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Top tips to plan a menu for your next dinner party

With the end of the year fast approaching, let’s take out our fancy dinner plates and clink our glasses to the festive season! No idea how to plan your menu for the next soiree? Don’t stress, these top tips will save the day.

What is the theme?

What type of food do you want to serve with the theme? Is it a casual pizza and beer kind of evening, a fire-side braai, or a Mexican fiesta? Or is it more a formal event you’re planning? Then think small, more intricate French dishes. Whatever you decide, your theme will guide your menu and is the perfect starting point for your planning. Make sure to ask your guests if they have any dietary restrictions so that you can cater to everyone.

Drinks and snacks on arrival

A simple cocktail (or mocktail) and simple snack platters are easy ways to welcome your friends as they arrive. Think light snacks that are just enough to whet the appetite. That way guests will still have ample room for the mains.

Charcuterie boards with a variety of nuts, cold meats, cheeses, spreads, veggies and crackers are perfect to offer your guests. Not only have charcuterie boards become super trendy, but they also set the tone for your party. To add a touch of festive fun, try our delicious sundried tomato, basil pesto and gooey cheese wreath! Your friends will happily mingle with a drink in hand and something to snack on as you finish up the last of your kitchen prep.

Also read: How to make the perfect charcuterie board

Use in-season ingredients

It’s the season for sweet and fresh fruit like watermelon, pineapples and mangoes so incorporate those flavours into your menu. In-season produce will taste much better, and your wallet can take a well-deserved break as they are cheaper than out-of-season food. Use this guide to see the delicious summer fruit and veggies that are in season.

Stick to what you know

Don’t try a dish for the first time when hosting your dinner party. Too many things can go wrong, and the pressure can be too much to bear. If you want to impress your guests with fancy food, test the recipe a week or two in advance to see if you can nail it. Otherwise, keep it simple and serve a meal you have mastered. Simple dishes like roast chicken with delicious sides often make the best meals. Aim for a menu that you can prepare ahead of time to save yourself the stress of hysterically trying to get everything ready before your guests arrive.

Switch up flavours, textures and colours

We eat with our eyes first. The food should look just as good as it tastes. All the elements on the table should work together to form cohesion on your plate. From your snacks to your main meal and dessert, food should be a symphony of different tastes, colours, textures and seasonings.

If you use lemon flavours in your main meal, try something decadent and chocolate-filled for your dessert – not a lemon meringue. And don’t forget to pair the dishes with the drinks: red wine with red meat and a bottle of sweeter wine or coffee to offer with your dessert.

Balance your meals

Are you preparing a heavy main? Keep the dessert light and small. Your guests won’t be able to enjoy a filling dessert after feasting on a big meal. The goal is to leave your guests satisfied, not uncomfortably full. Impress your guests with a decadent dessert as the grand finale after serving a plain main dish and end your night with symphonic bliss.

Photography: Pexels

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