Potluck: How to host the perfect bring-a-dish dinner party

09 Jan 2019
By Unite Students, Staff writer at The Common Room

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.

Find Delia Smith’s tricolore salad recipe at the Delia Online website.

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.

Find Gino D’Acampo’s courgette carpaccio recipe at the Gino D’Acampo website.

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.

Find a garlic and basil ciabatta recipe at the BBC Good Food website.

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.

Find a squash parmigiana recipe at the Delicious website.

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.

Find a quick and easy beef and bacon lasagne recipe at the BBC Good Food website.

6) Sgroppino

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.

Find a simple two-step sgroppino recipe at the BBC Good Food website.

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.

Find a super-easy tiramisu recipe at the BBC Good Food website.

Happy eating!

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Staff writer at The Common Room