Tips and Recipes for First-Time Entertaining

Clodagh McKenna shares her advice for an enjoyable party with minimal effort


Having friends over is such a fun thing to do and it really doesn’t have to be stressful at all. I’ll never forget the first time I threw a party. I must have changed the menu at least a thousand times. My stress levels on the day of the party were something akin to a bride getting married in the morning and having to move house in the afternoon.

Now, I am a bit more sensible when it comes to giving parties and yes, I’m older (sadly), wiser (hopefully), and my intentions have changed. Back then, I wanted to prove myself — I was desperate to blow everyone’s socks off with my fantastic cooking. Nowadays, I just want everyone to enjoy the food and relax, which they won’t do if you are flying round like a blue bottle on speed, mopping sweat from your brow with your lovely linen napkins.  

With a little planning, the proper tips, and simple recipes, your party will be fabulous. Dips and platters are a fabulous (and super easy!) way to get the food flowing at a party. You can have them all prepared the day before, and just stick the pita crisps into the oven to roast just before guests arrive. The seafood paella is such a vibrant looking dish, so make sure it sits in full view as it will be sure to warm the hearts and tummies of your hungry guests. Instead of plates, try using china cups and saucers to serve your paella. The pavlova can be made the day before, as well. Just pop on the whipped cream and raspberries a few hours before and then it can be left to wait in the fridge for its grand entrance.

Entertaining can be easy, with the right planning and recipes. The best part is that you’ll be left with plenty of time to have a lovely relaxing bubble bath and slip in to your best number. Afterall, it is your party!



Dukkah Dip

Salsa Verde

White Bean Dip

Served with Spicy Pita Chips

Seafood Paella

Raspberry and Rosewater Pavlova

(Photos courtesy of Alberto Peroli)