Christopher Robbins

Simple entertaining at home

ENJOY a night of fine wine and food without having to worry about paying the bill at the end of the evening.

How?  Host an event in the comfort of your own home.

The idea of inviting guests into your home, whether it's for a formal dinner, barbecue or to celebrate a special event, can seem overwhelming.

But Juliet Love, who is a stylist, interior designer and host of the Lifestyle Channel's TV show The Party Garden, said the effort could be a lot of fun.

"Sometimes people let the 'stress' of holding an event in their own home interfere with their enjoyment of the process," Ms Love said.

"With good planning, hosting an event at home does not need to be stressful at all.

"My advice to those wanting to entertain at home is always the same: have fun with it."

Preparing the home and feeding a crowd of guests can sound expensive but Ms Love said most people were surprised to hear that the process did not have to be costly.

"You just need to be a little inventive and well-organised.  Research recipes that you can prepare in advance and ones that will feed lots of hungry mouths, have friends assist by bringing something to contribute - punch or dessert for example," she said.

"Some of the best events I have been to haven't been the ones with the biggest budget.  it's all about the atmosphere."

For those on a budget, Ms Love said working out a theme first and sticking to one or two colours to co-ordinate was a great way to cut costs.

"Use inexpensive fabric in a clever way: that is, as tablecloths, to drape walls or to wrap around glass jam jars with pretty ribbon to hold flowers or cutlery.  If you use the same fabric across those elements, it will all tie together.  Candles are also an inexpensive way to add impact to an event in the evening.  Candles lit enmass on tables, in hanging lanterns or lined up pathways look very pretty and are cost-effective," Ms Love advised.

She said party hosts should also pay attention to detail and 'create a welcoming environment' for your guests.

"Make an effort with invitations and decor, and tie all of your elements together - from colour scheme and music, food and beverages.  Guests will notice these touches and appreciate the work that has gone into them," Ms Love said.

She said de-cluttering and spring cleaning the house to have it looking its best, being a gracious, well-organised host, using background music to add atmosphere, plus great food and wine were all vital to successful entertaining at home.

The owner of Noosa's The Cooking Company and Food by The Cooking Company, Jeroo Pavri, said cooking for a crowd did not have to cost a fortune.

Learning how to cook cheaper cuts of meat well was one tip Ms Pavri gave.

"With the economy the way it is, a lot of chefs are going back to cheaper cuts of meat," Ms Pavri said.

To help save time in the kitchen and help avoid experiencing stress mode before any home entertaining event, Ms Pavri listed some must-have cookware items.

She said a Kitchen Aid mixer was a useful appliance to have in the kitchen, especially for those who enjoy baking.  She said the Kitchen Aid mixer could be used for a number of different purposes, from creating desserts to making pizza dough.

Ms Pavri said a quality set of knives was another kitchen essential.  She named Kasumi knives as a great buy and, although they may cost a little more than others, a good set of knives would last at least 10 to 15 years.

As a fan of slow-cooking, Ms Pavri said Le Creuset's cast iron cookware was also handy to own, as well as a MicroPlane grater and a quality anodised frypan.

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