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Nigella's top five entertaining tips

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Who better than Nigella Lawson to dole out advice on entertaining? We asked this week's guest editor of Stylist for her top five tips when it comes to being the ultimate hostess this party season...

Stock up on essentials

It is always better to have large quantities of a few things – cheese, party food, wine – than many choices but in small portions. It is more welcoming to the guest, who isn’t fearful of taking too much, and it is much easier (in terms of energy and money) on the host!

Get creative with decorations

Use food, and non-fancy food at that, as decoration. A mantelpiece looks beautiful with a few clusters of red grapes hanging over it, as do clementines when tumbled on shelves. I am a great believer in the decorative appeal of Quality Street and gold-foil-covered coins at this time of year, too. And the best part is, none of this adornment is wasteful as you get to eat it all!

Get your guests involved

When you have people for supper, don’t be apologetic about introducing a DIY element. I pile plates on the table, and put cutlery in a canister for people to hand out. I like the informal look of it much more, and it keeps people relaxed.

Bare your soles

Never, ever wear new shoes to a party. Better still, don’t wear shoes at all. I pretend that if I’m barefoot when people come over, it won’t make them feel anxious about whether they’ve dressed up enough, but the reality is, I know that barefoot I am a much happier and therefore better and more welcoming host. And that’s what counts.

Make yourself useful

This last is not so much a home entertaining tip, but a piece of advice for those who find even going to other people’s parties anxiety-provoking: ask to do something, insist on pouring wine or taking round the cocktail sausages. I always like to do this; strangely enough, if it is a great way of banishing shyness and awkwardness as you don’t need to think about what to say other than “refill?” or “sausage?” and consequently you relax and find conversation easier.

Picture credits: Rex Features and JP Masclet