This year, many of us will be looking forward to getting our social lives back on track. And often, there’s no better way to spend time catching up with friends and family than with good conversation over some delicious food and drinks.
Now that the rules allow us to meet up with a small number of people in outdoor spaces, you might be feeling excited about the possibility of hosting a garden dinner party, or organising a picnic in the park. But, whichever way you choose to meet friends or family, these things can often take a fair bit of planning and preparation to make sure everything runs smoothly.
To help you get everything in order, we’ve put together some top tips that’ll hopefully make your outdoor meetup one to remember.
From DIY decorations and delicious recipes, through to mobile drinks stations and tips to help you stay out of the kitchen on the night – we hope you find them useful!
Get plans in the diary early
As life gradually returns to normal, it’s likely that a lot of people will be excited to start making plans to see loved ones, visit restaurants, and go on staycations. As a result, people’s diaries may start to get booked up fairly quickly.
To make sure your plans don’t get side-tracked, it’s a good idea to invite guests or make plans in advance, so that you can set a date that works for everyone and avoid disappointment.
Plan your menu in advance
When catering for people, it can be useful to plan in advance what you’ll serve, and avoid making it too complex. If you’re hosting at home, recipes that are quick and easy but equally tasty, can help take some of the hosting pressure off of you – and if you’re meeting for a picnic in the park, often the most simple picnic foods are the most popular!
If you’re in need of some main meal inspiration for your dinner party, then perhaps you could try making some melt in the middle
fishcakes, a comforting spaghetti recipe, a refreshing salad, or sun-inspired recipes from Delicious Magazine.
If you’re planning a picnic, you could have a go at making your own delicious burritos, wraps, quiches, pies, breadsticks and dip, inspired by easy picnic food ideas from Olive Magazine. If you’re also wanting to save money while still making some delicious
food, then you might be interested in some budget recipes by Jamie Oliver, or cheap picnic recipes from Cheap Recipe Blog.
Opting for recipes that you’re familiar with can also be a good call because you’ll be better able to determine which steps you can (or cannot) complete before the event. Plus, you’ll know what the dish should look like, so you can feel more confident about achieving a successful end result. However, if you’re wanting to use this opportunity to try an exciting new recipe, then by all means go for it. Perhaps just trial it beforehand!
Snacks and sides
When planning your menu, it’s also worth thinking about any snacks and sides that you’ll want to include. For example, if you’re hosting people in your garden, you might like to serve some canapes or simple appetizers like nuts and crisps prior to the main meal, or perhaps some cheese or late night snacks like mini waffles, churros and cookies. And if you’re planning a picnic, don’t forget about the classic snacks that everyone loves like sausage rolls, cocktails sausages, and scotch eggs!
When it comes to drinks, it can be helpful to have a mix of different beverages on offer. Alongside any alcohol you might serve, soft drinks like elderflower presse, ginger beer, or pink lemonade are delicious, not too pricey, and add great colour and variety. If you’re wanting to keep the cost down, you could consider asking your guests if they’d be happy to bring a bottle with them or split the cost.
If you fancy adding an extra treat to your gathering, then why not make some delicious summery cocktails and/or mocktails? From minty mojitos and easy sangria, to summery Pimm’s and frozen margaritas, you’ll find a whole list of mouth-watering recipes on BBC Good Food.
It’s also a good idea to make sure you’re well stocked up on ice there’s nothing worse than sipping on a white wine, champagne, or beer that isn’t chilled enough. To avoid using too much freezer space and keep drinks chilled throughout the day, you might find simple ice buckets or cooler boxes or bags useful.
Ending your dinner party or picnic with a delicious dessert can be the perfect finishing touch – and choosing an option that’s simple to make can be a lifesaver after a lot of preparation and hard work.
Choose a fun and simple dessert
After serving the main meal, sometimes the last thing you want to think about is making dessert. If that’s the case, you might want to opt for a simple dessert that’s not too fussy. BBC Good Food has a range of 37 delicious quick and easy desserts that won’t have you slaving away in the kitchen. From 5-minute mocha pots and quick peach crumbles, through to easy tiramisu, trifles, and sticky toffee pudding, there’s something to tickle all appetites.
If on the other hand you’ll be eating in a park or other outside area, it’s usually best to pick a dry dessert option, or something that won’t be affected by temperature, to avoid it losing its desired appearance or texture. Traybakes, cookies, or a fruit salad are usually good options, as are banana bread, carrot cake, or vanilla cupcakes. For some further inspiration, check out BBC Good Food’s best baking recipes or picnic dessert recipes.
Make a list of your ingredients before heading to the supermarket
Once you’ve got your menu in place, it can be helpful to make a shopping list. Catering for people can be expensive, so writing a list can help you avoid buying unnecessary items, and racking up an unpleasant bill.
While recipes will tell you how much you need of each ingredient to serve a particular number of people, this can be trickier to work out with drinks.
Prepare food and drinks in advance where possible
Preparing food the day before a dinner party or a picnic is a great way to save time and prevent you from having to spend all your time in the kitchen on the day of the event. It also means you can be confident that you haven’t forgotten anything.
If your chosen recipe doesn’t allow you to prepare the whole meal in advance, you may still be able to get some tasks out of the way; for example chopping up vegetables, or measuring dry ingredients and storing them in individual containers.
These things can end up being much more time consuming than we initially imagine, so it’s great to get them ticked off early. However, while preparing in advance works in a lot of areas, it’s also worth keeping in mind that some foods won’t withstand time quite so well, and might benefit from being made on the day.
For example, if you’re packing sandwiches for a picnic, consider only adding in wetter ingredients like fresh tomatoes or sauces
at the last moment, to avoid the bread going soggy. Similarly, if you’re serving drinks like cocktails at your gathering, these can be made up in jugs or dispensers not too long beforehand – just make sure not to add any ice until the last moment to avoid watering it down.
To keep track of everything you’ve got going on in the kitchen, it might be worth making a checklist of all the components of your menu and what preparation is required – including any side dishes or appetizers – to make sure nothing slips under the rug.
Consider creating a ‘help yourself’ drinks and snacks station
Stocking an area with essentials like glasses, ice, plates, a cocktail shaker, and appetizers, can help aid the smooth running of any outdoor gathering. Instead of having to keep an eye on everyone’s glass, or continually pass around the snacks and appetizers, having a help-yourself station means guests can top up as they please, and no one will be left hungry or with a dry glass. It’ll also take some of the hosting pressure off your shoulders, so you’ll be more free to join in the fun too.
A small table, serving trolley, or anything similar with a nice table cloth over the top will work perfectly for this – the required size really depends how many drinks and snacks you’ll be offering!
Think about adding some decorations
Adding some decoration to your outdoor gathering can work wonders in bringing it to life and adding a great atmosphere. You can keep your decorations as simple or complex as you like.
For quick and easy options, tealight candles and simple flower decorations like a floating floral arrangement are beautiful to look at, make great centrepieces, and take almost no time to prepare at all.
All you’ll need to create this floral arrangement is your favourite flowers, a vase, and some bubble wrap. Other great options that can bring any space to life include garden bunting, paper lanterns, and garden fairy lights. If you fancy pulling out all the stops for your outdoor decorations, then you might like to consider making some DIY decorations that require a bit more time.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out 15 DIY Summer Table Décor ideas by DIYS.com. From pineapple vases and pom-pom twigs, through to sand bottles and paper flowers, these gorgeous decoration ideas add a warm summer touch, and will bring any table to life.
If you’re gathering away from home, perhaps for a picnic in the park, then there’s still plenty of opportunity to add decoration. For example, you could add some character with a coloured picnic blanket, plates, or matching cutlery.
Take measures to keep bugs at bay
While we might enjoy observing from afar, there’s nothing more annoying than having an insect or wasp buzzing around you whilst you’re trying to eat outdoors.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help you keep any bugs at bay. For example, some herbs like basil, lavender, lemongrass, rosemary, and mint actually repel insects, so you could include some in a centrepiece for your table, and scatter them around the area for good measure.
You’ll also want to keep any food safe and away from bugs, and simple swaps like using drink dispensers rather than jugs, or using bowls with lids, can prove useful for this.
You could even put some of your kitchen equipment to use; for example by using a wire-mesh colander to cover your food. If however, you’re worried about ruining the look of your outside set up, you could always invest in some outdoor food covers, or make your own decorative ones.
Prepare for all types of weather
Although we’ve now moved into a warmer time of year, we all know that UK weather can be unpredictable. If you know you’ve got an outdoor event coming up, it’s always best to check the weather forecast in advance. But if you’re hit by unexpected weather on the day, there’s precautions you can take to avoid it ruining your plans.
For warm and sunny weather, it’s a good idea to provide ample shade for your guests and have sunscreen on offer to avoid anyone getting uncomfortably hot or sunburnt. In case it’s chilly, you might like to have some extra layers and blankets at the ready that people can place over their laps. Another useful tip is to invest in some table cloth weights to help keep any outdoor tables intact on a windy day. And lastly, it’s best to have some umbrellas at hand – and if possible a larger garden umbrella to gather under if you’re at home – to stay dry through what will hopefully be just a passing shower.
Take precautions to allow social distancing and cleanliness
While we should enjoy the excitement of this next coming out of lockdown stage (we certainly all deserve it!), it’s also important to make sure that we continue to take the necessary steps that’ll keep both ourselves and others safe.
Therefore, whether you’re hosting people in your back garden, meeting for a picnic, or have another outdoor event, it’s important to abide by social distancing rules and maintain good hygiene. If you’re not 100% clear on the rules then it’s worth reminding yourself of the current government guidelines before arranging any plans.
After spending so long away from friends and family, the idea of dining together outdoors is more exciting than ever. So, there’s really never been a better time to gather your loved ones and share great food, delicious drinks, and good times. Whether you come together in your back garden or a local park, anyone can have fun playing host, and planning a great outdoor dining experience.
Just remember to always abide by the government guidelines, and take all the necessary precautions to ensure that both you and your loved ones remain safe and protected.
(Article source: Rest Less)