Lottie, one of my all time lowest hosting moments was on my 24th birthday. I’d taken a very lax attitude to dinner preparation. We were supposed to be having a barbecue, but the weather was terrible, so I had to cook inside instead. There was chicken to marinade, salad to prepare and kebab meat to skewer. But did I do any of this? No. I left it all until after people had started arriving. Well of course, once the party had commenced, I was having FAR too much fun to even think about starting the food prep – I was too busy making my Geri Halliwell dress and drinking the plum wine my friend Becky had bought me.
All too suddenly I was less capable than I had been before plum wine happened, yet there were about twenty people in my house that needed feeding. I headed to kitchen and began attempting to make sausages and chicken and salad. But somehow, time was moving faster than I could cope with, food was taking a long time to cook. Sausages were too pink, salads were taking forever to mix and chicken was not grilling as quick as I’d hoped. Then the bamboo skewers caught fire*, and then I melted a plastic plate on the hob. Some people got fed, some didn’t and I didn’t really have a clue what was going on. We all danced to the Macarena, and then to Saturday Night and I learnt a very valuable life lesson.
If you’re ever inviting people over for dinner, get as much of the prep out of the way as possible before they arrive. Most things can be reheated in the oven, so my advice is (if you have time) bake it before they arrive, then just reheat. Prep and stash salads in the fridge, and assemble puddings / side dishes so they’re good to go. I’m not Mrs Beeton, or Nigella Lawson come to that matter, but what I have learned is that once guests arrive, it’s far more enjoyable to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine with them, without disappearing off every five minutes to chop veg or whisk sauces. Prep prep is they key, then you are free to enjoy the plum wine as you so choose (I’m not sure I’d recommend it though… funny old stuff.)
*Sideways life lesson… if you’re cooking kebabs or whatever on bamboo skewers, you need to soak the skewers in water for a few hours beforehand to stop them catching fire.