How to Appropriately and Enjoyably Entertain Guests
My father was trained as a chef and eventually owned his own hotel and restaurant. It wasn't an easy life, and I've never felt tempted to follow in his footsteps, but I spent my teenage years in and around the hotel and learned a lot. It was only recently, talking to my own daughter that I realized how many hints and tips I could pass on that make entertaining simpler, and more enjoyable. Some of these are simple common sense, but if you're planning a party or just having the family round, there should be something here that you'll find useful.
If your dining room isn't perfect, and even if it is, use candles to light the room. They make every event special. You can add a candle to flowers in the middle of your table, place candles on your buffet or mantelpiece, or even in your fireplace. In addition to providing light and a warm, intimate atmosphere, they also help to dispel any musty of pet smells.
- If you don't have the time, or inclination, to arrange flowers, floating candles in a bowl make an interesting and atmospheric centerpiece for your table.
- To make the candles burn really well, soak the wicks in vinegar.
- Store candles in the freezer, they burn more evenly.
- Spray candles with your favorite perfume to add scent to the room.
- If you get some candle wax on your tablecloth, heat a spoon over the candle, put wet newspaper over the wax and rub with the warm spoon. The wax will transfer to the paper.
How to Cope When
- Your gravy (or soup) just wont thicken: add some instant mashed potato.
- You spilled something in the oven Cover the spill with salt and cinnamon. This will prevent the spread of the burned smell and make the spill easier to clean, just lift if off with a spatula.
- Your tablecloth is stained and you don't have time to wash and dry it. Use petals from flower left over from your table center (or plunder it) and scatter them on the cloth. If you've also lit the room with candles, your guests will never know.
- Your tomatoes have gone soggy, soak them in salty water for ten minutes.
- You're worried you'll overcook the rice. Make rice well in advance and switch off the heat before the rice is done. It will retain the heat.
- You overcooked the vegetables. Plunge them in ice cold water, then microwave briefly before serving.
- You've run out of sandwich fillings: mix mayonnaise and honey. Its unusual and yummy.
- Your soup or sauce is too greasy, draw a slice of bread across the top. It will absorb some of the grease.
- You've run out of salad dressing, make your own by adding a pinch of paprika and a dash of lemon to plain yogurt.
- You don't have time to make soup - use canned soup but add a dash of sherry, port or brandy. Drizzle some cream on top and sprinkle with chopped dried herbs.
- Your meat is too tough, add some lemon juice. It helps.
- Your ham or tongue has dried out, soak it in milk for a few minutes to restore the texture.
- You just found out that one of your guests is vegetarian. This has got to be one of the biggest hostess nightmares, but you can cope. Take a tin of baked beans, add a small glass of wine, and pour it over a selection of you other vegetable in a small baking dish. Pop in the oven for around twenty minutes. It's tasty and your guests will be really impressed!
Adding Extra Flavour
It's amazing how the addition of just a hint of lemon juice or herbs can really bring out the flavour in some dishes. Here are some of my favorites.
- For anything flavoured with chocolate, add some instant coffee grains.
- For more interesting mayonnaise, add a pinch of curry powder.
- To really bring out the mushroom flavor in a cream of mushroom soup, add a dash of lemon juice.
- To make a curry sauce extra rich, add sugar to the melted butter or ghee.
- To give after dinner coffee some extra 'zing' add some cardamom seeds, but don't forget to remove them before serving.
- Add marmite or mustard to gravy.
- Cook cauliflower in chicken stock, or just add a cube to the water.
- Saute sliced cucumber lightly and serve with cream cheese.