How to host the perfect summer garden party
What does a host need to consider before planning a summer garden party?
“I always start with the menu. Summer is the perfect opportunity to showcase beautiful British ingredients such as peas, broad beans, radishes, strawberries and raspberries.”
What do you think works better for a garden party: a sit-down, multi-course meal or finger food?
“I prefer to keep things simple and lay a table like a banquet, with large bowls and platters of food and stacks of plates and cutlery for people to help themselves to.”
What dishes work best?
“Simply prepared food, straight from the garden, is hard to beat. Sliced tomatoes with a little extra-virgin olive oil and scattering of sea salt, delicate herb salad and strawberry-ice cream all showcase summer flavours beautifully.”
Name your must-serve summer-party dishes
“Salt-baked sea-bream is always a real crowd pleaser, especially pour Pernod over the encrusted fish and light it. Grilling courgettes until blackened and charred and serving them with aged pecorino and a light drizzle of good-quality honey is a simple but perfectly balanced dish. In the height of summer, a large bowl of ripe strawberries, served with a jug of double cream and brown-sugar meringues (which can be easily prepared in advance) makes a lovely ending to an evening and will be enjoyed by all ages.”
What about beverages?
“After collecting and making many bottles of elderflower cordial, I still think it is my favourite. It is a very refreshing, floral syrup and very versatile; it can be topped up with champagne or sparking water.”
Which desserts work well in the summer?
“British berries are at their very best: both ripe and fragrant. I always find the choice a little overwhelming after waiting so long for everything to come into season.”
All hosts want to make sure all their guests are catered for – what exciting vegetarian dishes do you recommend?
“Blistering whole baby vine tomatoes over a barbecue and serving them with good-quality sheep’s ricotta and salmoriglio [an Italian salsa, a bit like gremolata].”
How do you decide on your guestlist?
“I invite my family and friends. Everyone brings their children and dogs, all tumbling over the lawn, and it’s a wonderful chance to catch up.”
What are your three must-haves to create the perfect dinner-party atmosphere?
“Good-quality ingredients will always shine through and make a difference; scented wild flowers to dress the table; and lighting should be soft and warm.”
Do you have any advice on table presentation?
“The key is to have plenty of ingredients like unwaxed leafy lemons, artichokes and whole cheeses out on the table, keeping the focus on food.”
Do you have any exciting recipes to share with our readers that they could recreate for their own garden parties?
“I’ve been working with British Summer Fruits to create a Taste of Summer Menu that showcases beautiful berries. We’re fortunate to have some of the best berries grown here in Britain. Tart, fragrant and sweet, berries are an adaptable ingredient for summer dishes, such as blackberry-cured salmon and strawberry and elderflower granita.”