The Art of Creating a Feast for Family and Friends
Kylie Italiano, Maria's Pasta
Before I married into the Italiano family, I didn’t really understand why you would spend multiple hours preparing a meal that would then be consumed within ten minutes. Yes, every bite would be delicious, but that’s a long time to create a very short moment.. or so I thought.
I learned over time, that creating a feast is not just about the food that is prepared, it is about the love that is generated, the relationships that are built and the sense of belonging that coming together in preparing a feast creates.
Creating the Menu
Planning a menu is like planning a holiday, the meal starts even before you start sourcing the first ingredients. You start imagining what you’ll be eating, and you start to get excited.
When I’m shaping a menu there are a couple of ways I like to start.
1. Create a menu around a theme or a particular cuisine
Generate some excitement by creating a unique theme for all of your guests or pick a cuisine you know that everyone will love. For example, one New Years Party we chose the theme of great train mysteries. We then sourced old menus from the Orient Express and everyone bought a dish that related to that menu. It was a great success!
2. Start with one ingredient
Sometimes you come across one ingredient that inspires the whole menu. For example, we came across some magnificent heirloom carrots one year and their vibrant colour inspired the whole meal.
3. Create a Colour Palette
This applies to every meal; ensure you have a wide variety of colours on your table including red, green, yellow/orange, white and even purple. We eat with our eyes first so when there is a lot of colour on your table, your family and friends are instantly excited for the meal.
4. The Potluck Approach
Ask the guests to bring their favourite dish that they love to cook, and it all goes into the middle of the table. It may not follow a theme, but it will all taste good and creates a great conversation of why each person chose that dish. Make sure to ask everyone to say a little something about their dish and why they chose it before you dig in!
Planning your drinks menu
Just as important as the food is planning the drinks to complement the meal. Think of the people who are coming, what they like to drink and see how you can add a touch of magic to whatever you are presenting.
Small touches such as wedges of lemon and lime, orange peel, rosemary sprigs or cucumber sticks can be wonderful condiments to have available on your drinks table. And remember to get ice to have available for a variety of drinks.
Sourcing your Ingredients
Source all your recipes early and write a shopping list for all your ingredients well ahead of time.
This way you can head to the market where the vegetables are generally superior, and you can order items ahead of time from your favourite suppliers.
Having all your ingredients available when you’re ready to cook takes so much pressure off your preparation and avoids last minute dashes to the expensive corner stores!
Preparing the table
Think about how you are going to set the table and lay out the food ahead of time. This takes so much pressure of the day and if you can set it up before you start cooking all the better! I even set up the table the night before to tick one task off the list early.
You’ll want to think about:
- What serving dishes and utensils you will use
- How many glasses, plates, and cutlery you will need
- What decorations you might like to have that will fit around your food - keep in colour palette and theme
- How you will present the food on the table or if you will need another space to display the food
- How many heat mats you’ll need for the table
- Where the drinks, drink condiments and additional glasses will be set up
Planning the Cooking
The best way to take the stress out of creating a feast is to plan ahead and create a run sheet for your cooking. Check all your recipes and take note of:
- What can be prepared ahead of time and kept in the fridge until the day
- What ingredients can be pre-chopped the day before
- What needs stovetop space and what needs oven space
- What pots and pans and oven dishes are required to complete the whole feast
- What other kitchen gadgets you might need to use (eg: blender, Thermomix etc.)
- Who else could prepare some of the dishes
- Who else can come together and assist with the preparations
- What needs to be heated just before eating
- Who can help to plate the food
Cooking the feast
Invite your friends and family over to cook with you and enjoy the process. With all the planning done, you can just follow the instructions, follow the recipes, stir in the love and laughter, and feel proud that you are creating a little bit of magic for those that you love.
What our Christmas Feast looks like this year
Get some inspiration from my planned menu for our Italiano family Christmas meal. I can't wait to use delicious fresh pasta from Maria's and serve up some wonderful food.
Image sourced from Pexels.com