I really enjoy cooking. That is, when I’m making something that I’m pretty confident will turn out well, and when I have plenty of time to do it in. But I’m used to cooking for two people, four at most. So on the rare occasion that I have friends or family over for dinner, I go into a small panic. Last weekend I cooked two courses for seven people, and I thought I would share what I learnt.
Pre-prepare as much as possible
I wanted to make two different desserts, for one of them I chose a no-bake cheesecake that I could make the night before and keep in the fridge ready to go. The other was a crumble; I made the crumble topping ahead of time so that all I had to do on the night was lay some fruit in an oven-proof dish, scatter the crumble on top and pop it in the oven. (I used tinned fruit to make it even easier!) When it came to the main there wasn’t anything I wanted to cook in advance. Instead I peeled, chopped, and sliced everything that I could do before hand so that when it came to cooking I could start straight away with nothing to pre-prepare.
Use some shop bought items
I will guarantee you that your guests will forgive you for using some shop bought items to save yourself some time and stress. Not everything has to be made from scratch. The main I chose was Mexican, so I bought some guacamole and salsa to go with it instead of making it myself. As a compromise you could always make dinner, but buy a dessert instead to stop yourself from taking on too much.
Opt for a buffet
If it’s your first time cooking for a group and you’re a little nervous, I would definitely recommend going for a buffet style meal. This way everyone can dig in themselves and it’s much less formal. Since I chose Mexican this was perfect as a buffet. I could account for different people’s tastes and preferences by making sure I had a couple of varied options available. So for example I made sure that I didn’t have all chicken based dishes, or that all of the dishes were in a tomato sauce. I also included a veggie option as well. Don’t forget to make sure that you prepare enough food. The more variety of dishes, and the more courses you have, the less of each you need to make. But do bear in mind if your guests have particularly large or small appetites.
Borrow cooking pots
Now if you’re like me and only ever cook for two people, the chances are that you don’t have kitchen utensils suitable for cooking for a big group. Beg, steal, and borrow pots and pans wherever you can. (Well, preferably not steal.) If you have a family member or close friend that live nearby that you can borrow stuff from, go ahead and ask. It will bring costs down, and you won’t have to store giant pots that you’ll only use twice a year. I bet someone will be more than willing to let you borrow some of their kitchen bits, especially if you say you’ll cook for them in return!
Make things you know how to cook
If you’re trying to reduce pre-dinner party stress, don’t opt for a brand new menu that you’ve never tried before. Instead go for tried and tested recipes that you are comfortable cooking and you know won’t fail to impress. This isn’t the time to go digging through those one-day recipes.
So there you have it, those are my tips based on what I learnt after recently cooking for a group. I thought I would finish off by explaining what my menu consisted of. It was two-course, and I chose to make a main and pudding.
As I said before it was Mexican themed, with the three main dishes being a chicken fajita mix, a beef and bean chilli, and a sweet potato and feta mix. Also on the table were tortilla wraps, plain white rice, grated cheese, salad, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, and tortilla chips. This way my guests had the freedom to make chicken fajitas, or have a simple chilli and rice, or put the chilli and rice in a wrap to make a burrito, or whatever combination they liked!
The first dessert was a Lotus Biscoff (or speculoos) no-bake cheesecake which was absolutely delicious if I do say so myself. I will one hundred percent be using that recipe again. The other was a fruit crumble, but I opted for tinned peaches and apricots instead of apples which made a lovely combination.
To find the recipes I used, just click the links on the dishes. If any of the recipes stated that they only served 3-4, then I doubled the quantities.