Summer entertaining at home

After months of cool weather and dark evenings, it’s finally time to invite your friends over to share a glass of Pimms and enjoy some delicious al fresco dining. Events manager Julia Sibun shares her top tips for entertaining at home

With summer in full bloom, there’s no better venue to have a good time than your own back garden. Entertaining at home doesn’t have to be elaborate – just delicious simple food, great company and a convivial setting is all you need. With that said, there are a few simple measures that transform a simple get-together into a gathering to remember.

The setting

Firstly, agree your ideal position in the garden, considering the time of the day when your guests are arriving – a not too warm, or not too shady spot – and set up your mix-match of garden furniture tables and chairs. (Not forgetting soft, comfortable cushions to keep your guests lingering at the table for longer).

Colourful table cloths and umbrellas are ideal to make the area feel welcoming - and don’t forget to hang some fun summer bunting between the trees and around the garden. Fresh flowers picked from the garden in mix and match jam jars and bottles look fabulous across the dining table and dressing the bar and pud tables.

Tableware

Colourful plastic tableware does make life easy, and avoids the worry of any possible breakages. But if it’s a special occasion, bear in mind that wonderful bespoke china can be hired for the day. Emma Bridgewater china really makes the table look amazing, welcoming and cheerful.

Food

Selecting your menu and the method of cooking is always the fun part. The outdoor chefs in you will want to cook on the BBQ, but alternatives include to construct (or hire) a wood-fired pizza oven, make a paella in a giant paella pan or simply cook on a grill over your log fire bowl. Equally, for those hosts who really do want to impress their guests, why not invest in a Kamado Joe Ceramic Japanese BBQ – the flavour really is second to none, and you can cook your meat long and slow all day long before your guests arrive.

Ensure you have a plentiful selection of meat and vegetarian options to offer your guests – a number of people have dietary requirements and it is good to be able to offer food that all of your guests can enjoy.

Cooking on skewers works well – how about Goan coconut chicken and lime, or marinated chilli prawns, or tamarind squash and halloumi? Or you can BBQ a whole spatchcock chicken with coriander, lemongrass and lime. Everyone loves a steak or a traditional burger, (and for the children try locally-reared sausages).

For the vegetarians, crispy sweet potatoes with chickpeas and tahini yoghurt, grilled corn on the cob with coriander butter, barbequed baby aubergines with tahini, harissa and zatar, and vegetable kebabs are always a winner.

To accompany your cooked foods, have a table laden with colourful, delicious salads - carrot salad with harissa, feta and mint, or kale, apple, celery and walnuts…or red beetroot and golden beetroot, British quinoa, balsamic dressing…or a green bean salad with toasted hazelnuts and an orange dressing and tabbouleh and bulgur wheat with red onion, chickpeas and harissa dressing – the list can be endless, and composed purely of fresh ingredients from your garden or local farm shop.

Desserts

A dependably sweet follow-up is always toasting marshmallows over open fires, but alternatively you can set up a self-service pud table with homemade rocky road, chocolate brownies, bowls of fresh soft fruits raspberries, strawberries and blueberries.

The freezer should be stocked with treats for children and adults alike - such as tubs of your favourite locally produced ice creams. Try the ‘cow-to-cone’ offerings of Spot Loggins, a family-run farm using their own organic milk. Their many delicious flavours (including honeycomb, salted caramel and chocolate orange) will delight.

Drinks

Consider carefully which drinks that you would like to serve. Ensure there is a firkin of locally brewed beer for the boys, and perhaps prosecco with peach puree for your homemade Bellini on arrival for the girls!

Many people are drivers, so you will need to ensure a great variety of soft cocktails such as a Very Berry (fresh blackberry puree and pomegranate syrup over ice with apple juice), or a Thai Ginger Limeade (fresh ginger with angostura bitters, lemon and lime juice shaken over ice with soda water).

Another favourite is lychee puree and elderflower cordial over ice with fresh mint and cranberry juice. Self-service Kilner jars from your homemade bar are fun for a constant supply of flavoured or plain water to keep your guests hydrated on the warm days. Freezing fruit into ice cubes such as blueberries or raspberries make a fun garnish and will jazz up the presentation of your drinks.

Colour-coded drinks buckets work well – place red and white wines in beach buckets of the same colour and guests will always know what they are reaching for – chilling a bottle of the lighter bodied fruity reds such as a Spanish Rioja can be refreshing when served cool.

As the evening draws on…

When the sun goes down and the temperature starts to drop, bundle up a few outdoor blankets or pashminas together so your guests can wrap up and keep warm.

A great option for lighting is to hang colourful paper lanterns from the trees and bushes, and to use pretty white pea lighting around gateways, and in the trees. Garden paraffin flares located around the garden are also very effective - and can mark out the route back to the cars for guests. If the weather is warm, citronella candles and incense sticks are good for keeping all the bugs at bay.

Lastly, don’t forget to pop on a summer playlist, shake up those cocktails and enjoy your al fresco dining experience!

For more information about Summer entertaining, please contact Julia Sibun www.juliasibun.co.uk