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Take it outside! Al fresco entertaining ideas

When the weather turns good, shake out the chequered tablecloths and try our fresh ideas for easy outdoor entertaining.

The southern Europeans, think Italians, Spaniards and Greeks, are masters at outdoor entertaining.

Always a relaxed, yet lavish affair, they lay their tables with simple, seasonal fare, with plenty condiments and snacks, and of course ample bottles of cheap but cheerful wine.

HOW TO PUT IT TOGETHER

Choose a array of crowd-pleasing dishes that use really good ingredients and are effortless to put together. The idea is having enough food  for guests to pick on as the afternoon wears on.

For mains offer seafood, meat and vegetarian options, some smaller salads and side dishes, plenty of crusty loaves (let each guest slices or tear off pieces as they like), some dips, a selection of sauces and bottles of olive oil and different vinegars. 

MY BIG FAT GREEK TABLE

Lemony-garlick tzatziki, hummus, kofta, falafels, eight-hour melt-in-the mouth lamb, dolmades (buy ready-made from Woolworths) and lots of flatbread.

For desserts we recommend sticky sugar-and-spice infused satsuma with Greek yoghurt served with biscuits for dunking.

Remember, Lebanese food shares many similarities with Greek food - mix and match if you like!

TALKING ITALIAN

For starters, read up on how to entertain like a true Italian or put out plates of delicious, unpretentious risotto.

A great vegetarian option is panzanella white bean salad with tomato dressing, caperberries and anchovies.

A really easy recipe that makes a great starter is Parma ham lemons served with citrus bubbly. You can make it ahead, and pop in the oven until golden and bubbly just before serving.

For dessert try our deliciously crumbly orange and ricotta polenta cake with lime labneh (use mascarpone to stay true to the Italian feel) that's fragrant but rustic at the same time. Serve with coffee affogato.

Don't forget gnocchi, pizza or an easy open lasagne are always great centre pieces.

SPANISH TAPAS AND MORE

Follow our guidelines for creating an easy Spanish tapas spread

Seafood works well on a Spanish table, and we love zesty Skordalia-mash with seared yellowtail or go for the fab vegetarian option:  Skordalia with fried baby marrow and lemon.

A lovely seafood dish is seared calamari and chorizo, or spicy stuffed calamari

Another crowd-pleasee is a chicken paella  served with a tomato salad with lots of olives and caperberries.

For dessert, adapt our fool-proof doughnut recipe by making smaller balls that are a little rough around the edges. Coat them generously in spiced sugar and dunk into your hot chocolate or coffee.

MORE AL FRESCO DINING IDEAS


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