Summer signals the start of the entertaining season again. You might have the odd fireside slow-cooked meal during winter, but it’s the summer months when you can really get inspired to cook and create tasty dishes for your friends. Personally, I love the summer produce. The freshness after the winter months inspires and invigorates my love for hosting foodie friends and friends who just enjoy good food. That being said, entertaining can be a stressful affair if you are unaccustomed to the finer details. These are my fail-safe tactics to make entertaining simple, enjoyable and, ultimately, a delicious experience. Never on a Saturday Host a dinner party on a Thursday or Friday, but never Saturday. Thursday is great if you can outsource your cleaning to someone on Friday morning. Friday is the best day to have guests over, though. It’s the start of the weekend, everyone feels good, and there is limited pressure when hosting on a Friday night. A Saturday dinner brings with it certain expectations – there might be assumptions that you have had the entire day to shop and cook and therefore the dinner is weighted with a bit more pressure. Another Friday tip: shop during the week and do any pre-prep beforehand – such as making marinades or dressings. Cook some, cheat some This is my motto! Buy the snacks but make the dip; cook the curry but buy the naan bread! You get it? Choose the elements of the dish that you feel comfortable preparing. The same applies to the cocktails and the hors d’oeuvres. Make one or the other, but never both. Also, set the table the night before to cut down on stress. Make mains ahead of time Recipes that need last-minute execution are to be avoided. Choose a main course that tastes even better if it sits overnight. By preparing the main course in advance it won’t keep you in the kitchen come party time. And even better, if your timing is off no worries, you know it will taste even more delicious. Turn the lights down low Lighting is crucial in setting up the ambiance of a room and low lighting gives your friends the dinner-party version of airbrushing. Turn down harsh overhead lights and add a flash of opulence by decorating your dining table with unscented candles. Opt for family-style dinning Family-style dining takes the panic, pressure and any rigid atmosphere out of the evening. It ensures you are not stuck in the kitchen tediously plating each dish, your delicious meal is more likely to stay hotter for longer, it creates a friendly, social and relaxed environment and guests will feel more comfortable to help themselves to seconds. That doesn’t mean that a fiery hot casserole dish straight from the oven is sufficient to impress the hungry. Give your serving dishes some thought before you need to move food from the oven to the dining room. I set out my serving dishes the night before and ensure I pop them into the warming draw just before we sit down for dinner. Make it fun Remember, dinner parties are about friends getting together for an enjoyable evening. There are some things that I always have ready ahead of time: music playing when people come in the front door, drinks are ready and appetizers are available. That way, once the doorbell rings you can let go of logistics and enjoy your guests. Spend the least possible time in the kitchen so you can better entertain your guests. Don’t fuss around doing the last bits of this and that. Your guests would rather have your company than eat that last tray of baked hors d’oeuvres.