Now is the perfect time to get your garden ready for al fresco dining with friends. You have two main options when it comes to outdoor furniture - an outdoor sofa or a garden set with a table and chairs.
If you have less space, you may just want to stick to a table with outdoor chairs, especially if you love entertaining. A round table is perfect as it means you can easily chat to everyone around the table. A drinks cooler in the centre is an added bonus so you don't need to get up to go and get more drinks whilst you are eating. Pair with rattan dining chairs, which look stylish and will withstand the unpredictable British weather.
If you have a larger outdoor space, add a garden sofa which is perfect for keeping your dinner party going on longer outside, or so your guests can sit outside with a glass of wine whilst you finish off dinner.
Once you have the perfect garden set up with your outside furniture, you can get to planning summer dinner parties. Here are a few of our favourite recipes for dining alfresco with friends.
A classic glass of Spanish sangria is the perfect summer drink. A lighter option than red wine, the drink is the perfect accompaniment to a BBQ or a light summery meal.
- red wine
- orange juice
- white sugar
- rum or lemonade
Mix together a bottle of red wine, one cup of orange juice, half a cup of white sugar and one and a half cups of rum (or lemonade, if you want to make slightly less alcoholic). Slice up a lemon, a lime and an orange to garnish.
Pizza is a fantastic summer meal and can be paired with whatever you like - salad, wedges or cous cous, the choices are endless. Homemade pizza tastes far better than anything shop bought, and it is surprisingly easy to make.
- white bread flour
- plain white flour
- dried yeast
- warm water
- olive oil
- toppings: mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, pesto, grilled chicken, roast peppers, red onions
To make the dough, mix together 250g of strong white bread flour, 250g of plain white flour, a sachet of dried yeast, 10g of salt and 325ml of warm water. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and knead until smooth. Cover up and leave to rise, before turning it into a pizza base and topping it with whatever takes your fancy.
Go for something classic with mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and a drizzle of pesto or something Mediterranean inspired with grilled chicken, roast peppers, red onions and diced chills if you like something a little hotter.
Lasagne is a classic dish which is perfect for whoever you are feeding and again can be paired with a selection of salads for an fairly quick meal which will mean you can maximise your time sat with friends.
- beef meat
- tomato sauce
- ragu sauce
- lasagna sheets
- white sauce
The sauce can be made beforehand and left in the fridge for up to three days if you are catering for a lot of people. Start by heating the oil and cooking your beef in two batches until browned all over. Then chop four slices of prosciutto (for every packet of lean mince beef) and pour over the tomato sauce, stock, nutmeg and seasoning. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes.
On the day, heat the oven to 180c and assemble your lasagne. Lightly oil and overproof serving dish and then spoon in a layer of the ragu sauce, cover with lasagne sheets and drizzle with white sauce. Repeat this three times before covering with the remaining white sauce and then scatter slices of mozzarella over the top. Bake for around 45 minutes until the dish of bubbling and lightly browned.
Grilled vegetables are a fantastic, flavoursome accompaniment to every summer dish and will add plenty of colour to your outdoor table.
- olive oil
- fresh herbs
- cracked wheat
- red onions
- salt & pepper
You can grill whatever vegetables your fancy, like red onions, aubergine, courgettes, peppers or beetroot. Make sure to cover with olive oil and season with fresh herbs and garlic to maximise the flavour.
Vegetables pair wonderfully with tabbouleh which is fairly easy to make. Cook 250g of cracked wheat according to the instructions then rinse and drain. Set it aside to cool a little. Finely chop 1 bunch of fresh mint, 1 bunch of parsley and half a cucumber, a good squeeze of lemon and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Have a taste and tweak the seasoning if you wish, then cover and set the mixture aside.
- or cream cheese with capers
- or avocado, lemon juice, tabasco
- salt & pepper
Or how about deviled eggs as an easy appetizer? Hard boil your eggs, then cut in half and carefully scoop out the yolks. Mix the yolks with mayonnaise, chives and paprika, season with salt and pepper and pipe into the egg halves.
You could also fill with cream cheese mixed with capers and seasoned with salt and pepper or beat avocado until smooth and add lemon juice and tabasco and season with salt and pepper.