Rita Says: top tips for outdoor entertaining

There may be the hint of Autumn in the air but I, for one, am not letting go of summer yet. The weather forecasters are telling us that we’re heading into anther spell of warm weather (and they’re never wrong!) so I’m hopeful for a few balmy evenings and some dinners outdoors with friends still to come.  We’ve just got back from a couple of weeks at our cottage in Wales where we eat outside as much as we can and it’s reminded me how much I like the relaxed approach to cooking and entertaining that summer brings. Admittedly this is because it involves much less actual cooking and much more chatting and enjoying myself than when I’m relegated to the kitchen to slave over a hot stove! Here are my tips on outdoor entertaining and making the most of the last days of summer:

  • Keep things relaxed and informal. Bring rugs and cushions out from inside to spread on the ground for a bit of idle lounging before the meal is served.
  • Plates can be piled on the table and cutlery brought outside in a jug ready for people to help themselves.
  • In Wales we eat outdoors most of the time and cook on a little tripod and griddle over a small fire. I also use completely different china in Wales than in London. I like chunkier, heavier pieces – earthenware and pottery and slipware serving dishes. This is preferable to melamine or plastic which is best kept for picnics I think. I love Douglas Fitch slipware available at The New Craftsmen and these Sean Miller slipware jugs at Tinsmiths.
  • Fine stemmed wine glasses aren’t quite right for outside either – too risky. I prefer to use heavier wine glasses or tumblers. These sea grass wrapped ones by Amanda Lindroth are great and Bailey’s Home does some lovely recycled glass wine glasses.
  • One of my favourite places to shop for garden garden friendly ceramics and glassware is Petersham Nurseries. I find it one of the most inspiring places to go to for the garden. Definitely worth a visit if you can.
  • One of the most popular products our online shop this summer has been these glass oven dishes with rattan holders – so great for speedily and stylishly serving food straight from the oven.
  • Keep the food simple – use good quality ingredients and let people help themselves.
  • If you really don’t want to cook at all you can get away with a trip to your local deli. It works during the Summer in a way it doesn’t the rest of the year. I had some girlfriends over recently after a very busy day at work with no time for prep. A quick visit to Andreas on Chelsea Green to buy some excellent prosciutto, some cheese and crackers, some ingredients for a salad and – surprise hit – some small and perfectly formed baked potatoes, and I was set. Served with plenty of chilled rosé, it was a simple and delicious meal.
  • For dessert I love a bowl of cherries served with ice or else mini magnums – about two bites worth and just enough to satisfy one’s sweet tooth.

 

Clockwise from top left:

Seagrass wrapped tumblers – £55 for a set of 4, Amanda Lindroth at rita konig.com

Recycled wine glasses – £8.50, Baileys Home

Oval crosshatch pie dish – £290, Douglas Fitch for The New Craftsmen

Natural wicker dome with melamine plate – £150, Amanda Lindroth at rita konig.com

Rattan oven dish available in four sizes – from £45, Amanda Lindroth at rita konig.com

Blue slipware jug – £93, Sean Miller  at Tinsmiths