Sometimes it all seems a bit too hard, when you have small kids, to throw a dinner party. Clearing all the toys and sundry mess, dealing with tantrums and special dietary needs, crossing fingers and toes that best behaviour will be the order of the day and that there will be no fights or other dramas…It’s stressful, but not as daft as giving up your social life for the sake of the status quo.
Not only can entertaining still be great fun, but if you volunteer to host, your kids can go to bed as soon as they’re tired, and you don’t have to argue over whose turn it is to be the designated driver. Win!
We’ve put together our top tips for throwing a stress-free soiree that everyone can enjoy:
- Turn your dinner party into an early evening do or, even better, a civilised luncheon. The children are more likely to behave in a reasonable manner and you can still be on the couch in your jammies by the time Giggle and Hoot say it’s time for bed.
- Get everyone to be in charge of a course. We often set a theme for a bit of fun, and then see what everyone brings. This cuts down on your workload and gets everyone excited about participating. Themes we have had lately have included love (for Valentine’s Day), 70s, Queensland, Hollywood and the colour red. This one we had on the weekend was all cheese and wine, thanks to King Island Dairy.
- Don’t try to make anything new unless you’re supremely confident you can pull it off without turning into a stressy cow. And keep it simple, stupid. Dishes you can prep in advance are always great, because this leaves you with your hands free to hold a jolly glass of bubbles and perhaps a whingy toddler. And make sure there is something you know the children will like on the menu. Caramelised fennel and goats cheese ottolenghi may impress your guests, but they’re not the ones who will shout the house down if their belly is empty.
- Set up a kids table and have activities ready for when they inevitably finish first and get antsy. You can sit them in front of a movie, have some fresh colouring books ready to go, or maybe a blow-up pool or back-yard cricket.
- Finish off with something super-simple. I love a cheese plate with a few options, like this one that King Island Dairy kindly provided for us. It can also act as a stand-alone late afternoon feast – just add some freshly baked rosemary sourdough, olives, and something tiny and sweet like some easy-squeezy chocolate ganache tarts. Just melt some milk chocolate and fold through an equal amount of whipped cream, then spoon into bought sweet pastry shells. Top with a berry or some hundreds and thousands (or in our case on the weekend, some speckled Easter eggs) and everybody loves you. Accompany with a sweet dessert wine and you have friends for life and a happy sugar coma to quietly slip into.