How To Host The Ideal Gourmand’s Garden Party This Summer

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After several May days that have felt decidedly, profoundly summery and we’ve got our eyes firmly fixed forward on all of that al fresco frivolity that seems to define the season.

Summer is when hospitality, warm welcomes, good food and even better wine all come into their own, and for those who love to play host, this is your time to shine! 

Should you be gearing up to hose some summer garden parties, then you’ve come to the right place to revel in the anticipation. Today, we’re celebrating those parties that go hard on the refreshments, with glorious gastronomic pleasure the focus of the fun. With that in mind, here’s how to host the IDEAL gourmand’s garden party this summer.

It’s All Berries & Cream

For dessert, British fruit is arguably at its peak in early summer, with strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries and even elderflower all on song. 

Ask yourself; is it really a garden party without berries and cream in some format? Think scones with strawberry jam (the proper stuff with chunks), or even an Eton Mess or slushy which celebrates British fruits in season.

Both of these dishes rely heavily on whipped cream (unless you’re using clotted cream, of course), and making the perfect whipped cream is no easy feat. 

A few seconds could mean the difference between perfectly whipped cream and something that’s well and truly over-worked. Indeed, whipping cream isn’t as easy as you might think. Over-whipped cream turns grainy and greasy, and this is something you want to avoid at all costs.

The secret is to whip your cream until just before it starts becoming stiff. You want a light, smooth and creamy texture that’s softly whipped and dollops nicely.

Anyway, enough of that wistful, whipped thinking. We need a drink. Fortunately, even your drinks can be inspired by the seasons…

Delicious, Uncomplicated Things

Marinating, dry-rubbing, slicing, dicing, par-boiling, searing, half-steaming, picking and chopping…so much of the work, food wise, can happen well in advance of your party if you design your menu right. 

In fact, the only elements of your meal that genuinely need to be left to the last minute are the dressing of salads (premature dressing leads to limp leaves) and a final sprinkle of seasoning. 

Prioritise delicious, uncomplicated elements and ingredients that are at their peak in summer. Doing so really sets the scene for the party, and means you have to do far less to get maximum flavour from them!

Fortunately, Britain is blessed with some fabulous seasonal produce in early summer, with light, green vegetables, plentiful shellfish and the sweetest of fruits all at their finest. 

Creating a menu around the UK’s freshest Summer produce, then, seems to write itself; artichokes, asparagus, broad beans, peas, fennel, Jersey Royals, runner beans…how good does that all sound? Throw in some locally caught whole fish, grilled to perfection, or a whole joint of meat for the carnivores in the group, and your dinner party menu feels almost poetic. It certainly sings of better times ahead, don’t you think?

Ideal tip: Being stuck in the kitchen, flapping over the sides instead of charming and taking care of your guests, is never a good look. Make your life easy by preparing what you can in advance. Or make your life even easier, and ask all your guests to bring a dish with them. Or, make your live even easier and consider hiring a private chef from companies like Harper Fine Dining. Just a thought…

Consider The Weather

When planning what you’re going to serve, it’s essential to take that incalculable British weather into consideration, as much as is possible and predictable. Those carb-heavy foods that we’re loving right now might be a bit much for a warm summer’s day, but if it’s a bit overcast and there’s a chill in the air, then they might be just the ticket. 

During summer, fresh, vibrant and light ingredients are best when it comes to garden parties. A barbecue is, of course, appropriate whatever the weather – but does having one turn it into a BBQ party rather than a garden party? Whilst it’s only semantics after all, do think about how you bill your party. There are some serious pedants out there. 

Read: How to grill a whole fish on the BBQ

A Memorable Drink 

Who can resist some carefully crafted cocktails and mocktails using that seasonal British fruit we just mentioned? 

Indeed, a drink muddled with seasonal fruit shows real class and care, and it’s something your guests will just love. The BBC has a great roundup of summer cocktail recipes here, but if you’re looking for a single showstopper, then consider a Watermelon Margaritas, served in a hollowed out baby watermelon. These guys take the refreshing levels way up. What a centrepiece!  

We’re also fans of super refreshing Grapefruit Palomas, a popular cocktail in Mexico that’s similar to a Margarita. While grapefruit can be an acquired taste, in a cocktail it’s refreshing, light, and with just a little fizz – perfect for sunny garden parties. Mixing this drink also creates a beautiful light pink hue that looks brilliant in the sun. 

\We also love to serve homemade strawberry lemonade for those not drinking; it’s important to make as much effort with the non-alcoholic drinks, we think. 

Have A ‘Dine Anywhere’ Approach 

An easy way to feed guests, especially in the garden, is to put together (or order in) a selection of food platters rather than having a sit-down meal. 

Grazing platters are so on-trend right now and come in a whole host of different shapes and sizes, from antipasti to tapas, meze, cheese and even dessert platters. However, be sure to keep things with wings away from your platters. A simple covering will do or consider an outdoor electric battery-powered fan to keep bugs at bay.

One bowl wonders – a large central dish such as risotto, curry or chilli – are another great ‘dine anywhere’ option, and can either be served by wait staff if you are having caterers in or are great if you’re keen for guests to simply help themselves. 

The ‘dine anywhere’ approach means guests can perch wherever they like as they eat, giving everyone a much-needed chance to catch up with friends and family. Because, regardless of the quality of your food, that’s what it’s all about, right?

What Makes a Great Host?

But what makes a great host? Well, the ideal host is one who facilitates conversation when required, introduces people, pours drinks, cracks jokes and generally makes people smile. 

Obviously, at a foodie garden party, a fair amount of the hosting credibility is earned from the dishes served, but none of that warm welcome we just described is possible when you’re chained to the stoves inside whilst the party goes on outdoors and without them.

Accordingly, what perhaps makes the best host on such occasions is fuss-free but delicious food. So, make a menu that’s seasonal, big on the flavours and colours of summer, but most importantly of all, has elements that you can prepare in advance.

The Bottom Line

We can’t wait for summer and all that sunkissed socialising. If you’re just as excited about hosting as you are attending all those garden parties, then we’re sure you’re going to smash it! 

Now, can we expect our invite in the post?

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