So your weekend at Alexander House is confirmed and you’re all set for a fantastic few days away! But hang on, what about food? There will be 21 mouths to feed and that takes some planning. If you’re anything like me, planning a meal for four can be a challenge and I actually enjoy cooking! So how does one cope with cooking for 21 and manage to make the food look interesting and taste great. Don’t panic, it’s all good – we’ve got some top tips that will make catering for a big group so much easier.

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We have a lot of experience within our team here at AH, so we thought we’d share our top tips on large group catering to reduce your stress…

1. Plan ahead

Don’t be too laid back, time will pass quickly so it’s important to plan ahead. Once you’ve confirmed numbers you’ll know how many to cater for.

2. Check dietary requirements

Make sure you find out about any special dietary requirements, as well. It may mean a few tweaks in the menu but you’ll still be able to provide a meal that everyone will enjoy.

3. What’s the occasion?

Do you need balloons, decorations, alcohol, a cake?

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4. Many hands make light work

When catering for a large group everyone can have their part to play. Make a list of all party members and allocate jobs. You can even involve youngsters, from laying the table, washing the veg, washing the dishes. Importantly, assign the adults different nights to cook – no one person should have to be stuck in the kitchen all weekend.

5. Order online

Check out which supermarkets can deliver to your holiday home. Start making a shopping list online but choose one that can be added to – that way you can share the login with your group. From your list of names assign who will be cooking what. That way they can add their ingredients so it’s not the responsibility of just one person.

6. Think seasonal

Consider the time of year and what seasonal food is available. With so much variety of different vegetables it’s a good time to try something a little different rather than going for the same choices. The way you prepare veg can also make a difference. Carrots, for instance, can be used in so many ways, such as sliced, cubed, batons or shaped.

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7. Timing is key, so keep things simple

If you’re planning a formal dinner, you’ll need to think about how to ensure everyone gets their food hot. Making good choices will help with this, nothing to complicated otherwise you’ll get into a fluff! Timing is key. When do you want to eat? If you have some younger members you may need to start early so dinner isn’t late, or depending on how little, do they need to be in bed early so you can enjoy yours without it getting cold. Are you planning two or three courses? A cold starter will ease the stress levels, as will cold puddings – but you could then add a hot sauce topping. If you decide on 3 courses, make sure your starters are cold ones this will ease the stress levels.

8. Themes work well

Using a theme can help with ideas – Italian, curry, pizza, barbecue, Mexican etc. An Italian night is one of my favourites, you can do a meat and vegetable lasagne, which makes tweaking them to cover dietary issues not too difficult. Add a few different salads, warm crusty garlic bread and tiramisu for pudding. This is great for a relaxed buffet-style supper. If you choose a curry you can easily tweak to provide 2-3 courses – poppadoms and raita for starters, curries, dhal, sag aloo, bhaji and warm homemade nan bread (easy to make) for the main course, and cool mango rice or coconut ice cream for dessert.

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9. If in doubt, outsource!

Check out the local options too! You may all fancy a night off from cooking so you could invite one of our caterers or get the mobile fish and chips van to visit!

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