Mango Juice Inflight Magazine May 2013

In the May 2013 issue of Mango Inflight magazine, I share my top tips for hosting a special dinner party, or brunch or lunch.

A diary count-down from 4 weeks before on what you need to do. Most importantly? Cook simply for people whom you really want to spend time with and enjoy!

Mango Juice May 2013


Dinner Party Diary

If the idea of throwing a dinner party has you frazzled and clutching a copy of Miss Manner’s guide in desperation, fear not. Ishay Govender-Ypma shares a stress-proof diary to planning a fabulous and unforgettable dinner party

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s to plan my dinner parties. No matter how casual your approach, come the day of the dinner party when there are 30 minutes to the first knock on the door and no food ready, it’s easy to fall apart. I use this simple guide to plan fun, memorable meals with my guests. It works for any special meal, brunch, lunch or dinner.

3 weeks to 1 month to go

  • Send out invites. Out of town friends may need a longer notice.
  • Weekends are usually easier for everyone.
  • Ask guests to RSVP within a reasonable timeframe. Double check that emails and sms’s have gone through.
  • Think of a theme – this will allow you to plan ingredients, drinks, music and table settings.

2 weeks to go

  • Your guests should have replied. Make adjustments if necessary
  • Decide on an approach: casual, formal or in between.
  • Use the theme to decide on dishes – I gather inspiration from current favourite ingredients, magazines, cookbooks and blogs. Visit a food image aggregate site like Food Gawker to see what the latest popular dishes are.
  • It’s permissible to mix styles, just make sure they don’t clash. You can make a variety of South East Asian dishes in one meal but a sashimi starter and a boeuf bourguignon main, may not work.
  • Test out dishes or techniques you haven’t already mastered
  • Make a list of the ingredients you need- I stick it to the fridge.
  • Order speciality ingredients – Give butchers at least 1 week notice for special cuts

1 week to go

  • What drinks will you serve? Wine pairings can be tricky, if you know your guests are wine buffs, tell them what you’re making and ask for recommendations.
  • Examine your napkins for stains and crockery and stemware for chips. Replace what you need to
  • Haul out ice buckets and water jugs
  • If you’re setting up a formal dinner at the table, check that it and the chairs are in good nick. If using cushions around a low table, make sure they are suitable.
  • How will you serve dinner? Individually plated, buffet style, all on the table. What suits your space?
  • Purchase dry ingredients, canned goods, spices and candles.
  • Consider a welcome drink – I love watermelon martinis in summer or a glass of bubbles. Keep it simple

2 days before

  • Put together some neutral, easy going music. When in doubt,  go with Edith Piaf
  • Send a courtesy reminder to guests – you can still plan around last minute cancellations
  • Put a list out for any remaining ingredients to fetch the next day

1 day before

  • This is your essential planning day.
  • Chill drinks.
  • Buy or fetch remaining ingredients, usually meat and fresh produce.
  • Pre-prepare as much as possible. I wouldn’t advise preparing salad ingredients, but you can section meat, clean chicken and fish, chop onions and garlic (store in airtight containers in fridge), prepare desserts like ice cream or puddings. Whip cream just before serving.
  • Stews and curries can be prepared today
  • I buy flowers a day before – gives them a chance to open up.
  • Before you go to sleep, make a list of the order of the dishes you need to make the next day.

On the Day

  • If you only have an hour after work available, factor more tasks into the days before or get help from a friend or your partner.
  • Dust and clean all the areas that your guests will be visiting
  • Make sure the guest bathroom has fresh towels and soap. Hand cream is a nice touch
  • Set the table, arrange the flowers. Make sure guests can see above the flowers or candles
  • Lighting is important – I use dimmed lights and candles.
  • Work through your list of dishes to finish. Keep those that are ready warm. Keep ingredients to be prepared when guests arrive, like steak, neatly covered and cool.
  • Arrange salads and larger dishes on platters, unless plating individually
  • Clean up work surfaces, sinks and the stove
  • Remember to serve a jug of cold water
  • Take a few minutes to get yourself ready
  • Most importantly: smile, enjoy the dinner and spend time with your guests.