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How to cater for a large party

Parties – a great excuse for a knees-up, getting your nearest and dearest together and generally having a right royal time. But with heaps of pressure to make sure you’re throwing a good soiree, do you really know how to throw a party that’s going to have people talking about it for months on end, is stress free for you and won’t set you back too much? If not, it’s time to read Judy Ridgway’s epic book. She tells you how to cater a party, revealing heaps of delicious dishes that are tasty, cheap and perfect food for parties and other special occasions. Judy explains how cooking party food can be as simple or flamboyant as you like, whilst being very personal (not to mention cost effective). The first thing to do when organising a party though is set up a check-list to make sure every detail’s been covered, before whipping up a table of treats for your guests….

1) The menu 

The type of food you serve up is all dependent on the style of party you are throwing. For example, you wouldn’t necessarily serve up curry and rice at a traditional English wedding breakfast. If your party is more informal, think of different finger food options rather than catering a full-scale, sit-down meal.

2) Costings 

Be realistic when it comes to numbers. If you’re catering for a wedding, or special anniversary, it is important to be prepared to spend a little extra and not to cut corners. If money is really tight, mix up expensive foods like smoked salmon with eggs or cheese.

3) Timings 

Don’t be over-ambitious with what you’re making as timing is key. You can’t have guests waiting for pies or flans as this will impress no-one. Instead, think of easier, quicker options like cold cuts and salads.

4) Quantities 

It’s a fine balance between having enough food for your guests and knowing how much to make, so you’re not left with lots of wastage – both in money and food. If you know how much is needed for say, ten people, double up your quantities.

5) Preparation 

If you know you need to cater for a big party, start prepping for it a few days before. If some of the foods can be frozen, make these first and pop them in the freezer, so they’re ready for the big day in advance. It is important to look back at point number one here and work out which of your foods will be best to freeze. Quiches, for example, tend to go a little soggy when frozen.

6) Know your foods 

Cook your freezable dishes first, then the ones that can be refrigerated and lastly those that just need to be stored.

7) Presentation 

Shaping flowers out of vegetables makes food look more attractive. Balance out darker foods like casseroles with colourful vegetable mixes or garnishes for cold meats and fish. Nobody wants to eat from a messy plate, so something that is neat, tidy and looks appetizing is more likely to get gobbled up.

8) Health & Safety 

Kitchen hygiene is important especially when catering for large groups of people, so always make sure your work surfaces are clean, raw meat is kept away from prepared foods and you’ve washed your hands before coming into contact with food.

For more great tips, advice and recipes read: A Banquet on a Budget: Cooking for weddings, birthdays and other big parties (£7.99, Robinson) by Judy Ridgway