Hosting on a budget or for a crowd: tips on how to ring in the New Year without a hitch
Whether you plan to end 2018 with an intimate dinner or a busy bash, we have helpful hints to make the big night a success
With the pop of a cracker and the twinkle of a fairy light, Christmas is over and New Year’s Eve is nearly here. If at some point over the past few weeks – perhaps imbued with festive cheer – you agreed to host a party on December 31, but haven’t really given it much thought until now, panic might be setting in. Well, worry not. Whether you’re entertaining the masses, aiming for a classy, intimate affair, have budget to burn, or would like to do things on a shoestring, we’ve got plenty of ideas to ensure that your night goes off without a hitch.
First up, a little housekeeping. Since the focal point of the evening is the moment the clock strikes 12, consider where you want your guests to be when that happens – out in the garden, watching the fireworks on television, throwing some shapes on a makeshift dance floor – it matters not, as long as you have a vague plan and people aren’t left standing around aimlessly. With that in mind, nominate an official timekeeper and ask them to round up stragglers as midnight approaches and initiate the countdown to 2019.
In terms of pre-party prep, stock up on ice, water, toilet paper and bin bags, create a designated recycling station, and make sure you’ve got enough glasses, cutlery and crockery – if not, seek out biodegradable options or get in touch with a rental company. Give your apartment or villa a quick once-over with the vacuum cleaner by all means, but don’t go mad; no one is going to judge you if your spare room isn’t immaculate.
Just before people arrive, dim the lights, get the candles flickering and make sure there’s some background music playing. It’s well worth noting that there are a number of apps that will let your guests play DJ and contribute to the party playlist, an idea that comes into its own as the night wears on (not least because it takes the pressure off you). Do also encourage some of your more gregarious friends to turn up early and help to initiate conversation in the initial stages of the party when things can potentially feel a bit awkward.
Most importantly, though, remember, this is your New Year’s Eve, too, and you should enjoy yourself as much as anybody else. Here’s to a fabulous evening.
How to host a New Year’s Eve party at home on a budget
To keep things thrifty you’ll need to be a little bit savvy. When people inevitably ask if they can bring anything with them, instead of politely demurring, enthusiastically take them up on that offer of help. It does pay to be specific, though, otherwise you risk ending up with six desserts and very little in the way of drinks. So task your friend who makes fabulous pavlovas/cakes/home-made ice cream with providing exactly that, see if someone else will whip up a salad or two, and politely inquire if a couple of other guests can be in charge of mocktails.
For the main food element, a vegetarian dish is the way to go – good-quality meat is expensive and therefore off the menu on this particular occasion. The smoky bean chilli recipe on the right is ideal. Not only is it inexpensive and easily upscaled, it’s also filling, tasty and benefits from being made a day or two in advance so the flavours can really develop. Reheat when you’re ready to serve and accompany with coriander rice (at room temperature rather than piping hot to minimise stress), grated cheese, lime yogurt and piles of crusty bread to mop up the chilli sauce.
Decor-wise, if you’ve got a Christmas tree pull it out from the corner of the room and make it your centrepiece, string up all the baubles you own, dot tea lights on every available surface and call it a day.
Smoky bean chill
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours
Serves 8-10 (easily doubled)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 onions, peeled and sliced
2 red peppers, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 ½ tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp grated dark chocolate
3 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 x 400g tins kidney beans in
2 x 400g tins pinto or black beans
lime yoghurt (yoghurt mixed with lime juice and zest, and black pepper)
Set a large saucepan with olive oil over medium heat, add the onions and peppers, and fry for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Stir in the smoked paprika, cumin seeds, ground cinnamon, tomato puree and grated chocolate, heat for a minute or so, then tip in the chopped tomatoes, kidney beans and pinto or black beans. Fill one of the empty chopped tomato tins with water and add to the pan.
Season generously with salt and black pepper, and stir well. Bring to the boil briefly, then reduce the heat and simmer for one-and-a-half hours, stirring occasionally.
Serve the chilli with coriander rice, lime yoghurt, grated cheddar and crusty bread.
How to host a New Year’s Eve party at home for a crowd
When the guest list spills over into double digits, particularly on an occasion such as New Year’s Eve, it’s best to abandon all ideas of a sit-down dinner with many courses from the get-go.
Similarly, don’t worry about trying to source chairs or create enough table space for everyone to sit down. Instead, push furniture to the edges of the room, and work on the basis that people can help themselves to food and eat standing up, which is far more sociable anyway.
For ease, take a quantity-over-variety approach to the menu; rather than faffing around preparing lots of different individual dishes, pick a theme and a couple of recipes and cook them in big batches. That could be a curry, rice and chutneys, Mexican tacos with shredded chicken and vegetables or posh mac ’n’ cheese pasta bakes, salad and garlic bread.
Alternatively, a DIY food bar where everyone can assemble their own meal from a number of options can be an inspired choice on nights like this. Not only will it minimise your workload, but the bar will also create a talking point, and means you can cater for different dietary requirements easily. If this idea appeals, you could put together a baked potato bar featuring mini jacket potatoes (smaller spuds are far chicer than large ones) alongside sour cream and smoked salmon, caramelised onions, crispy turkey bacon, vintage cheddar and tomato salsa, guacamole and nacho cheese – the list goes on.
For something else to blow the budget on, a seafood station has a properly celebratory feel to it. Present cooked prawns, smoked or roasted salmon, clams, king crab legs and even lobster on ice-filled platters and accompany with Marie Rose sauce, shallot vinaigrette, lemon wedges, capers and thin triangles of lightly buttered bread. Or apply the same idea to bruschetta: surround piles of store-bought or homemade crostini with chopped tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, pâté, pesto, cream cheese and olives, hummus, honey-drizzled figs and bresaola slices.
How to host a New Year’s Eve party at home with minimal effort
Outsourcing is the name of this particular game. It may not be the cheap option, but it’s certainly the least stressful one. If budget allows, hire cutlery, crockery and glasses to be delivered to you and enlist a cleaning company to help restore your home to its pre-party state the next day.
Food-wise, there are catering options galore, from shawarma stands in the garden to fancy dinners, food trucks that will park up outside your home and companies such as Dubai stalwart Dish (www.dish.ae), which will take care of everything from the food and drinks to the music, lighting and furniture hire.
If you do want to convey that you’ve contributed to the meal, but still aren’t keen on breaking a sweat, we recommend hopping on the social media trend that is #snackboard. What this entails is creating a beautiful, bountiful spread with a mix of catered items, pre-prepared or shop-bought food and pantry staples – think seasonal canapes or bowl food sourced from the likes of Jones The Grocer (www.jonesthegrocer.com), Dish or Les Gastronomes (www.lesgastronomes.ae), alongside cheese, crackers, crudites, dips, chutneys, pickles and delicious breads. One end of the board can also cover dessert (cookies, mini meringues, wedges of cake and piles of fresh fruit) so once everything has been laid out, you can forget it and enjoy the party.
Updated: December 29, 2018 11:08 AM