Potluck: How to host the perfect bring-a-dish dinner party
Food in winter shouldn’t be budget beans on toast for one. It should be indulgent and shared with friends. So, this January, a potluck party is just what you need.
Never heard of it? A potluck dinner party is where you and your friends get together at one of your houses, and you all bring a home-cooked dish for everyone to share.
Interested? Here’s how to do it.
How to organise a potluck dinner party
The good news is, as host, you get to make your flat all nice and entertain your friends. You also get to cook in the comfort of your own kitchen without having to worry about carrying your food somewhere else.
The bad news? You have to organise this thing. That’s probably going to involve a shared spreadsheet, and a fair bit of Whatsappery.
Here’s what I suggest you do.
1) Pick a theme
Choose a country and base your meal around its food. Down below you’ll find a suggestion for an Italian potluck feast. Other solid options are Greek, Mexican, and Indian.
2) Choose your menu
Two big mains, two big sides, two big desserts. That’s plenty for six people. If you like surprises, just assign people to a course. If you don’t, give them a specific recipe.
3) Create a Whatsapp group
Add everyone to a group chat so it’s easy to ask questions. Put the time and date in the description so you don’t get bombarded with ‘When’s the party again?’ messages.
4) Start a shareable spreadsheet
Who’s cooking what? When should they arrive? Is there a spending limit? Does anybody have special dietary needs? Put it all in a Google sheet and give everybody access.
5) Tell people what else to bring
Plates, cutlery, glasses. It's unlikely you’ll have enough for six people in your student flat, so get your guests to chip in.
6) Make a playlist
Or, just use this ready-made one: 100 Greatest Dinner Party Songs playlist on Spotify.
How to make an Italian feast for six people
There’s an obvious typo in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He lists ‘food’ as a basic physical requirement for human survival. But he meant ‘Italian food’, we all know that.
Italian food is a gift from the culinary gods. And since many of our favourite Italian dishes are so straightforward, it’s a no-brainer to pick Italy as your theme.
Here’s a three-course, seven-dish Italian feast to enjoy with friends.
1) Tricolore salad
Fresh, tasty, easy to prepare - and bursting with the colours of the Italian flag. Insalata tricolore is a great, low-maintenance dish to have as a starter or a side.
2) Courgette carpaccio with borlotti beans, peppers and capers
Another fresh and light salad option to prepare you for the carb overload to follow. This easy salad takes 15 minutes to prepare and you get to say carpaccio, which is fun.
3) Garlic and basil ciabatta
Just try eating spag bol or lasagne without garlic bread. It’s like having them without cheese, it just doesn’t work. It takes just 10 minutes to make your own delicious garlic bread.
4) Butternut squash parmigiana
What could be better than hot tomato sauce, sweet butternut squash, and gooey cheese? This dish is a veggie’s delight, the perfect alternative to a meaty lasagne.
5) Easy classic lasagne
Speaking of which, don’t overlook the meaty-pasta-cheese layered classic. This recipe uses creme fraiche so you don’t have to make a tricky bechamel sauce. Delicious.
For those who can’t manage a proper dessert, there’s sorbet or alcohol. This ingenious recipe combines the two. Swap the champagne for prosecco or cava.
7) Quick and easy tiramisu
For those who can find space for pudding, there’s tiramisu - that perfect blend of cream, coffee, and chocolate. Make individual portions in nice glasses for a special touch.