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Cheats Guide to Grub in the Garden – COOK style!

Posted on 28 May 2022

The heat is on! Warmer weather is finally upon us, so it’s time to dust off the deckchairs and get into the garden. It can be much easier hosting family and friends al fresco, as a quick sweep / mow and the outdoor space is ready to go! High-effort affairs that keep you away from the fun are not what we’re talking about here – because stress from the host spreads like an unset jelly. The success of hosting is based not so much on the skills of the cook, but how relaxed and happy they are. So, we’ve done a simplified ‘to do’ list for you, to help ease you into your entertaining.

The seating:

If you don’t have any outdoor furniture, then blankets on the floor are perfect. Cosy it up with cushions and throws and, if necessary, maybe pop a tarp under the blanket to avoid soggy bottoms from wet grass. Picnic-ing like this saves having to bring your nice indoor furniture outside, which can be a faff especially if the great British weather were to behave unpredictably (really not that hard to imagine).

If, however, the weather does what it says it’s going to, and the sun stays out, then you might want to offer up a bit of shade. A sheet suspended like a sail over a patio does the job nicely.

The table setting:

Tablescaping or styling your table, is a trend right now but a sheet / tablecloth and beer bottles / jam jars for vases can be just as good.

Oh, and if you’ve got a spare jam jar to hand then you can very easily make a bee-friendly wasp trap to keep the pests away from the guests and grub. Wasps just don’t seem to get the whole personal space thing.

It might also be helpful to have a second table to display all the food on. If you’re doing a buffet there can be quite a lot of dishes, which can really eat into the space. Mesh food covers are cheap as chips – might be worth investing in a few.

The drinking:

It’s helpful having a drinks station so people can help themselves and you’re not permanently serving drinks. Anything that gives you more time to enjoy yourself is a must! If you’re running out of tables, then an upturned crate will do nicely.

It’s a good idea to have a mixture of boozy and non-boozy drinks. Mocktails are fun, but so are the real thing - there’s no warmer welcome than a cold cocktail. There are endless ideas for summer cocktails: mojito, sangria, Pimms, gin fizz…or, our favourite, a Pimp Your Prosecco Station / Bubbly Bar with purees, cordials, liqueurs and fruit at hand.

Don’t forget wine coolers, or the very cool Corkcicles…perfect to plonk in a bottle of rosé.

If that all feels too much like hard work, then why not just fill a wheelbarrow with ice and beers. Job done! The wheelbarrow can then be used at the end of the day to clear everything up into and wheeled back to the kitchen.

The eating:

For the main course we’re fans of a casual snacking buffet so people can graze all day. That way, guests can ‘mingle’ and it certainly takes the pressure off you. The name of the game is to make sure you’re not far from the fun for long so whatever you can prep in advance…great. Try to have some cold dishes as well as hot; so that you’re not faffing around with the oven all afternoon. Colourful summer salads, tarts, and quiches work really well when it's hot outside, served with fresh bread, dips and cold cuts. Avoid cheeses and other things that might go sweaty in the heat. Check out our instagram and Facebook pages for recipe suggestions over the summer. 

If you’ve got a larger group coming, then adding allergy labels to dishes is a thoughtful touch. A toothpick and sticky label does the job perfectly.

Puds are a must (if you want to remain friends with your friends) and it’s an easy one to delegate if people offer to bring something. If you’re doing it yourself though, you can’t go wrong with a fresh fruit salad, and you can trendy things up by turning it into a micro fruit salad, a current foodie fad that’s easy to grasp as it simply entails chopping the fruit up smaller! Gin and tonic ice lollies are also quite fun – just make sure the children don’t confuse them with their own.

The entertaining:

Being outside, it’s lovely to have a few games to play to while away the hours. Boules, giant Jenga - just make sure you have a flat surface to play off by putting a plank of wood underneath. Our current favourite game that you don’t need space or surfaces for is Accentuate - brilliant for all ages, and just as funny sober as it is tipsy!

If you’re having music, don’t forget to charge up the Bluetooth speaker before everyone arrives.

Oh, and finally, if the get together is still in full swing as the sun goes down maybe keep some outdoor lights to hand. Solar fairy lights or tea lights in jars are good for outside.

At the end of the day though, mother nature provides her own ambiance and entertainment so try not to obsess over the detail. The very fact that it’s summer and you’re getting together are all the ingredients you really need.

For the food, we’d be honoured to COOK for you. You can check out our selection of dishes for entertaining, all hand-prepared in the kitchen by our chefs, here.

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