Ali’s Guide to Winter Entertaining

Entertaining is synonymous with summer. The balmy evenings pair so perfectly with long, summer lunches and outdoor dinner parties. But the winter chill doesn’t mean your inner host has to hibernate – in fact it’s my favourite time to entertain!

Living in beautiful Mudgee, where sub-zero evenings are more common than not in winter, I find evenings are best spent at home surrounded by family and friends and the fireplace fully stoked. If you find yourself with guests for dinner on a Saturday evening in June, here are my top tips for a cosy and delicious winter’s night in.

What’s on the menu?

When I think of winter, it’s all about comfort food! Think casseroles, slow cooker roasts and anything with mash potato. Choose something that is simple yet comforting and can ideally be prepared earlier in the day before your guests arrive. As your guests arrive, greet them with a glass of spiced and comforting mulled wine. This recipe by Jaime Oliver is very easy, and the delightful aromas that will instantly fill the home create a cosy atmosphere.

My new favourite recipe is one I tried just last week from Ottolenghi’s SIMPLE Collection – Ricotta and Oregano Meatballs. The delicate ricotta made these scrumptious meatballs irresistibly soft. Served with lashings of rich tomato sauce on a bed of couscous and with a side of fresh garden salad, I have no doubt this recipe will be on high rotation in my house!

I like making little fuss when it comes to serving food. Add the meatballs to a large platter and your salad and couscous to serving bowls on the table. This adds to the no-fuss theme and is a great way to show off some beautiful pieces of dinnerware.

Set the scene

We love styling a home at Perfectly Sorted, and a dining table setting is no different! I love to create a welcoming, intimate atmosphere with candles. Remember, always use unscented candles for the table as they won’t detract from the aromas of your cooking!

Linen napkins, coloured placemats and some fresh picked flowers from the garden or local florist make the perfect centrepiece – jonquils are my favourite.

Complete creating a cosy, warm atmosphere by dimming the lights, lighting the fire and pressing play on some old-school classics on Spotify. Warm, inviting and captivating, an outdoor fire pit is a nice touch on a clear winter’s evening. When the whole family is together, take the usual after-dinner cheese platter to the next level, creating a s’mores platter for dessert around the fire. It’s something that the whole family will enjoy – adults included!

Cosy up the rest of the house

Now that dinner is sorted and your table setting is ready to go, focus your attention on the rest of the home. For a great finishing touch, add some texture and warmth to your sofa with a woollen throw and some velvet cushions in rich, seasonal tones.

Adding a textured, neutral rug to your lounge room is another great way to add a touch of warmth to a room.

Winter entertaining doesn’t have to be fancy. The key is focussing on creating a warm, uncomplicated and inviting space – reminding us that it’s the simple things that matter. And, if you give those delicious meatballs a try, be sure to let me know what you think!

- Ali xx

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