Eleanor Ozich shares her tips for an easy-going alfresco dinner party

It’s easy to plan a successful summer gathering for friends and family. Eleanor Ozich shares her top tips for an easy Christmas dinner party

Eleanor Ozich easy Christmas dinner party

As the days become longer, we spend more time dining al fresco, making it the perfect season to bring friends and loved ones together for a meal, lockdown permitting. Spring also brings a selection of beautiful produce to enjoy and invites us to eat in a light, fresh and delicious way. My idea of the perfect evening is the kind of get-together where conversation flows effortlessly – a natural kind of entertaining that’s relaxed, intentional and thoughtful.

We often believe dinner parties need to be fancy, complex and time-consuming. However,I believe you can approach entertaining by welcoming a relaxed and unconventional setting that gives your guests far more intriguing memories.

Here are five tips for creating an unforgettable and laid-back dinner setting that your loved ones will enjoy.

Eleanor Ozich easy Christmas dinner party

Planning your menu

First of all, how many people are you cooking for? If there are more than four guests, I suggest you avoid any fiddly or complex recipes and select from those you know are forgiving – the kind that will sit happily in a warm oven or on the stovetop until you are ready.
Don’t bother with starters or various courses, and instead opt for a help-yourself style of meal.

If you have to jump up continually to plate up the next dish, you’ll interrupt the flow of conversation and disrupt the easy-going vibe of an evening. Instead of a starter, you might like to offer a simple plate of charcuterie or cheese for guests. This option is perfect for keeping guests happy while pottering around in the kitchen and adding any last touches to the main dishes.

Setting the table

Might I suggest doing without the usual table settings and arranging an artfully placed stack of plates for guests to help themselves to, instead? There’s a time and place for traditional table settings; however, I love the ramshackle quality of a table setting where guests can pick up their own plate and cutlery, then choose to sit wherever they please.

A little charm

Beautiful little details can add charm to even the smallest of occasions. I love creating a setting that feels rustic, considered, yet un-done at the same time. Whether it’s small jars filled with fresh herbs, or vintage napkins folded artfully, these are the things that will add character to your table. Wildflowers are also a way to highlight the season’s beauty. I love to arrange blooms and foliage among the serveware, or place a large vase at the end of the table, filled with blossoms. Whole cloves of garlic, lemons, or fruit such as figs or apples can also look stunning.

Ambient lighting

Imagine an early evening picnic surrounding a bonfire or a cosy dinner accented with the flicker of candlelight. Candles shouldn’t compete with the fragrance of what you’re serving for dinner, so use unscented beeswax or soy candles.

Finishing touches

All it takes to create a dish that looks as marvellous as it tastes are a few thoughtful touches and a little bit of love. The saying “you eat with your eyes” is true – thoughtfully executed food inevitably leads to a more enjoyable meal. Think about where you can add colour to your dishes. Whether it be edible flowers on top of the salad, or fresh herbs scattered on top of a bland-looking dish, these sweet little details add flavour, too. The final touch is an opportunity to show that you care. Like all good things in life, it’s the little things that count.

Words and photography by: Eleanor Ozich

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