Summer is fast approaching and we all know what that means: entertaining friends and family. Winter is behind us and people are putting away their cozy blankets and coming out of hibernation. But BBQs are getting a bit dull. People will tire easily after a few burnt sausages and flavorless burgers. Here are a few ideas for the perfect summer dinner party.
Appetizers aren’t an essential, so feel free to skip these if you’re working on a tight budget. However, they really can get the party started. If some of your guests don’t know each other, this is a perfect way to get them talking. Finger food gets people sharing and chatting (and not in the angry way that would happen if someone took a bite out of someone else’s starter).
Idea: Grilled Halloumi
Halloumi is a delicious cheese that a lot of people won’t come across all too regularly. It can be fried but seeing as it’s summer, let’s keep it light and healthy. Simply cut the halloumi into pieces (bitesize would be best for appetizers) and leave under the grill on a high heat for ten minutes. It’s as simple as that! Halloumi can be fairly bland alone, so if you’re feeling adventurous, provide a range of dips for your guests to test too.
There’s a rising trend in restaurants: tapas style dining. Small bites, shared by all. Now, this concept can be great to get the conversation flowing over appetisers. But there’s something extra special about the traditional three-course meal. Certain guests might worry about taking too much or too little, so a plate of their own eases any worries. Keep your starters light: you don’t want your guests too full for the rest of the meal!
It’s summertime: bring a breath of sea air to the table. Oysters are, again, something that your guests don’t eat casually at home. They’ll create a feeling of occasion and luxury. You may think that oysters belong to the expertise of chefs at restaurants, but it’s surprisingly easy to get fresh oysters at home. If you’re eating outdoors, oysters can (surprisingly) be grilled, so get your guests talking by popping them on the BBQ. Place the oysters on the grill and shut the lid, allowing them to heat for five to six minutes. When taking them out, check for a line where the shell is beginning to separate. You may be able to see bubbling brine. If an oyster hasn’t started to open, dispose of it, as it is not good to eat.
Keeping to the theme of light and healthy, but delicious, what better for a main than a sumptuous summer salad? Salad may bring to mind images of wilted leaves and soggy vinaigrettes. Don’t let this happen. Use crisp, fresh lettuce leaves as a base. Then get creative! Add chunks of grilled chicken breast for meat eaters. Salmon for pescatarians. And the vegetarians? Well, salad needn’t be plain. Chop up sweet potato, add chickpeas or try a scattering of pomegranate seeds. Make sure to season the salad well and everyone will be left more than satisfied.
Idea: Summer Garden Salad
Banish the typical lettuce, tomatoes and onion salad from your table with this summer garden salad. The greenery on the plate is supplied with a range of beans, rather than wilted lettuce leaves. Bring a pot of water to the boil and add fresh peas, broad beans and runner beans. Boil for one minute (you don’t want them to go soggy), drain and place in cold water to cool. Scatter onto your guests’ plates. Add chicken breast, salmon or goat’s cheese (according to your guests’ dietary preferences). Then finish with a beautiful dressing. Go shop bought for ease or make your own by whisking 100ml olive oil, 50ml white wine vinegar, 3tsp lemon zest, salt and cracked black pepper.
By now, your guests will be feeling pretty full. So avoid stodgy puddings like treacle sponge or apple pie. Keep with the overall flow of your meal and serve up a light, airy dessert. Think parfait, sorbet, ice creams and souffle. Exactly what you need to cool down on a hot summer’s day.
Idea: Strawberry Eton Mess
The classic summer sweet treat! Eton mess requires no effort when it comes to presentation, so it’s a nice easy end to the meal. Give yourself a break and use shop-bought meringue. Then all you need is whipped cream and some fresh, juicy strawberries. Crumble the meringue, drizzle with whipped cream and scattered chopped strawberries throughout. It’s as simple as that! Try serving in a glass, as things can look a little messy and haphazard in a bowl or on a plate. For an extra touch, drizzle strawberry ice cream sauce over the top.
Now, who could forget the drinks?! The weather is warm and your guests will be thirsty but hand them something more exciting than water (though, it’s always helpful to leave a large jug of iced water out for those who want a refreshing palette cleanse). Impress with homemade drinks. They’re surprisingly simple to whip up. Fresh lemonades, punches and smoothies will bring a splash of color and extra flavor to the mix.
Idea: Homemade Lemonade
Start this early in the day, as it will take a little while to make. But it’s definitely worth it. Shop-bought lemonades just cannot compare to the fresh, homemade real deal. You’ll need a small saucepan. Combine two cups of sugar and a cup of cold water. Bring to the boil and stir regularly until the sugar is completely dissolved. Allow the result to cool to room temperature, cover, and store in the refrigerator. Squeeze enough fresh lemons to create two cups of lemon juice. Make sure to remove any pips, but the pulp can be left in. Stir into the cooled sugar syrup from the fridge and add seven cups of water. Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy! Pour into a pitcher with plenty of ice and slices of fresh lemon.