I may have hosted a lot of dinner parties in the past however it has been a long while and so when Tassimo asked me to have a get together using their ‘how to be the perfect host tips’ from John Torode, Millie Mackintosh and coffee expert Hazel Middleton I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
Millie’s top tips to create a great ambience
Think about lighting – luckily, we have a lot of different lighting settings in our kitchens, but candles and lamps can be used to soften a room. Mellow ambient music during dinner and then afterwards, I’d put on some more lively music. And finally, the smell of food cooking is also very inviting, so get something in the oven early!
John’s top kitchen must-haves
My go to food when hosting friends is anything in pastry, because it is easy and always satisfies everyone. Little pies, tarts, puffs, sausage rolls and those sorts of things always work because both adults and kids alike always love them.
Hazel’s Coffee Mornings
There’s nothing better than a coffee morning with a selection of great hot drinks, including cappuccinos and lattes and some lovely cakes and biscuits. Nothing compliments coffee more than a delicious slice of cake or a crisp biscuit. I like to bake my own cakes for coffee mornings, and this can be done the day before to avoid panic on the morning.
I totally agree that the ambiance is just as important as the food, get the atmosphere wrong and you could have a disaster on your hands, also think about inviting the correct combination of friends, if they have strong opposing opinions it can all go horribly wrong after a few glasses of wine. On the other hand it is good to have some friendly debate and chat rather than strained conversations.
You can’t have too many candles, tealights are inexpensive and make for a lovely atmosphere. Save jam jars and you have ready made candle holders. If budget allows pick up some flowers and float in a glass bowl with more tealights. I recommend having fragranced candles in the sitting room and hall but not in the kitchen as they don’t mix well with food aromas.
A top tip to being the perfect host is to write a plan, and try and get as much preparation done in advance, even better get most of the cooking out of the way as there is nothing worse than stressing and slaving over a hot stove and missing out on all the fun.
My menu for the evening was:
John Torode’s Sherry Soaked Devil’s on Horseback
Smoked Salmon on brown bread
Chicken Chasseur served with mashed potato and green vegetables
Chocolate Pots served with shortbread biscuits
This was followed by a selection of Tassimo teas and coffees, the most popular choice being Costa Latte.
The Sherry soaked Devil’s on Horseback were a great hit, everyone loved them and I know they will be very pleased to find the recipe posted here. The majority of my menu was cooked in advance and then reheated ready to serve.
And what could be better for the morning after the night before than a steaming mug of fresh coffee.
- 24 large prunes
- 100ml hot earl grey tea
- Orange rind
- 200ml cream sherry
- 24 rashers smoked streaky bacon
- Place the prunes into a large bowl and rub the orange rind between your hands, so it releases its aroma.
- Heat the sherry, and then pour with the tea over the prunes.
- Add the orange rind, giving it a stir and leave to sit for 10 minutes. This should help plump the prunes up and give them loads of flavour.
- Lay out 6 slices of the bacon on a work surface and place a plumped prune on each rasher of bacon at end closest to you. Roll the prune up into the bacon and place on the cooking tray.
- Repeat until all of the bacon and prunes are used. You should have a little liquid left in the bowl, which will be used to baste the bacon as it cooks.
- Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, brushing with the sherry mix every 5 minutes or so.
- Serve hot or warm, as they are better that way.
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Written in collaboration with Tassimo