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26th Apr 2015

Cooking for a crowd? No sweat, here’s our top 10 tips

Follow these tips. Become the neighbourhood Nigella.

Sarah Carbery

So you’ve invited the entire neighbourhood to a summer soirée. Now… what to feed them? We’ve teamed up with Sarah Carbery from one of our favourite Irish foodie sites, to talk cooking for a crowd. 

“Not sure where to begin or what kind of food to prepare? The trick lies in the planning. Plan ahead and you won’t have to spend your day in the kitchen when you should be mixing with your guests.

Always consider carefully tried and tested recipes that appeal to every taste and not necessarily your own private preference. The good news is that with a little creativity you can create a real ‘wow’ factor within a modest budget.

1. Stick to recipes you know: If you decide to try something new, experiment before the big day and make sure you’re happy with it.

2. Opt for a buffet style format– it’s easier, more social and allows people to mix.

3. When deciding on the dishes to cook keep it simple and make sure it appeals to a wide range of tastes. Include a vegetarian option and opt for one-pot dishes – not only will they allow for extra room in the oven but this will save on the washing up.

Sample menu 

  • Three appetisers such as sausage rolls, camembert and cranberry parcels and beef sliders
  • Two hot dishes such as a chicken and broccoli bake and beef stroganoff
  • Three salads such as Moroccan couscous salad, carrot and sesame seed salad and potato salad
  • One main show stopper dessert such as a passionfruit pavlova

Wines: Always have the red wine opened one hour to allow it to breathe before guests arrive. Keep jugs of iced water and some soft drinks for the kids.

4. Cook for approximately five extra people than you are catering for. Cooking for 10? Prepare for 15.

5. Once you’ve selected the dishes, write your shopping list. This is important because the more time you spend preparing, the less you’ll waste on running back to the shops.

6. Clear out your fridge and freezer a few days beforehand to allow for extra storage space. Prepare your ice (or buy two large bags).

7. Plan your serving area: Push tables close to walls and dress up a portable table to have on stand-by if you’re short on space.

8. Plates, glasses and utensils: While paper plates may be more practical, always try to serve food using standard plates. Stick to medium sized plates or you could run out of food fast. Make sure you have plenty of colourful paper napkins.

9. When displaying your final dishes, try to create different levels on your table i.e. desserts on a higher level to the salads with hot dishes in containers placed at the end of the table and salads at the opposite end.

10. Music: Play a mix of tracks to suit the ages of the guests and include new releases for balance. Music is a great mood lifter.