As holidays and festive season descends, we start thinking of entertaining friends and family at home. Planning and putting things together for holiday parties can be quite a task. I have hosted countless parties over many years and in almost all of them there is always a talk about food and drinks. The one thing that I love is when people gather around the table or kitchen, move around with their glasses, picking up good food and having good conversations. It makes it completely worth the effort you have put in when you and your guests are having a good time.
Over the years of helping people to host parties, there are a few things questions that keep arising almost everytime.
- What to serve and how much to serve
- Should I to make lots of appetisers or many main course dishes?
- Should I make multiple cocktails or stick to wine and beer?
To answer these questions and more, I have carefully thought out a list of ten suggestions to aid you to host a stress-free holiday party.
1. Buffet-Style Cocktail Party Or Sit-Down Dinners?
Make a list of the number of guests you plan to invite. Based on the number of guests, you will be able decide whether it's going to be a sit-down dinner or a buffet-style dinner with cocktails and appetisers.
Most often, the sit-down dinners would involve a lot more work with setting up the table and laying all the mats, dishes, glasses and cutlery in place and beautifying your table. This works when you have a just couple of families coming over. It will not work when you have a larger crowd.
The "Buffet-Style Cocktail Party" is a phrase that I have personally coined for Indian Parties. For in most Indian parties cocktails and appetisers are the showstoppers. In addition the main course is also given a lot of importance (Smiles).
Buffet's make holiday parties much easier. A buffet party involves just laying out the placemats for the dishes ahead of time so the guests can help themselves with the food when served. This makes socialising much more fun and effortless even for the hosts.
2. Stock Your Pantry, China & Glassware
The key to a cooking up a storm for a simple dinner or a party is to stock up your pantry with ingredients ranging from olive oil, to salts, to sauces, to spices, to cheese, to eggs, to milk, to vegetables and herbs -- all the basics that you would use in an everyday kitchen. Then based on your menu, shop for the related ingredients.
And if you are serving cocktails and mocktails then do make sure to stock up on elegant glassware to serve. You don't want to be using plastic glasses or disposables -- after all, we also have to think of the environment.
And lastly, pay attention to the serving bowls or platters for the desserts as this is going to be your party stopper!
3. The Drinks Station & Recipes
Allocate a special section in your party space where you can arrange your drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages). Make sure you keep a lot of glasses stocked and of course plenty of drinking water. Once again make a checklist for the Drinks Station: Alcoholic Drinks, Juices, Glasses, Napkins, Water.
The next most important thing is deciding on what alcoholic drink to serve. You must keep in mind that you cannot keep everyone happy in this section. If you plan to make hard liquor cocktail, then make a large pitcher of just one cocktail; the rest can be wine or beer, giving people enough choices. As with juices always, stick to favourite juices like a mango, orange and litchi, these are most often crowd pleasers. And remember you had to stock for children and the elderly too.
4. Keep The Appetisers Simple And In Plenty
As much as it might tempt you to look on the Internet for the most complicated recipe to make you look like a pro. For successful party menu planning, keep your recipes simple, as time is always an issue. We want the best tasting dishes on the table. And this means, showing what you are best at and of course running into fewer complications towards the last minute. You really don't want to be frying a hot Pakora or a Bhajiya or a Puri and making your party floor smelling all oily.
These are some of the dips can be made ahead of time (like a day or two before) and refrigerated. Serve the dips along with tortilla chips, vegetable crudités and pita bread wedges. The vegetable crudites can also be cut and preserved in airtight boxes to keep them fresh for the day of the party. On the day of the Party: Place the dips on separate bowls and surround the dips with the tortilla chips, vegetable crudités and pita bread wedges and serve.
Apart from serving dips, that are most often cold, it's a good idea to team them with some warm appetisers. Most of these appetisers have be prepped ahead and warmed up and served in elegant bowls.
And if you are having wine, then its great to have a slab or two of cheese that people and cut and serve themselves.
5. Your Main Course
At most Indian parties, having a main course is a must. After all the fun over appetisers and drinks, guests do love to eat some comfort food. I always believe that the main course should lean towards all things that comfort the mind. It's the time of the party, when people start to sit down and unwind, so why not think of food options that are wholesome and comforting.
If you felt your party had a predominantly Indian flavour to it, then you can most definitely stick to Indian food or Asian food. But this is purely your choice. You know your guests, so you will be able to make the best decision. Below, I have listed down some favourite one-dish main courses from three different cuisines. They can be prepped ahead, warmed or tossed just before you are ready to serve.
6. Party Desserts
I always believe that desserts are the showstoppers at every party. I personally give an attention to detail for desserts at parties. My personal preference is to set the desserts in individual bowls (like shot glasses or juice glasses), so its easy to serve and makes a great presentation as well. Small portions are just what people want at the end of an eventful party.
When it comes to dessert, the same menu planning as above is required. Make a list of what you can prep ahead and what needs to be kept ready to serve. One of the favourites among parties is Trifle Pudding along with fresh fruits and cream.
These can be served very elegantly for parties in small glasses. If you are using fruits, use the ones that are in season to give it a fresh flavour. Assemble the trifle, and leave the topping of fruits and crumbs for the end when you are ready to serve.