I love entertaining and throwing dinner parties! I love the anticipation and build up throughout the day, then, when people finally start tucking into the food that we’ve made, and you see the look of pure enjoyment on their face – I couldn’t think of anything better!
Being vegan doesn’t mean you can’t throw fabulous dinner parties for all of your friends, in fact, I probably do it more now than I did before. Think of it as the perfect opportunity to show off to everyone how delicious vegan food can be. It may seem like a daunting task to impress all of your guests (vegans and non-vegans alike), with a meal that will please everyone, but with a little bit of thought and planning, you can ensure everyone has a great evening.
We’ve compiled our top tips, alongside a menu suggestion that we’ve previously tried and tested – we think it’s a winner!
PLANNING THE MENU
The first and most important thing you need to decide is what food you’re going to serve your guests. Are you hosting the dinner party for a special occasion? We threw ours for a friends birthday, so we planned the meal specifically around the food that she loves.
The easiest way to start is to go with a theme or a cuisine, like Mexican, where everyone can share & help themselves, and then build your menu around that. We decided to go with Italian, as it’s our friends favourite kind of food. We also felt that lots of Italian dishes could be easily ‘veganised’, whilst still tasting authentic.
Our aim is always to impress people with the wonders of vegan cooking. A lot of the time people already have their preconceptions that vegan food will be bland and not very filling. So, when considering your menu, try to serve up food that is packed with flavour and is super hearty and filling. Our aim is always to hear our guests exclaim “wow, I can’t believe this is vegan?!”.
Just because you’re going to be wowing everyone with your cooking skills, doesn’t mean things have to be complicated! We’re all for buying things pre-made from the supermarket if necessary. You don’t always have to make that pastry from scratch or handcraft a vegan cheese every time. It’s ok to save yourself time and buy things ready-made, especially as there are so many amazing vegan products available out there – show these off to your guests too!
OUR MEAL SUGGESTIONS
Have some nibbles out on the table for when people arrive to get them started before you bring out the first course. It’s nice to be able to sit and chat with a drink before diving straight into the main meal.
- Antipasti: olives, sun-dried tomatoes & artichokes – simple, tasty & easy to prepare
This is the first course you serve so you want it to set the tone for the rest of the meal. Choose something light and flavoursome that’ll leave people wanting more.
- Bruschetta with tomato and basil – an Italian classic
For the main event, you can either go for one pre-plated dish or a range of dishes that people help themselves to from the table. We went for the latter, as we prefer a more casual feel.
- Tagliatelle Alla bolognese – Simple, I know, but our recipe is always such a crowd-pleaser
- Bistro salad
The dessert is your chance to show off and surprise people. Go for something indulgent and maybe use some unexpected ingredients that non-vegans wouldn’t expect. i.e. a super creamy sauce made from coconut milk or cashews.
- Boozy nectarines and cream with a pecan and ginger nut crumb
Although I would never forget about the wine at a dinner party, you might not consider making sure your drinks are vegan; lots of alcohol isn’t, especially beer and wine. Check the labels when buying, supermarkets are getting much better at doing this! Lots of supermarkets also have specific vegan wine categories online, which saves you the hassle of checking every label (yawn!) You can also use this really helpful website to help you find vegan-friendly alcohol: http://www.barnivore.com/
Try and plan your meal about a week before, so you give yourself lots of time to get all your food in. It’s always a bonus if you can prepare food beforehand, things like desserts can usually be done the day before and be left in the fridge overnight. On the day itself, I like to give myself a good afternoon to do all the cooking and to make sure the house looks nice. This way I don’t feel frantic and stressed out when people arrive.
SETTING THE ATMOSPHERE
Last but not least, when all the food prep is done, you need to create the atmosphere. Set the table with your best dinnerware, light some nice candles and add some fresh flowers to the table. People always appreciate it when you’ve made some effort, and it makes the evening feel that much more special. You also want to think about having some good music on in the background. We’re not that into having overly soft relaxing music at a dinner party, we want people to have fun, not fall asleep! We’ll usually pick from one of our more energetic Spotify playlists, which includes the likes of Stevie Wonder, Chic and Prince…Charlie’s a pretty big disco fan!
So, you’ve invited your guests, planned the menu, and set the atmosphere, the main thing now is that you relax and enjoy the evening with your friends or family. I think that’s the key to throwing a good dinner party, vegan or not!
Our friend took these two lovely photos on her film camera on the night, find here: @frankiemarkot
If you’ve found our tips helpful, or you’ve tried out our meal suggestion, we’d love to know! Leave us a comment below, or find us on social media.