Festive Entertaining with Skye McAlpine

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Festive Entertaining with Skye McAlpine

Born in London, raised in Venice, cook, author and Leiths food-writing alumna Skye McAlpine has made an art of entertaining at home. Her style shines through in her line of tableware Skye McAlpine Tavola, in her collaborations with the likes of Anthropologie and chic stationery brand Papier, but above all in her cookery writing which exudes the grace, and confidence we all aspire to. Her book A Table For Friends subtitled ‘The Art of Cooking for Two or Twenty’, feels particularly pertinent this festive season, as we stay in and enjoy intimate soirées.

While the recipes are heavenly - think saffron-scented torta di maccheroni all golden and gorgeous or chocolate chestnut meringue cake adorned with sugared redcurrants - A Table For Friends is also brilliantly practical with menus recommended according to numbers, timings, the seasons, and witty themes such as ‘What Everyone Secretly Wants To Eat at Party’ (answer: tagliatelle gratin). She invites us to relax, keep it simple, and be guided by the principle that cooking should be as enjoyable for the host as it is for the guest. Here are some key takeaways to guide us through the festive season in style.

Dinner parties aren’t just for the weekends. Kitchen suppers, midweek meals and Sunday roasts are the perfect excuse to gather friends around the table.

Set the table with bread, fruit and edible goodies that won’t go to waste afterwards. Pomegranates, grapes, citrus and nuts would strike a festive note.

Flowers might be as simple as a few sprigs of lavender, sage or rosemary tucked in with a rose or two. Supermarket ones will do: Skye buys them then teases them open for that fresh-from-the-garden look.

Lighting is everything. Dim the lights and fill the room with flickering candles (Skye favours natural beeswax for the subtle scent and pretty colour).

Don’t worry if you don’t have any ‘good china’. A jumble of mismatched crockery and vintage glassware of different shapes and heights can be just as chic.

A menu needn’t involve three formal plated courses. Skye thinks in terms of ‘stars’, ‘sides’, ‘sweets’ and ‘extras’. Set generous sharing dishes in the centre of the table and let the guests dig in. A selection of sides (simple salads, grains and vegetables) conveys generosity even when budgets are tight.

Plan ahead. A stress-free menu is a mix of dishes you can prep ahead and ones that require little more than last-minute assembly.

Batch cocktails in advance. A jug of Negroni or Skye’s ‘Cheat’s Martini’ will go down very well.

A Table For Friends: The Art of Cooking for Two or Twenty, Skye McAlpine (Bloomsbury Publishing, £26)

Author: Hilary Armstrong


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