While I like to keep things relaxed, I have a loose schedule at the back of my mind to ensure nobody gets too peckish:
Arrival - make sure you have nibbly snacks like crisps, crudites and dips, spiced chickpeas or nuts, available for people to snack on when they arrive and definitely as you start serving drinks (we don't want everyone sozzled within the first 30 minutes!) This is especially important if people have had a long journey to get to you, or if you haven't fixed a firm arrival time.
|Image from http://www.chowhound.com/recipes/spicy-oven-roasted-chickpeas-30368|
Dinner (between 2-3 hours later) - Whilst the idea of preparing a fabulous banquet really appeals to me, in practice, it just ends up adding extra stress, and often means time spent away from your guests. Far better to prepare something simple and tasty that requires minimal effort on the night, allowing you to join in on the party! My favourite dinner options are things that can be made in advance - a chilli or a lasagne would be perfect - or something that you can pop in the oven without much interference like roast chicken with lemon, herbs and garlic. Make a few big salads, some rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes, and you have a simple, delicious meal that you can easily scale up depending on the size of your party.
If you want to make life really easy, opt for a takeaway. My friends and I share a love of the Indian takeaway near to where we all grew up, so this weekend, the only effort I'll be putting into dinner is making a phone call and warming the plates - heaven! Not only is this easy, but there's a nice touch of nostalgia for all of us.
After dinner - An after-dinner cheese board is essential in my book: my friends and I are big cheese lovers. I love this guide to building the perfect cheese board from The Every Girl: the addition of a piece of honeycomb sent us all over the edge at Christmas - so delicious!
|Image from http://theeverygirl.com/how-to-build-the-ultimate-cheese-board|
|Image from http://www.tarteletteblog.com/2015/04/recipegluten-free-flourless-chocolate.html?crlt.pid=camp.NE9X0UwC7xkp|
|Image from http://www.evakolenko.com/food-h/#1663|