Getting it right: summer entertaining advice


Take on board some of our ideas and, with luck, your summer dinner party will be effortless and magical! 

Outdoor eating, table settingIf you don’t have enough fridge space for drinks, buy some ice and keep the booze in a dustbin, large washing up bowl, or in the bath!

Remember that chicken and pork, in particular, must be well cooked through if you are going to barbecue them. So start them off in the microwave or oven before finishing them off on the barbecue.

Pimm’s is a great aperitif in the summer. Try making it with ginger ale instead of lemonade for a less sweet taste.

If your chosen menu includes jellies or ice cream, remember that you can take the pressure off completely and make these several days ahead.

Read through the recipes first: if marinating is involved, you will need to do this ahead.

Tealights and glass holders – many of them pretty and decorative – are cheap and ubiquitous, so buy lots and arrange them in the centre of the table, or hang them from the branches of a tree.

Use traditional garden flowers for an informal arrangement:snapdragons, nicotiana, delphiniums, stocks and roses all last well and will add colour and fragrance. And if you have fresh rosemary in your garden, add a few sprigs to the vase for added Mediterranean scent!

If you are planning to eat outside, buy some citronella candles or garden flares, as these will deter mosquitoes and other flying pests!

No time to make the dessert? Simply buy some good-quality ice cream and add a selection of summer berries, or prepare a platter of exotic fruits such as melon, kiwi fruit, mango and papaya. Drizzle the fruit with passion fruit pulp or, for a Middle Eastern touch, rosewater, and you will have an instant dessert.

Want a quick starter? Buy a selection of cooked meats, such as salami, mortadella, prosciutto and San Daniele ham from the deli counter or specialist Italian salumeria, add some rustic walnut bread, relishes and lightly dressed leaves.

Or, if you like fish, find some smoked salmon, smoked trout and gravadlax, add thin slices of soda bread, lemon wedges and dill sauce, or horseradish, and you have a wonderful fishy starter with no fuss.

If you are serving Mediterranean food, or a Spanish-style meal, you could always finish with good Spanish cheese, such as Manchego, and membrillo, a delicious quince paste. Alternatively, serve a slab of Roquefort with some sweet dessert wine.

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