.
Prepping separate meals can be confusing but once you have decided on your dishes and you know what people's preferences are you can adapt to suit i.e. if you have a vegetarian try and modify your dishes to include a vegetarian option.
Limit spices like salt, pepper etc. Use these for taste, but allow guests to also add their own as everyone has a different taste palate. If you are making a spicy dish consider a milder option or keep hot sauce on the table so guests can spice up or down according to taste.
How many guests to invite and should you include the kids?
The number of guests depends on the space you have available and the tone you want to set for the evening.
Between 4-6 guests in total allows for an intimate setting and special attention to be given to all guests.
Eight to 10 guests is still doable, again depending on your space. Anything more than that and you start to lose the intimacy of the setting and the dinner party format starts to change into a party.
Having children at your dinner party depends on the tone you want to create. For a family dinner party, absolutely include the kids, but for a sophisticated adults evening kids are probably going to cramp your style!
Choosing a day and time
A weekend is always best as it allows people to relax knowing they don’t need to get up for work the next day. It’s often easier to arrange babysitters on the weekend.
A Thursday is also a good night – as its close to the weekend and people are more likely to be happy for a night out.
* Catch all the entertainment, laughs and sumptuous local cuisine on Come Dine With Me South Africa tonight at 8pm on BBC Brit (Dstv channel 120)