Deliciously Ella shares her top tips for hosting the perfect dinner party
Words Hannah Hopkins
With a new generation preferring to stay in than go out, best-selling food writer Ella Mills of Deliciously Ella is on hand to help you prepare a healthy and utterly delicious feast for friends or family. She shares her delicious and healthy recipes for Aubergine Rolls with Coconut Tzatziki, Chilli and Ginger Pho and not-so-naughty Orange and Cardamom Cookies. Whatever the occasion, her recipes are sure to be crowd-pleasers.
Why do you think more people are choosing to host than go out for dinner?
I think there’s something really lovely about hosting people at home – it’s normally a much more intimate, relaxed atmosphere and it’s a lot cheaper too. I absolutely love cooking delicious food for people, making great cocktails and having a long dinner that can go on for hours and hours.
What is your number one rule when hosting a dinner party?
Make your guests feel incredibly welcome. The beauty of going out for dinner is not having to wash up or tidy and I like to recreate that for my friends and family, so that they can really enjoy the evening. I try to tidy all my cooking mess before everyone arrives, light candles, have music on, get lots of nibbles out and have drinks at the ready.
What are some cheat snacks for the table?
Big bowls of hummus are perfect, it’s so easy to make and it always gets finished really quickly. Doing a twist on it, like a roasted carrot hummus or a sun-dried tomato and butterbean hummus is great as it sounds fancy but it couldn’t be easier to do. I love making little socca pizzas, mini bite-sized baked potatoes stuffed with cashew sour cream and little beet and sweet potato crisps.
What are your favourite easy but impressive dishes?
Indian food is a real favourite of mine, as it’s full of flavour and really satisfying, but it’s pretty easy to do. I often cook big pots of chana masala with aloo gobi and coconut rice for friends, which are always demolished really quickly. For quick kitchen suppers I love spiced potato cakes with garlicky tomato sauce and French beans.
Sharing plates are popular these days, can you recommend any?
I love sharing plates, as it allows everyone to try lots of different foods. My favourites are sesame coated sweet potato falafels with miso and sesame glazed aubergines, sesame and harissa greens, garlicky black beans and some hummus – it’s a nice way of building mix and match bowls so that you get lots of different flavours and textures.
Balancing nutrition with dinner party food can be tricky. Do you have tips for making something wow-worthy that doesn’t leave you feeling bloated afterwards?
Everyone is so different. I love making veggie-based dishes that highlight that eating well isn’t about rabbit food. I always assumed that healthy food was iceberg lettuce with cucumber and tomatoes. But once I started learning to cook I realised it could be the absolute opposite. I often make things like courgette and pea risotto using brown rice with lemon, garlic and mint. Or marinated cauliflower steaks with chili quinoa and bean stews with chili, coriander and a mango salsa.
What about some quick but impressive drinks?
I love a sparkling pineapple and cayenne blend with soda water, lime, a little maple and lots of ice. It works well as a cocktail or a mocktail.
How do you cater for vegetarians and vegans?
I am veggie, which really helps. I often make veggie food as the centre of the meal and then will do a piece of salmon as a side for those who don’t want just vegetables.
Any ideas for centrepieces? Or favourite flowers to use on the table?
I like doing something simple with candles, little jars of flowers and then lots of food.
And finally, what qualities does the perfect host have?
Being relaxed, so that your guests feel relaxed too, which means everyone has more fun.
Recipes extracted from Deliciously Ella With Friends by Ella Mills, published by Yellow Kite, £25 © Ella Mills 2017. Photography © Claire Winfield. Hero image © Helen McArdle