When summer finally rolls around each year, South Africans come out of hiding and start making plans for long, lazy Sunday afternoons filled with laughter and friends. The smell of charcoal, wine, and summer cooking hangs in the air and everything seems perfect. Well, until Monday morning anyway!
If you’re a big fan of summer get-togethers with friends, but are too nervous to host your own dinner party, braai or brunch, here are some simple recipes and easy tips you can use to impress your guests with minimal effort from your side. After all, summer entertaining is all about relaxing and enjoying yourself.
Switch to outdoors
Whatever you cook, do it outdoors. While preparing a lovely roast or some gourmet starters might seem like a wonderful idea, summer is the time to be outside enjoying the beautiful weather. It also means nobody is isolated in the kitchen staring wistfully at everyone having fun outside while they slave away indoors.
You can break out the boerewors and chops and have a braai, use a portable gas braai for prawns, or you can do something a little more unusual and make a potjie. There are lots of chicken, vegetable and beef sishebo recipes that lend themselves well to a summer gathering.
Get everyone involved, and even have a potjie competition! You might not think people will get into it but trust us, everyone will want to add their little bit of MasterChef-style expertise. Summer them up by serving with crispy French bread, potato salad, coleslaw, three bean salad or a garden salad. The aim is to pair the sishebo with crisp side dishes. Keep the dressings zingy and refreshing.
Make your ice cubes snazzy
Some people might think this is overkill, but it’s a simple way to make your guests believe you spent hours preparing for them. Before freezing ice cubes in preparation for all your white wine, gin and tonics, ciders and beer, add some berries to some. Pomegranate seeds work well, as do strawberries, blueberries or raspberries. You won’t want to add them to beer, but they are a great match with light summery drinks such as gin or white wine.
With cocktails, these fancy ice cubes are even better – and you can be way more adventurous. Try adding mint or basil, as well as fruits such as pineapple. When served in a nice glass, they’re seriously impressive.
You can also freeze some coffee in ice cube trays and use them later for iced coffees. After all, hot coffees just don’t seem quite right when it’s boiling hot. Mix the cubes in with cooled coffee, and top up with condensed milk (yes really!). Give it all a stir and your guests will love you forever!
Brighten the place up
You don’t have to go all out, but a few easy decorations can help to really push the summer feeling and impress your guests. Lay out a tablecloth in a cheerful and bright colour or pattern, and buy some cheap serviettes to go with it. Consider putting a vase with pebbles or flowers in the middle of the table to brighten things up, and use an assortment of bright serving bowls if you have them!.