AUTUMN INSPIRATION: Dinner Party Season

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Autumn is a time of plenty. What better time than to start celebrating food with friends than to strike up a tradition of dinner parties to help get you through the oncoming winter? Learn the four best themes to get everyone excited and enthusiastic about inviting you over for dinner…

As the seasons turn, my stomach and brain lurches into gear, ever so slowly cranking the cogs of cog-nition to tardily change my culinary cravings and degustation desires. I find myself unconsciously substituting food like lime with lemon, salads with stews and sunny bbq’s for Sunday roasts.

But, Autumn is definitely not a time  to shut up shop and add an extra dollop of butter to your food to help cheer the chill of winter. No, Autumn is a time of plenty. Auburn gold sunsets to match the hue of the sweetest fresh cut pumpkins. The fresh crisp mornings to match the bite of the new season apple and the stilling of buzzing insects that calms the heart as surely as seeing a plate of new season baby potatoes slathered in butter, salt and mint leaves.

The amazing fresh produce coming into season can only leave me signing from the treetops – ‘the list will go on’ to the tune of Celine Dion. I then go and help myself to a juicy green pear and a handful of new season walnuts to distract my diva addled brain. Is there a better way to get an annoying tune out of your head?

If summer makes you feel like a kid again, all excited, energetic and exuberant, then Autumn is a time of sophisticated adulthood. A time to enjoy warming spices, earthy onions and maybe a booze laden tiramisu or two! Autumn is the perfect opportunity to strike while the weather is (relatively) hot and start up a dinner club. A regular dinner evening will help you get through to next summer as surely a square of dark chocolate will get you through your mid afternoon sugar crash.

Don’t know how to go about convincing your friends to go to the ‘extra’ effort of reciprocating your dinner invitations? After all, holding a dinner party can be scary and daunting to many. The key is to make a tradition of it. Of course traditions are built over time, but there are ways to get the ball rolling. Start up a Facebook group and invite all  of your culinary enthusiastic friends (that should be everyone so you may have to be more selective somehow). Give the group a regular (ish) meeting period – say once a month – and some ground rules, e.g. everyone must take a turn to host and how other people are invited into the group. Also most importantly of all give the group a purpose. Here are some ideas for dinner group themes:

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Idea 1 – Seasonal ingredients that run through the alphabet A-Z

The first host will have to choose a main ingredient that starts with A and feature it in all of their dishes. For example, if one was to choose apples they may cook a meal with an entree of oyster beignets served in the shell with apple and fennel slaw or maybe just a Waldorf salad. The main might include roast pork with apple sauce or an apple cider stew. For dessert you may cook something like an apple crumble or tarte tatin. The next dinner party would then move on to B  i.e. beetroots, bacon, beans, banana, barley and so on. And of course you don’t have to have three course meals – whatever suits your group’s need. You may want to make your meetings a decadent all day cooking affair – something really special – to show off your cooking skills to each other. Or you may want to make  it a simple salad group. Up to you of course.

Idea 2 – Around the world in 80 dinner parties

Each dinner party will feature a different cuisine from around the world. This means that you will get to try a smorgasbord of flavours and possibly even push yourselves to  learn new techniques and recipes. It is pretty self explanatory, but you can either choose yourselves what cuisine you want to cook, you can go through alphabetically again or you can draw countries out of the hat if you really want to challenge yourselves. The cuisines and dishes up for grabs are truly inspiring.

Idea 3 – Food to match the game

In this dinner party setting you would make games the centre-piece. This gives your group a fun excuse to meet up and have a night filled with games…and food of course. In this scenario you would have a heap of games to choose from: Charades, Celebrity, Scrabble, Poker, 500, Monopoly (actually probably best avoided), Risk (again at your own risk) or Pictionary etc. Now all of these games conjure up similar but slightly different ideas of food.

For example, poker brings to mind pizza, whisky and cigars. But all games usually have some kind of party/bar food attached to them. Tacos, chips and dip, pizza, burgers, fish fingers, fried chicken, fondue, empanadas, tapas the list could go on. BUT, this is not an excuse to go buy frozen crappy foods from the supermarket and heat them up in your oven. No. Snack foods and party foods can be extremely satisfying to make and impress the fussiest critics. Things like making a home-made recipe of KFC but use quail instead of chicken. Make home-made fries or the tastiest home-style kebabs. There is a wealth of h’orderves that can be both healthy and exciting if you want to steer away from more pub themed food.

Idea 4 – Making and baking crew

In this scenario your excuse for getting together is to make things. Autumn, being a time of plenty, is the perfect time to turn the abundance of produce into pickles, jams, sauces and brews. What better excuse to invite your friends over to share the labour of making something worthwhile into something to savour throughout the year. It may be brewing beer, ginger beer or wine. Or it may be turning plums into jam, or tomatoes into sauce or cabbage into sauerkraut. Other ideas include chilli sauces, quince paste, miso, vinegar or cheese. Either way, this is work that would otherwise be a chore that can be turned into a fun day spent with those you cherish.

Invite your friends over, give them some beers or wine,put on some nibbles and enjoy the process of making food into something special. Make a club out of it and share the fruits of your labour together throughout the year.

I hope that gives you some inspiration to go start up a dinner club with your friends and start celebrating food and life like it was meant to be. Autumn the time of harvest has always been a time of celebration and coming together.

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