Inviting a gang of friends over for dinner might seem like a GREAT idea when you suggest it, but when it comes to executing it… well that's a different story.
Sure, you can make a mean chicken stir-fry for one, but how about plating up starters and mains for eight people while still looking like the picture of tranquility? Not quite so easy.
Not to worry though, there are a few foolproof tips which will make your gathering a whole lot easier to plan for and put together.
Here are our tried and tested tips for a group dinner to remember (or not remember, depending on how many double-strength cocktails you serve up):
1. Don't go too fancy
Okay, an Domino's pizza isn't going to cut it if you've invited everyone over for a homecooked meal, but don't think you have to run out buying lobsters either. A great pasta dish or casserole will satisfy everyone's tastebuds without leaving you in tears because you have no idea where to buy truffle oil or something equally snooty.
2. Prepare, prepare, prepare
The more you can do ahead of time, the less you have to worry about when your pals arrive. Try to pick a recipe that can be made earlier in the day and heated up with a few minutes in the oven just before serving. For pasta dishes, make sauces beforehand and cook the pasta just before dishing it out to guests. The less time you need to spend in the kitchen, the more time you have to actually have fun with your guests!
3. Theme it!
Fancy dress = instant craic. However silly the idea, getting people to dress up or bring a themed drink is a surefire way to start your evening off well. As the hostess you most definitely have to participate though, so make sure it's a theme you like!
4. Don't forget appetisers… and cocktails
If you'll be in the kitchen finishing off the main food, don't leave your guests without something to eat and drink while they wait. Some easy cocktail pitchers or a couple of bottles of wine will get things going – plus, that way they won't notice if your lasagne is a touch charred!
This is a friendly gathering, not a gala ball. Hosting can be a tough job, but it's a great way to get friends together in a comfortable, easy environment rather than in some crazy-busy restaurant. The evening is about good food and good pals, so don't get wrapped up in the stress of getting things exactly right.