For many people, hosting a big lunch brings mixed emotions. While welcoming people into your home is a generous move, doing the actual work to put food and drinks on the table can be an organisational ordeal.
“Don’t stress,” says Michaela Johansson of the Sydney-based, Mediterranean-inspired catering company Aplenty.“If there’s one awesome recipe [that] you love to follow, just cook that. If you love it, other people will enjoy it.”
We asked her for a few tips to make sure everything from the sparkling wine to the easy atmosphere is worthy.
Gather the herd
Long lunches are a little different from your standard gathering. “It’s more about sharing with people than the food itself,” says Johansson. As well as getting people together, it’s a way to get a few helping hands in the kitchen. “Work out who you’re feeding,” says Johansson. “If it’s a group, do something where you can make the food together. Maybe a big bowl of pasta and feast on that all day. It’s a nice communal element.”
Spruce up the place
A few decorative touches here and there can turn a regular gathering into something special. “I always like to keep things colourful,” says Johansson. “Some beautiful flowers on the table are nice. I always go with a colourful tablecloth and [some] plates collected over a long period of time from different second-hand shops.” A few extras like fun candles – Johansson loves the fruit-themed ones from Nonna’s Grocer – work well.
A glass to toast the guest of honour
Make sure when time comes to toast you have a glass worthy of the occasion on hand. Johansson recommends something lively, pink and bubbly like Brown Brothers Prosecco Rosé. Vibrant like a traditional Prosecco, it boasts hints of red berry, strawberry, and citrus. “Starting a meal with a sparkling is always the nicest way to go I think,” says Johansson. “It’s a nice, light drink you want to have with a nice, light lunch – ideal for seafood and zesty salads.”
Set the pace
“An [ideal] long lunch is where you can sit down for a while and eat slowly,” says Johansson. “You pick at things to start with, then you’ve got a nice big meal in the middle and you can graze on that all afternoon.” Sharing-style meals with a few plates in the middle of the table lends itself to one of Johansson’s favourite go-tos, a seafood pasta dish called fregola.
“We cook it in tomato and a nice seafood stock, then top it with mussels, prawns and a bit of fish, then bake it in this beautiful terracotta dish I’ve got,” says Johansson. “Then some focaccia on the side to mop it up and a nice salad.”
The same principle applies to dessert. “One thing that we do at Aplenty is make a big tray of tiramisu then put it in the middle of the table,” says Johansson. “People just help themselves. It’s a very family meal-style way of eating.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Brown Brothers.