Alfresco dining

Posted on Jul 1 2015 - 6:49pm by Samantha Clark
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Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal- Julia Child.

Keep it simple- you can’t pre-prepare everything but there is certainly a lot you can do in advance/shortcuts you can take to ensure hosting isn’t a hassle. When you have the friends and family over for a summer feast, the last thing you want really is to be in a sweltering kitchen on your own preparing a 3 course meal whilst everyone else gets to relax and enjoy the sun.

Feast options:

BBQ’s are always a summer hit, who doesn’t love a BBQ? It also means that you can be out in the garden too enjoying the sun and still feel included in discussions. If you haven’t got the space to have an open flame and lots of people then what about these other options:

Buffets are perhaps the simplest spread – you can mix and match your food choices; ideal for the fussy eaters and the majority can always be prepared well in advance. Plus there are lots of food choices that allow you to take short cuts such as sliced meat platters, sausage rolls and pork pies as well as cheeseboards.  What’s more, you don’t have to worry about the coal/wood burning smells from the BBQ lingering on every surface in your house (assuming doors and windows will be open of course).

What about a picnic in the garden? Ok so it’s quite similar to a buffet idea but throw down a  couple of  blankets, arrange for the food to be outside, prop yourselfs up on pillows and enjoy- this also has the potential for an easier clean up as the idea is that you’ll not need to go into the house so much.

This was our mix and match spread from the weekend- if you’re interested in the servingware, I’ve put links below to the same or similar items- we put on a bit of a feast for all those that came over to help us with the garden (usually a great incentive to get your friends and family to lend a hand). We haven’t quite got round to getting the BBQ out yet so did the sausages and burgers in the oven and the rest was made up of nibbles; the salad was prepared at home and purchased from Sainsbury’s, M&S Air Dried Cumbrian Style Ham was provided with compliments (I was dying to make the Jamie Oliver crostini with figs and mint– which this ham would have been perfect for but I couldn’t find figs anywhere!), Cornish Brie and Cathedral City cheddar from Sainsbury’s deli counter, M&S Hog Roast Sausage Rolls- A MAJOR hit!, and we cheated with the frozen mildly spiced wedges also from Sainsbury’s.

For dessert, I made my very popular Key Lime Pie which is always a huge hit, it’s a perfect summer dessert as it’s so refreshing! You can find the recipe through our Alfresco pinterest board. I also made a mini Eton Mess (very Wimbledon!) by throwing together meringues, strawberries and cream. We we are also given some Hotel Chocolat summer chocolates to try- the fruit bombs were very intriguing, kept in the fridge, they contain an explosion of fruit mixed with chocolate, though it was a bit like eating Revels in that you weren’t necessarily happy with what you ended up with (lemon, lime and sour cherry were very sour- I have to say though that the passion fruit chocolates were divine!). The Summer Peepster slabs were much more popular- the mix of fruit and chocolate make it a popular summer choice- normally you don’t want to be eating chocolate when it’s hot but I think it out shone my Key Lime this time!

  1. Water Hyacinth placemats, £20, John Lewis
  2. Solid oak salad bowl and servers, House of Fraser, £22.50
  3. Green napkins, John Lewis, £16
  4. Blue and white napkins, Habitat, £10
  5. Flowers, Peony Jam Jar, Next, £10
  6. Bread tray/Serving plate, John Lewis, £14
  7. Water Carafe, House of Fraser, £10.50, was £15
  8. Serving board, John Lewis, reduced to £12 from £25
  9. Crudities platter, Marks and Spencer, £25

Themes- let’s make it festive!

Wimbledon– everyone can come dressed in something white (very summery), your decor can be tennis focused and as for the food- how about traditional tea setting; sandwiches, scones with cream and jam, strawberries and cream and as an alternative to the tea, serve up Pimm’s!

Picnic in the Park– so you may not be able to fit a band in your garden but with a good sound system you’ll think you have! Lounge out on blankets and pillows- don’t forget your sunnies. Food you can pick at is best and you can just sit back and relax!

Summer loving– why not do a backyard cinema night? The summer is the perfect time to watch a movie outside and with the materials available in high street shops, it’s fairly inexpensive! When it comes to the dining aspect, it’s all about the snacks! Layout the popcorn, sweets and let the movie roll!

Hawaiian– There are just some days that are just intolerable heat wise. So if you’re party falls on a particularly scorching day, make it a Hawaiian themed party- everyone can get determine a state of dress suitable for the party (you never know, they may come in a coconut top and grass skirt!) but flip flops are mandatory- you can make it a pretty tropical affair with a limbo, paddling pools (even the adults will join in) floral decorations, water bombs (for when you all get too hot) and tropical foods (love this palm tree, fruit arrangement).

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