Mastering Menu planning for Guests!
If I had a dollar for every time I had a conversation with my friend about “Aaj kia Banaun?, mehman arey hein” (What should I cook today? I have company), I swear I’d be rolling down the hill made of money so fastttttt, none of you fellas would see me.
MENU PLANNING CAN BE DAUNTING!
Hosting guests can be a stressful experience for some and others might tell you how enjoyable they find entertaining guests and designing their spreads. If I am being completely honest, I think I am very much a part of the latter category. I absolutely enjoy planning for dinners, hosting guests and designing my own dinner or lunch menus from scratch. This sometimes might even take weeks to perfect. But I get it, my friends find it hard to come up with arrangements, and food ideas impromptu too. So I thought to myself, hmm maybe I can help out fellow hosts bringing their A game to the next event they host.
MENU PLANNING 101
So lets take the guesswork out of menu planning. What should I add? What’s the right number of items to cook? How much should I cook? And most importantly WHAT should I cook? Lets start with designing your menu first
In this post, I shall talk about the different components of a basic food spread. Something that you can easily make with one day of prep or this might just be your weekend menu plan as well. Remember, a well designed menu isn’t only a list of delicious food items, it should also be covering all your basic nutritional requirements i.e. carbs, proteins, fiber and fats.
Ok, so lets get started shall we?
ELEMENTS OF A GOOD FOOD SPREAD
1. THE FILLING MAIN COURSE.
Ofcourse this one is mandatory and goes without saying. Your main course can either be 1 main dish that has both protein and carbs. (for e.g Shrimp Pasta or Chicken Biryani) Or it can be 2 dishes both supporting each other to make 1 main course. (Think Chinese fried rice and Chicken Manchurian.
2. THE NICE SALAD.
This is the second most important addition to your table. A good salad compliments your Main course an also adds fibre to your meal. It is important to have a salad that works really well with your Main course. For instance, a cold macaroni salad will clash with an Alfredo pasta as the main course. However, it will go very well if your main dish is burger or steak.
3. THE SIDE-KICK AKA THE SIDE DISH
A side dish is food that cannot be eaten on its own as a meal
and will not affect the main course if excluded. It is important to note the difference between a SIDE and a SIDE-DISH here. The western countries refer to bread, potatoes, couscous or even rice as a side. A side is part of the main course where as a side dish is another dish altogether made to increase the food spread. Therefore a side dish must not be confused with a SIDE.
4. A SAUCY ADDITION
It is always a good idea to add sauces or condiments to your dining table. It gives your guests the option to add texture and flavor to their meals. Plus some Main courses are almost incomplete without an accompanying sauce. (for e.g chicken biryani without Raita – a yoghurt based sauce- is almost a crime.)
Ok so How many sauces or dips should you have?
My magic number here is 2. 2 sauces will not only give you the option to add 1 basic sauce and another complimentary sauce, but it also makes your spread look better and fuller. Plus it’s the cheapest way to add elements to your spread. Your second sauce can be as simple as ketchup, right out the bottle, or as sophisticated as a Veloute’ sauce. The selection is really flexible and quite frankly very easily tailored to your palate.
Bonus: If you are having kids over, you really can’t skip regular mayo and ketchup from your table now, can you?
5. BOTTLES UP!
Drinks are another you-already-know-this kind of an element.
Obviously water is a given. We are talking about the +1 that comes with water.
There is no right or wrong choice for what drink you choose to keep. You can keep whatever beverages you thinks your guests would prefer.
6. MY FIRST LOVE! DESSERTS.
I swear if it were up to me, this is allllllll I would cook and serve and put it on repeat till I die. Its a shame dessert only parties aren’t a thing (or are they?). Anyhow, 1 dessert is more than sufficient to end your lovely feast and tie up your event in a neat little bow. Choices for desserts again are endless. We’ll definitely talk about choosing the right dessert in future posts. For now know, that even a bowl of fresh cut up fruits or a store brought ice-cream can serve as dessert, in case you don’t have the time or energy to cook or prepare one from scratch. I mean I’d happily gobble down a bowl of cut up mangoes or dark chocolate ice-cream. Yum!!
PLANNING LEVEL 1 – CHECKED
Whatever you end up cooking, its always a good idea to plan ahead. This is the most basic kind of menu there is. We”ll cover more advance menus and options and how to work with them in upcoming posts.
So there you go, you have all your bases covered about how to design your menu. These elements are the bare minimum or the basic items that you should be aiming for when cooking for guests. Anything less than this might make your table look empty and may not be able to give your guests enough options to pick and chose from. Hey! You are already on the way to becoming the best host ever! Stay posted, I’m gonna be posting lots of sample menus and talking about how to manage your time when creating more difficult and advance menus.
What this post helpful? What kind of menu designs do you want to see? I would love to here from you! Let me know what more do you want me to post? Or a specific recipe you might want! Till next time!
p.s Can we create a movement for making dessert-only parties a thing? I mean! plz?