Entertainment Style Kirstie Clements: How to entertain on a budget with a minimum of fuss

Kirstie Clements: How to entertain on a budget with a minimum of fuss

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Given the challenges we have all faced during COVID 2020, many of us have been unable to dine out like we used to, if it all, and at-home entertaining has become preferable for those of us fortunate enough to be able to invite people over.

I have to admit that I am not the world’s most competent hostess. I am not a person who cooks with love, or even a modicum of interest. I have a theory that if you are not very good at chopping, then you are never going really enjoy meal preparation and that is me. I consider it a chore.

I resent having to make a two-leaf green salad, whereas my son will happily whip up shredded Brussels sprouts, hazelnuts and pomegranate with grated pecorino cheese. But I love having people around, so over the years, I have learnt a few tricks that allow you to have a lovely, stylish dinner party on a budget, and with minimum fuss.

1. Mood lighting 

Turn all the lights down low, and put candles everywhere.

Use the most strongly perfumed candles in the bathroom. It’s a Parisian trick which masks rising damp and centuries of mouse holes.


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2. Cheap and cheerful flowers 

Buy bunches of coloured roses from Aldi ($12). They are the best, they last for ages and come in colours so vivid I suspect they are dyed, but they look glorious, especially in vase of a contrasting colour, like pink roses in a green vase, or red in blue.

3. Potato crisps in silver bowls

I once read this tip from Aerin Lauder, the American socialite and grand daughter of Estee Lauder, and I have never recovered from the chicness of it. You can find antique silver bowls at markets and auctions – and then out come the Smith’s crinkle cut, my personal favourite. I’d be inclined to pull out the cheese Twisties too if it was very close friends.

4. Pies

Home-made by someone else. You can serve lentil pie for the vegetarians, chicken and leek or beef for the others, and then whip up the aforementioned green salad. No prep time required at all. Kitchen smells homey. No one will even know you didn’t make them, and anyway, who cares.


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5. Tea towels used as napkins

A very stylish interior designer once gave me this advice. He suggested buying packs of nice looking, thick farm-style tea towels, in stripes or checks to use as napkins, as the generous size makes them seem more special. He was right.

6. Keep it simple

If you are going to cook, simple means you will have more time with your guests.

When I first started working at Vogue in the 1980’s there was a magazine doyenne in the food world, Joan Campbell, a legendary chef and cookbook editor who was well into her 80s, and who terrified chefs all over Australia.


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A group of young assistants, including me, invited her to dinner at home one evening and we were so stressed about what to serve this icon, we called beforehand to ask her what we should cook. “Buy the nicest wine you can afford” she said, “And then just get a chicken, stick a lemon up its bum and roast it”. Best dinner party ever.

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