Invite a few close friends or family over to ring in the New Year with a dinner party that looks and feels as special as if you’d gone out to a swanky restaurant. Here are my tried and tested top tips including menu suggestions, theme ideas and dinner party know‐how to inspire you to ‘go to town’ – without even leaving your home.
Image from Ruth and Toby’s real wedding. The food looked so good.
It’s fun to celebrate over dinner and more relaxed than going out, not to mention cheaper at this time of year. Make it casual or a real event with some Top Party Theme Ideas.
If you’re no domestic goddess, do yourself a favour and look up some easy yet impressive recipes online at sites such as BBCGoodFood.com. Below I have made several suggestions that can be looked up. They’re meals I have made myself so I know they taste great.
The fewer guests you invite the easier it will be so don’t feel you need to ask ten people, just a table of four or six of you is enough for a great dinner party.
Invest in a few stainless steel cooking rings to make the meal look ultra stylish and you’ll create an amazing looking masterpiece of a meal. Have a practice the day before if you’re nervous about your cooking and ask your guests to bring dessert.
It’s all in the planning
Plan ahead to find out what foods your guests like and whether you can get hold of all your ingredients for the day. If you’re decisive you can plan your menu, shop and invite your guests within just a couple of days. If you choose the right menu you could even cook it earlier in the day or the day before so you just have to reheat it when your guests turn up.
Consider vegetarian (and vegan or gluten-free) options for your guests if necessary and child‐friendly foods for family occasions. Plan your courses and wine so that they compliment each other and ensure you have soft drinks for drivers or non‐drinkers available too.
If you’re planning a themed dinner party then consider accessorising accordingly. You may also want to put on some entertainment or give each of your guests a special gift to remind them of the occasion and to thank them for coming. Theming your dinner party will make it memorable and so much fun. Just have your cameras at the ready.
Invite your guests in style by sending out either printed or hand‐made invitations. If your dinner party is informal then a phone call or an email will suffice but nothing beats sending out a proper invitation.
For a themed event it’s great to set the tone for the celebration ahead by sending a suitably fitting invitation, for instance for a fun Hawaiian themed hen night you could send invitations in the shape of an Hawaiian flower and ask everyone to come in fancy dress.
Dinner party décor
Decorating your table and dining room will really set the scene for your special celebration. A stunning floral table centrepiece, gorgeous goblet wine glasses and a scattering of table confetti makes all the difference. You could even add sparklers.
You don’t have to drape your walls with silks but it’s worth considering what’s going on your table and how the room looks. Here are some ideas:
Have a table centrepiece to create an interesting focal point without blocking anyone’s view
Low lighting from candles or fairy lights creates a perfect glow
Background music, ice breakers or entertainment will get people talking
Place cards, table confetti and small gifts (or favours) for each guest will make it special
After all the Christmas turkey you’ll be pining for something different.A New Year’s Eve menu works best with fish, sea food or red meat if you’ve had a traditional Christmas celebration the week before.
Here are some of my own tried and tested menu ideas:
Champagne cocktails or a glass of sparkling wine with a whole strawberry or raspberrry at the bottom
Canapés, bread sticks and olives
Warmed mini blinis topped with lemon mayonnaise, prawns, red pepper and capers
King prawn, avocado and rocket salad with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce (the modern prawn cocktail), served with warm crusty bread
Venison or chicken pate with caramelised onion chutney on warm toast
Classic fish pie served with petit pois and asparagus. (Make this fresh, do not reheat fish and seafood.) You can make just before your guests come and then bake it as they are arriving
Five-spice roast duck breast sat atop a tower of wilted spinach under creamy mashed potato, topped with parsnip chips
Heston Blumenthal’s Chilli con Carne with Spiced Butter served with rice, sour cream, lime juice and lime zest. This recipe is a real winner and can be served simply as it is with so much flavour or hot and spicy depending on the amount of spiced butter added.
No-nonsense bangers and mash with onion gravy and creamy mash
A pre-cooked roasted vegetable lasagne that can simply be heated through allowing you more time with your guests. If you have one veggie guest make a small individual lasagne and reheat it to be ready at the same time as your other mains.
Warm mixed spice chocolate brownies served with brandy cream and fresh strawberries
Lemon tart with fresh blueberries and a sprinkle of icing sugar
A large impressive Pavlova with fresh raspberries and vanilla ice cream
After dinner mints
Decaf coffee or Irish coffees with cream
Party games or an end of year quiz
Other special occasion dinner parties
Now you know how to entertain, there are plenty more opportunities for special occasion dinner parties from birthdays to wedding anniversaries and it’s nearly time for a romantic Valentine’s Day meal for two.
Tell your story
Are you planning a New Year’s Eve party this year? I’ll be cooking Heston’s Chilli con Carne with Spiced Butter for friends and their children. How will you be celebrating New Year’s Eve?
HAPPY NEW YEAR from us all at Confetti. Here’s to a happy 2014 filled with love.
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Kate Thompson is Confetti's features editor and wedding expert, and has worked in the wedding industry for 15 years. A widely published lifestyle writer, she has made BBC television and radio appearances discussing wedding trends in the UK.