At the beginning of the year it’s common to feel some holiday guilt – not only from over-indulging at the Christmas table but also from splashing out on gifts for family and friends. The New Year doesn’t have to signal the end of all celebrations, however; if you want to host a dinner party in January, consider these budget-friendly tips:
Everyone loves a dinner party, but it doesn’t mean you have to pull out the stops every time, particularly when your bank balance is looking a bit undernourished. When selecting drinks, for example, opt for Prosecco rather than champagne, and try flatbreads, crisps or healthy veggies and dips for starters. There’s no need to struggle with prosciutto-wrapped-figs or other complicated dishes when you can prepare tasty, better-quality snacks for half the cost. Arrange snacks on platters as finger food rather than sitting down formally, and you may find guests get into the party mood right from the get go.
‘Tis the season to keep on eating
Cold weather is conducive to sitting indoors near the heater with a nice glass of wine, and you’ll find the weather brings out your guests’ appetites. The cheapest produce is that which is already on the shelves, so choose recipes that use winter vegetables (if you’re in thenorthern hemisphere). Things like leeks, cabbage, cauliflower and kale will be in abundance, and remember to look out for two-for-one deals. Soups can make delicious, warm starters that stretch a few ingredients across many placemats. Remember to add attractive garnishes like herb leaves, garlic croutons or a swirl of cream.
The main event: go casserole
Keep the majority of your budget back for the main course but avoid buying a basketful of salmon steaks or tiger prawns as this will leave you with nothing left with which to make or buy breads, salads or side dishes. Opt instead to make a stir fry (chicken satay is a great choice), casserole (try Greek moussaka or Spanish paella) or curry, and pair this with rustic bread, dips, chutneys or sambals for a multi-flavoured experience. Everyone has most likely had their fill of traditional roasts and winter vegetables at this time of year, so why not experiment with less-used but fashionable ingredients such as fennel, capers and gorgonzola?
Simple desserts: finish in style
There’s nothing wrong with a couple of scoops of premium ice cream paired with fresh mango or chocolate wafers. Other easy puddings: a handful of berries, yoghurt and honey or lemon mousse cups, which can be excellent palate cleansers. If one of the guests offers to bring a dish, ask for a couple of cheeses to add to your cheese board, and serve with freshly brewed coffee. Some other suggestions are to ask guests to bring and share their favourite dishes or to serve the courses in a buffet style, creating a much less formal kind of dinner party. A word to the wise, however; plan and budget the whole dinner from start to finish before you send out any invitations. You may discover it’s safer to defer the dinner until February when your bank balance has recovered, and at all costs, avoid mashing dessert with dinner or serving guests toothpaste appetisers. Happy budget dining!