Self-doubt, creative struggles and intense pressure might be things felt in a MasterChef pressure test, but they shouldn’t be experienced when hosting at home. Instead, you want a low-stress, seriously enjoyable night for all.
“Don’t feel like you have to be the perfect host and do and be everything, from chef, to bartender, DJ to waitress,” says former MasterChef contestant, Sara Oteri. In the new recipe series, Will It Steam? in partnership with Electrolux,Sara shares three crowd-pleasing easy dinner party ideas.
“When you’re entertaining you want it to feel special but that doesn’t mean you need to go all out with the creme brûlée and blowtorch,” she says.
Here, Sara shares her top entertaining tips.
Food to match your mood
When it comes to food, decide what vibe you want first suggests Sara. “Relaxed and casual? Intimate and special? That will help you determine what to cook and how involved or not you’d like the meal to be,” she says. Focus on what you want to get out of the evening, too. “Most dinner gatherings are a shared experience and centred around quality time and conversation, so try and plan your menu accordingly.”
A warm welcome
Champagne on arrival and nibbles are a must, Sara says to give a pleasing first impression. “I tend to entertain at night, so I always like music to be playing and my home dimly lit when people walk in.”
“I love steam cooking as well, even for things you wouldn’t associate with steam immediately, because steam tends to reduce cooking time” says Sara. On average, cooking with steam can take 20 percent off the regular cooking time in conventional ovens. Plus, Electrolux ovens have dedicated steam functions that have been individually tuned to produce the best result with a combination of steam and heat application.
Prep, prep, prep
If you can, try and get most of the prep done prior, advises Sara. “I’m big on getting everything done before people arrive. I don’t enjoy cooking when people have arrived, because it means I’m not with them.” Her Zesty Lemon Bars, a creamy lemon curd nestled on top of a buttery shortbread crust are delicious dessert to make ahead.
Get out of the kitchen
Another way is to make the meal something your guests can get involved in like pasta making or Korean hotpot if you have an open-plan kitchen dining area, says Sara. Otherwise, choose a one-dish main course that can be brought to the table in a gorgeous-looking pot like Fish Pie with Leek & Potato Mash. “This type of communal self-serve also saves time on plating up,” she says.
Make veggies fun
Another way to make things feel special and different is to give your side dishes as much attention as your mains. An easy way to do this, according to Sara, is to “focus on interesting ways to treat vegetables and hero them just as much as your protein.” Her Firecracker Cauliflower makes an epic vegetarian side dish especially when cooked in a steam oven.