The best parties take place in the kitchen

The best parties take place in the kitchen

A sumptuous buffet in the living room, a great gala dinner in a restaurant – both are really wonderful events, but nothing can compete with the exuberant emotions and laid-back feel of a kitchen party. Some guests casually lean against the sink with a sparkling drink in their hand; others chop vegetables together while excitedly exchanging the latest gossip and bobbing happily to the beat of the music. Read on to find food writer Verena Lugert’s tips on how to plan the best kitchen party.  

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Verena Lugert

A theme as a thread for your party 

If you have a theme for your kitchen party, it helps to create a selection of dishes that go well together. Bavarian white sausage with sweet mustard, Korean kimchi and Hawaii pizza don’t really go well together, but dishes from specific countries do: so why not have a Spanish evening with various tapas, a huge paella and crema Catalana? Or how about a South-East Asian evening with Vietnamese spring rolls, a fragrant Thai chicken soup with lime, coconut and coriander, and shrimp dumplings with a fish sauce and chilli dip and sticky rice with fresh mango?  

But you don’t necessarily have to stick to a specific country or region. I have already thrown a ‘lemon party’ at which every dish featured notes of this yellow citrus fruit. Another idea is a nostalgia party, with dishes that remind guests of their childhood: you could start, for example, with bright green pea soup jazzed up with a twist of bacon & cream and mint & lemon oil. Next, you could serve pasta with meatballs following a special recipe by Marcella Hazan, the American doyenne of Italian cuisine. For dessert, you could prepare classic spaghetti ice-cream with home-made vanilla ice-cream made from hand-mixed Tahitian vanilla custard.  

For another party I put together a menu featuring exclusively pistachio green, blackberry purple and pastel yellow dishes. It’s best to let people know the theme when you invite them as this creates more excitement and anticipation among the guests and the host alike.

Perfect preparation  

A kitchen party is not a cooking class, it’s all about enjoyment and having fun together. Not every guest has to take part in the cooking, they can do as they please. Everyone can do what they enjoy the most, whether it’s chopping, stirring, kneading – or taking care of the entertainment.  

It’s always a good idea to prepare a few things in advance, especially those which take a while: for example, a focaccia dough needs time to rise so you should prepare it beforehand. Or if you plan to use shitake mushrooms, put them in water to soften before the party begins. Have some dips and nibbles ready in the fridge for when your guests arrive, that way no one has to cook on an empty stomach.


How to get the quantities just right 

Kitchen parties are generally laid-back, casual affairs. People tend to nibble and chat while standing, but they may wish to take a short break at times and sit at the kitchen counter or table or on the couch. It’s all about chatting, celebrating and socialising. What makes a kitchen party really special is the fact that guests mingle with each other instead of sitting in a set place at a table.  

Therefore, for a kitchen party you don’t necessarily have to choose dishes that can be eaten at a laid table. Tasty snacks in little bowls are best, that way people can pick at them every now and again with their fingers or a fork and spoon. 

My tip for getting the portions right: for ten guests I recommend that you plan five different dishes to serve around four people each. Then offer each dish in mini portions so that your guests can try a bit of everything.  

So beautifully presented  

When your guests arrive, it’s a good idea to have the most important things to hand – but it doesn’t have to be too perfect! Take out a couple of chopping boards, knives, bowls, pots, a grater, a hand blender, some scales – that way people won’t have to keep asking you where things are. 

You could also attractively arrange a few ingredients in advance, such as green limes, purple grapes, sliced candy cane beetroot, mild marjoram in a pot, fragrant lemon verbena, velvety peaches, juicy strawberries or deep-red beef tomatoes. With this simple arrangement you can conjure up a colourful market stand feel. 

It’s also a good idea to prepare a recipe card in advance for each dish. You could even write it by hand for a particularly attentive touch. A bunch of bright flowers always makes a great eye-catcher, and a variety of drinks should be chilled in advance. Background music is good, especially if it reflects the party theme. At any rate, you should prepare some finger food as appetizers because it’s hard to cook with a rumbling stomach.  

Then what? Let the evening run its course – it’s bound to be a success. After all, the best parties take place in the kitchen!


The best BORA recipes for your next kitchen party

We have come up with five oriental BORA recipes as inspiration for your next kitchen party: