Hosting a dinner party can be great fun, but it can also cause a lot of stress. And even the most experienced and well-organized host will occasionally be caught off-guard - perhaps because a friend has announced they’re coming into town at the last minute, or perhaps because an event has been missed off the calendar. On these occasions, it’s important to have an arsenal of quick and easy last-minute dinner party menu ideas ready to whip into action.
Buddha Bowl Bar
With the rise of vegan, gluten-free, paleo and raw diets, it can be difficult to keep track of what all your friends are eating, never mind navigating standard food allergies. And with a last-minute dinner party, you’re unlikely to have time to ask around. Buffet dinners mean that your guests can pick and choose according to their own tastes, and they’re a fun twist on traditional sit-down meals.
The Buddha bowl is relatively new to the culinary scene, but it’s set to be one of the top food trends in 2017. It’s healthy, tasty and fits in well with buffet-style eating. One of the biggest advantages is that you can include whatever ingredients you want, but if you’re looking for some inspiration, have a look at The Lunchbox Season’s recipe.
Persian food is enjoying the spotlight in Europe lately as the year’s up-and-coming cuisine. If you want to truly impress your dinner party guests and prove that your cooking skills are right on trend, whip up a Southern Iranian dal adas. It’s deceptively easy to make but packed full of flavor, and it’s easy to make in big portions to cater for larger events.
It also requires fairly few ingredients, and can often be made with the spices and flavorings that you keep in your cupboard. The central ingredient - lentils - keep well, so you can stash some in the pantry in case of you need an emergency dinner idea. For a simple, straightforward recipe, check out Tumeric & Saffron’s blog.
Paella is another dish that’s great for making in big batches, so it’s perfect for events with a large or fluctuating guest list. It’s also another dish that you can add anything you like to, so there’s no need for panic shopping for your last-minute dinner party. While it can take a while to cook, all you need to do is leave the heat on low, so you can focus on getting ready and tidying and setting up the house ready for your guests.
Deliciously Ella’s vegetarian paella is a creamy and healthy dish that uses coconut milk mixed with brown rice and veggies. It also comes with a few suggestions for customizing your meal: bulk it up with some boiled potatoes, or satisfy your meat-eating friends with fish fillets or prawns.
Salmon With Salsa
Salmon is famously quick to cook - you can prepare a fillet in just ten minutes. It’s also a widely popular yet sophisticated choice, and this combination of qualities makes it the perfect centerpiece for a last-minute dinner party meal. The mild taste means it takes on other flavors well, so you can experiment with different ingredients.
Good Housekeeping’s Ginger Crusted Salmon with Melon Salsa adds a fruity and exotic twist that’ll have your guests talking long after they’ve left. The recipe requires a bit of shopping (unless you have a particularly well-stocked kitchen) but the super-quick 35-minute preparation leaves plenty of time for a trip to the supermarket.
If you’re looking for a fail-safe dinner, you can’t really go wrong with pizza. Your guests are almost guaranteed to like it, and you can make it as simple or as topping-packed as you like. The temptation might be to order in, but making it yourself not only adds an extra elegance to the affair but also means you can get creative with your flavor combinations.
Instead of a simple mozzarella or “Mighty Meaty”, try something different like the Red Grape Pizza from Jamie Oliver. The sweet tastes of grape and honey are balanced out by pecorino cheese and rosemary in this aromatic twist on a classic dish. You can even make individual pizzas if you want extra points for presentation.
Pumpkin & Feta Slice
There are some ingredients that make a meal instantly more impressive, and both feta and pumpkin are on that list. The Kidspot Roast Pumpkin & Feta Slice recipe is great for those parties when you want to impress but don’t have time for a lot of fuss. It’s also one that’s sure to be popular with all ages, so you can serve it at a family gathering as easily as a dinner party among friends.
The great thing about savory slices is that you can make them in advance and then simply reheat or serve cold, but this recipe is also fairly quick and easy to make on the spot for those unexpected guests. And you can change it from a light meal to a heartier one by swapping out a side salad for roasted potatoes.
Sometimes, an occasion comes up last minute but still calls for something sophisticated. BBC Good Food’s recipe for Pan-Fried Venison in Blackberry Sauce is a fusion recipe using the best of old and new culinary trends. Venison is a time-honored treat for meat aficionados, while purple foods are set to take 2017 by storm. It’s the perfect main course on a dinner party menu that’s traditional while remaining on trend.
While the ingredients might make this venison seem like a fancy dish, it actually only takes around 25 minutes to prepare and uses staple seasonings that many of us have in the cupboard anyway - making it a great choice for a last-minute dinner party. Serve it with a side of mashed potatoes and two veg for a meal that’ll leave your guests feeling full and satisfied.
Even when you’re short on time, there’s no need to skimp out on taste. Having these recipes close to hand will help eliminate last-minute dinner party panic. After all, with this many delicious dishes on offer, you wouldn’t want stress to spoil your appetite!