Entertaining was one of those things that used to completely stress me out. I’d literally spend days changing my mind about the menu, go to the grocery shop without a list and forget a crucial ingredient. I put so much pressure on myself to get everything perfect that I would rarely enjoy my own events, and my kitchen has seen more than a few meltdowns.
These days, one of my absolute favourite things to do is invite family and friends over for a long leisurely lunch at my apartment. I much prefer relaxed and rustic style communal feasts instead of fussy three-course meals and I have a repertoire of crowd pleasing dishes that I know work every time. A great dinner party does not need to be complicated – the best part is the company, after all!
Today I wanted to share a few of my best entertaining tips that I wish I had known back when I was an enthusiastic but inexperienced hostess that I hope will save your sanity! And I’m also sharing a delicious recipe for Homemade Hummus that has changed my life!
1. Don’t try out brand new dishes you’ve never made before.
This seems like a no brainer but I used to do this all the time in the early days of blogging. I was still learning so much about cooking and was excited to try a new recipe every week. Sometimes this didn’t end too well. My friends and family were always great sports about being my culinary guinea pigs but it certainly caused me a lot of unnecessary stress when things took much longer than I anticipated or flat out failed. I often find myself going back through my recipe archive here on my blog for ideas because I have tested everything and I know they worked and were delicious! I absolutely encourage you to try new things, but it’s much more enjoyable to experiment with a new recipe when there is no added pressure!
2. Sharing is Caring.
I love entertaining with big shared dishes placed in the middle of the table. You don’t need to worry about fussy plating of individual dishes, which is a pain! I love cooking this way because it feels generous and everyone can serve themselves, and go back for seconds. It turns dinner into a wonderful relaxed, communal experience. I’ve invested in some beautiful serving platters and wooden boards that get utilised in our home a lot.
3. Use your slow cooker.
In keeping with the point above, I love to serve some kind of slow cooked meat at my parties and gatherings for a few very important reasons…
- Once you have put on the slow cooker, you can pretty much forget about it for hours.
- The cuts of meat that are best for slow cooking including lamb leg or pork shoulder are also super inexpensive – great when feeding a large group of people – which means you can afford to splurge on a nice bottle of wine!
- As a great bonus, you free up your oven space for other things like roasted vegetable side dishes or a dessert. Win win!
4. Have a flavour theme.
I usually know if I want to utilise Asian, Italian, Middle Eastern flavours etc when I slow cook my meat and this helps to guide the rest of your menu planning, table styling and even as far as your choice of playlist! With lamb I like to use warm spices like cumin, coriander and cinnamon and this goes great with homemade flatbreads and dips for entree, side dishes like spice roasted carrots and a pomegranate dessert.
5. Write lists.
I am a mad list maker in almost all aspects of my life to help me keep track of everything and dinner party planning is no exception. When your menu is finalised, do a quick inventory of your fridge and pantry and make a shopping list so you don’t forget anything. The day before an event, I write another list to keep track of all the tasks I need to do roughly in order. This helps so I don’t forget to put out the cheese plate.
6. Prep in advance.
I hate feeling stressed on the day of my party when my guests are arriving and I haven’t even prepped the dessert yet. These days I try and make it easier on myself by choosing at least one course that I can make the day before. Desserts are often the easiest thing to make ahead of time – think ice cream cakes, panna cotta or cheesecake for some delicious options.
I hope those tips help you next time you are planning a dinner party! Just a quick note on today’s recipe. I knew that it was simple to make homemade hummus but I had only done it once or twice before now. Just a handful of ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry come together in the food processor to make the most delicious dip, and now I’m not sure I can ever go back to store bought hummus.
It’s a blank canvas for any number of delicious flavour pairings. This time I decided to serve it with slow cooked lamb and some fresh ingredients like pomegranate, mint and feta, transforming it from ‘just a dip,’ into a delicious main course that would be perfect for sharing. I really love how this came out and will definitely be making it again. I loved that the lamb was cooking away for hours before my guests arrived and the hummus took barely five minutes, so I could enjoy time with my friends and not stress in the kitchen!
Slow Cooked Lamb with Homemade Hummus
Serves 4 (with leftover lamb)
Slow Cooked Lamb
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 kg lamb shoulder or leg
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon sumac
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 2 cups beef stock
- Salt and pepper, to taste
To make the slow cooked lamb, brown off the onion and garlic in a frypan or if you have a Multi Cooker, directly in the bowl on the Saute setting. When starting to soften, add the lamb and brown on all sides. Add to the slow cooker and then add all the spices, tomato paste, red wine and beef stock. Season with salt and pepper and set to slow cook for between 6-9 hours.
- 2 cans chickpeas
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Salt, to taste
To make the hummus, drain the chickpeas and reserve the liquid. This is called Aquafaba and can be used for many other recipes or as a vegan egg white substitute! Add the chickpeas, garlic, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice to a food processor and blitz. Scrape down the sides, add a little salt and 2 tablespoons of reserved aquafaba. Blitz again until the hummus starts to turn smooth. Taste for seasoning and add a little more salt or lemon juice if you like. I added about 5 tablespoons of aquafaba to reach the thick consistency that I wanted, but keep adding a little at a time and blitz until you are happy with the consistency and texture.
- Pomegranate seeds
- Mint leaves
- Crumbled Feta
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Crusty bread
To serve, transfer your delicious homemade hummus to a large serving dish and with the back of a spoon, swirl around to form little valleys in the surface. When the lamb is ready, taste for seasoning and shred the meat with two forks. Top the hummus with slow cooked lamb and drizzle with olive oil. Scatter the pomegranate seeds, mint leaves, crumbled feta and extra chickpeas over the top. Add some salt and pepper and serve with crusty bread.