5 December 2017

Blogmas #3: Tips for Catering for Large Groups

Sometimes Christmas brings the pressure of catering, and entertaining a large number of people. Whether its for drinks, games or a meal - and this can get incredibly stressful. For a few years now, I've been cooking a Christmas meal for a large number of friends once a year - and while I love doing it, it does come with stress and pressure. So here's my tips for staying cool under the cooking pressure, and how to deal with catering for a large number of people.

Tip One: Don't over invite
I always end up inviting a large number of people, usually because I know not everyone will come, but I make sure I stick to a number I'm comfortable with, and can actually accommodate in my house. If you end up inviting more than you feel you can handle, you'll end up stressing yourself out and not enjoying the evening - and you know what, it's your party, you have to enjoy it. I always stick to my guns with numbers, and if it looks like it's getting too many then I'll start saying no to people. Generally I try to stay around the 10 mark - last year I had exactly 10, and this year I had 9. Anymore and I start to feel a bit uncomfortable.

Tip Two: Know the dietary requirements
If you're inviting people around yours to eat, then it's your responsibility to make sure you're catering to everyone you're inviting. My best friend is vegetarian, and her husband is vegan, and while they were adamant that I didn't need to make special concessions for them or they'd bring their own food, I was clear that I'd invited them to eat, I'd provide them with food. As I'm not vegan, it was a little strange catering, and I did have to ask a lot of questions around what I could and couldn't use - so don't be scared to do that. Yes it can be a little more work, but it comes with catering to your guests. If you do find it's making you more stressed, than talk to them and ask if they'd mind helping you out a bit.

Tip Three: Make your meal easy to do in bulk
Most years I tend to do a roast - it's a bit more work and can get quite expensive, but it's an easy meal to do it bulk for a large amount of people, and generally it's a crowd pleaser. This year however I decided to do pies. This was for a couple of reasons. First, because we had different dietary needs it would be easy for me to just do two different pies and people could choose the one they wanted. Secondly, it meant I could be a bit more social before dinner. With a roast I'm constantly tied to the kitchen, but with pie it's just stuck in the oven and serve. Both are good options and both quite festive, so just keep in mind your logistics. I find it a lot stressful if I can do most of the prep during the day, and spread it all out so I'm not running around like a headless chicken with guests.

Tip Four: Don't be scared to ask for help
If you know you're going to get stressed, or worried about it, then ask for help. Why not delegate something to each guest? Have each guest bring one aspect of the dinner, like veg or desert for example. They won't mind as you're hosting and doing the main bulk, and it'll allow you to breathe a little bit easier. Or if you want to do it yourself, ask someone to come and help during the day. Again, people won't mind and it'll allow you to relax a lot more and have some fun with it.

Tip Five: Create a fun atmosphere
The whole point of doing a Christmas get together is for it to be fun. So try to make sure you have fun whilst you're preparing for it as well. It'll just help you relax and get in the mood. I like to throw on some Christmas music while I'm cooking, or a film if I can watch it in the kitchen. I get some bubbly out and make it fun. I enjoy cooking and baking anyway so generally I'm good, but this is when I do tend to get the most stressed so it just helps to keep me in a fun bubbly mood.

Tip Six: BYOB
Make it bring your own booze. Provide some, absolutely, but if you're cooking and providing all the food, ask your guests to bring a drink each. That way you don't have to worry so much about making sure everyone has a drink they like, or the price the comes with buying a bulk load of alcohol. Just worry about what you like to drink, and the food, and it'll make everything a lot easier. Plus you'll be drinking said booze so all is good in the world.

And there you have it! It can get stressful, and organising anything with a large number of people is always going to be difficult, but just try to remember it's supposed to be fun. Then make it fun. If it's something you do feel really stressed about then make it more relaxed, just do buffet style or nibbly bits with games so the evening isn't all about the food. Make it an evening you'll enjoy, as much as your guests.
Much love, Lisa May x


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