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Learning to cater for buffet dinners and not get bothered about it

Since we have started being more sociable in our new house, I have started to pick up some tips that make this easier because when you have a number of guests round, you really don't want to be messing around with food.  I have developed a number of habits and divested a magnitude of guilt  Using this method, I can comfortably cope with up to about 14 people coming over for gaming.

1. Plan it on the kitchen whiteboard and tick off when done.  Start with an empty dishwasher and empty bins.  Feed the cat beforehand and have a pot of coffee on.  Have a good stock of disposable wipes/kitchen roll/bin bags.
2. Take everything out of the fridge which I intend to use and group into recipe clumps on the worktop.
3. Buy chopped onions/pre chopped veg/grated cheese the day before.
4. Buy pre rolled pastry and bake a quiche.(Fry the veg, stick on the pastry, top up with beaten egg/cream and grated cheese, bake).  And if I have pastry left over - jam tarts.
5. Depending on attendees make the same meal work for them all:  A vegan butter nut squash soup, have cream on the side and bacon bits.
6. Any guest who turns up and asks if they can help will be taken seriously.  (Last poor victim ended up frying halloumi, making popcorn and assembling meringue nests and also later playing with cat to keep her occupied (the cat that is)).
7. Own 2 slow cookers and limit the people coming near the stove, getting under your feet and spilling soup on the cooker.
8. Meat eaters: To a large slow cooker add two raw lamb shoulders, a jar of very good quality pasts sauce (Zest) and a bag of good   quality frozen veg.  Come back 6 hours later and pick out the shoulder bones with fingers.
9.  Partially assemble salads and leave the dressing as something people can add themselves.
10.  Breadmaker - have two or three bags of mix in reserve and know they take 2 hours on rapid and serve it hot.
11.  Carpet bomb the place with coasters and mats.
12.  Have a designated dead bottle space.
13. Frozen to oven pain chocolait/croissants are an excellent cheat.

Beyond that I try to keep the cat off the dining table (because she'll walk around displaying her butt), keep long hairs out of the food and always use a temperature probe so you don't poison your guests.

Anyone got any other lazy tips?
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Proper lasagna. All the work can be done in advance and in stages. All you have to do when guests are there is stick it in the oven to heat and brown.

Plus, for almost no extra effort you can make extra to stock your freezer with homemade ready meals for lazy days later on.


It depends what the logistics are, but if we're meeting friends beforehand in the pub, I would go home, put a roast on, and come back in, having prepped any non-roasting veg beforehand. It's critical here either to (a) have a mother at home who can keep an eye on the roast (although the oven does have a timer) and (b) not spend an hour longer in the pub than one intended. It usually works, however.

I have friends who are professional chefs (they used to work at Le Gavroche) and have done some work in a professional kitchen with them as an 'aide' - I could never do this professionally, but it impressed upon me the importance of prepping and I tend now to do this for evening meals, if I'm at home. E.g. on Sunday morning I par boil potatoes and do all the chopping, plus a marinade if it's that kind of meat thing.

Your suggestions are sensible and I will take note!

We rely a lot on advance cooking - lasagne, moussaca, pies... Anything that avoids M being kitchen slave whilst everybody else is having fun. In our current (tiny & separate) kitchenthat's a no brainer.

That sounds very thorough and well thought out. Some of the tips would work for general buffet-style parties too (designated 'dead bottle' place for one...)

Having the shopping delivered on the morning of the day /evening before works for me.


I would add (more as a memo to self) do not massively over cater, no really!

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