The Friday Five – Summer Party Time


Bring on the summer parties


It’s that time of year when we have a handful of birthdays to celebrate and also the thought of just gathering a few, or even a lot of, friends around the big table outside to celebrate the one decent day of sunshine of the summer. I don’t need much excuse to cook for a group, and often serve them up new dishes.

Let’s face it, they’re my loved ones, so you’d hope they’d forgive the occasional recipe mishap.

Yes, Mat, I know, you hated my gluten free bread.

It was 8 years ago.

I think you have to let it go.

So, if you fancy some inspiration for a big gathering, here’s five great books to give you plenty of ideas to keep you entertained as a cook, not just your guests.


Cook up a Feast with Mary Berry & Lucy Young


Cook up a Feast

Let’s face it, Mary Berry has definitely cooked up a few gatherings in her time, and given how long her writing relationship with Lucy has been, then these two know a thing about tried and tested crowd pleasing dishes. I mean, bacon and water chestnut bites with mango chutney sound like my kind of nibble to stave people off whilst I’m finishing off cooking. And a Moroccan platter sounds like a good sharing plate. What’s lovely about Mary’s books are that it’s a little bit of everything good to eat, not in loads of depth but enough to give you some great dishes.


Mezze: Small Plates to Share


Mezze – Small Plates to Share by Ghillie Basan

Now, this title desribes exactly the kind of thing I love to serve for a get together. I love Mediterranean flavours, and a platter of great dips and good breads, maybe some cold meats, some feta and watermelon…well, it’s summer on a platter to me. There are recipes for cold and hot dishes, as well as sweet, so something for everyone. Or just make a huge bowl of something like the labna with saffron, apricots and pistachios and stuff for dipping and that might do the trick.


Party Perfect Bites


Party-perfect bites

If it’s smaller bits you want to serve, then this is a great book, without things being over-engineered or poncey. This has sections inspired by different cuisines from the Americas to India. Fun to make, easy to eat, more time for garden games. Or cocktails


Terry & George - Feeding Friends


Terry & George – Feeding Friends

I’ve never heard of Terry and George, but given Mark Hix seems to rate them, that’ll do for me. They’re apparently famous for pop up events and are apparently Britain’s most fashionable foodies according to some. But it sounds appealing in this is classic British dishes with a twist, a sense of fun, and they sound delicious. Also says the recipes are filled with northern soul, so as a long time northerner, sounds good to me.


Thug Kitchen Party Grub


Thug Kitchen Party Grub: Eat Clean, Party Hard

A summer party does not mean huge chunks of grilled meat for some. I featured Thug Kitchen’s first book, and this one covers how to make vegan parties inspiring and delicious. Starting at breakfast, this runs all the way through amazing dinners to desserts and even the cocktails. Irreverent but delicious ideas.

So, it’s been a pretty rubbish summer so far, so let’s hope there are some sunny days ahead to enjoy food outdoors, jugs of Pimms, some cold beers, the sound of Jenga blocks collapsing and general laughter and merriment. Sounds like bliss to me. What’s your standby summer party dish?


The Friday Five – entertaining entertaining


I am preparing for a houseful this weekend, I think 27 at last count. Youngest is 18 months,  and the oldest…well, the birthday boy is belatedly celebrating his 70th. And it’s the first time the two extended families have met. Which means the food needs to facilitate good conversation and good memories.

There are plenty of family favourites to work from, but if your entertaining needs a dose of inspiration then how about some of these?


Martha's Entertaining - perfect gift for a food lover who loves to entertain


Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations – I love Martha Stewart. I wish I had the time to make my events as wonderful looking as hers but I don’t, but at least I can pinch a few ideas and take things up at least a notch! This is about the full thing: the food, the drinks, the table settings, the decorations. Sadly we don’t have the weather or, in my case, the garden acreage for some of these things, but lovely to look at!


You're All Invited - perfect gift for a food lover who loves to entertain


You’re All Invited: Margot’s Recipes for Entertaining – this is much more about the food, and oh what food! I like that this says it covers dinner for 15 or drinks and canapes for 50, or even just a good family lunch. I’m a great admirer of Margot’s, think she’s been a little overshadowed by Fergus, but this book shows that she really is fantastic cook and writer.


Friends at my table - perfect gift for a food lover who loves to entertain


Friends at My Table: A year of eating, drinking and making merry – I’ve written about Alice Hart’s book before, and it’s definitely on my wish list. It’s about seasonal food with friends, which I can’t think of much that is better in the world. I just need someone now to hold a Vietnamese bridal shower for!


Entertaining Solo - perfect gift for a food lover who likes to entertain small numbers


Entertaining Solo: Delicious Recipes for Single Cooks who Like to Entertain – I thought this was a bit of an oxymoron at first, a party for one. But it turns it out is more about turning out great food when it’s just you in the kitchen. I take it that it means something a bit more unusual than just a big bowl of chilli and all the accompaniments!


Instant Entertaining - perfect gift for food lovers who love to entertain, quickly


Instant Entertaining – I don’t own any Donna Hay cookbooks (should I?) but I always love the photography. And I like the premise of this book which is about fitting entertaining into our everyday lives, which she acknowledges are incredibly busy. As Shirley Conran said, life is too short to stuff a mushroom, and this at least gives some very decent alternatives.

Personally, this weekend I am happy that there are some dishes that I made on quieter days that are sat in the freezer just waiting for days like this. That, and an early morning delivery from Ocado. Yes, you still can’t beat a few sausage rolls going into the oven at the last minute! Wish me luck!