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Simple ideas if you’re hosting lunch, from four Australian chefs

IMAGE VIA @LONG_PRAWN/INSTAGRAM

WORDS BY GITIKA GARG

Slow. Leisurely. Underrated.

If you’re anything like me and are partial to any occasion that provides an excuse for a bit of decor and drinks – but don’t enjoy feeling overwhelmed – then hosting a little lunch celebration is probably the way to go for more reasons than one. 

A more casual, laid-back affair than dinner, hosting a lunch party is a relaxed and simple way to get together with loved ones. They are an underrated event, packed full of good conversation that leisurely lingers into an evening sunset and a glass of wine. And with the summer weather blessing us lately, hosting a lunch (or attending one) is all the more appealing. 


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But with a list of decisions that can become daunting all too quickly, especially for those of us who are new to the whole hosting situation, it’s important to plan ahead of time and figure out how best to set up your cosy gathering. Main dish? Side dishes? Cocktails? Music? Tablescape? There are lots of components to consider.

To make it easier, I decided to reach out to the experts, picking the brains of chefs and cooks alike on their go-to recipes and tips on hosting a simple lunch. Have a pen and paper handy because these ideas are ones you’ll want to note down. 

Sophie McIntyre, founder of Club Sup

 

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A post shared by CLUB SUP – SUPPER CLUB (@clubsup_)

What’s your go-to dish?

Butterflied prawns grilled with butter and a salsa verde. Looks so impressive and takes all of 20 minutes. You also can’t go past a tomato burrata and basil or a batch of slow-roasted garlic and fennel. 

What’s your advice for someone planning on hosting a lunch? 

Indulge in high-quality ingredients for your high rotation dishes for an elevated… celebration. Club Sup menus are all centred around super simple dishes and high-quality ingredients with good fresh sauces or salsa verdes. If in doubt just cook anything from Alison Roman – she will never let you down. Never. Order anything you can to be picked up or delivered to avoid making the shops busy. Even Queen Victoria Market delivers now. 

What are some ideas on how to set it up? 

To host, set the table as your first job of the day. For me, it’s the most creative part and you can really enjoy it before you have to start thinking of lunch or dinner.

@clubsup_

Lauren and Fred, founders of Long Prawn

 

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What’s your go-to dish?

Go bananas – cook things that are chalk and cheese, focus on things that are your bread and butter. In your house, you’re the big cheese and nothing can really go that pear-shaped. The icing on the cake is trusting your knack. With good company around and if you take everything with a pinch of salt, or with a slice of humble pie, you cannot go wrong.

What’s your advice for someone planning on hosting a lunch? 

The perfect lunch is not a hard nut to crack and when done thoughtfully it can be a piece of cake. When thinking of guests, opt for the smart cookies, rather than the couch potatoes, maybe invite the apple of your eye, and gently suggest that your friend doesn’t bring a bad egg. If you are really in a pickle, and you can’t get the cream of the crop, butter up someone who may not be your usual cup of tea

What are some ideas on how to set it up? 

Long Prawn is happy to spill the beans. Cook with courage, chat feverishly, get the lighting right and the drinks cold and the world is your oyster. 

@long_prawn

Dezi Madafferi, home cook

What’s your go-to dish?

I’m obsessed with slow-cooked Mediterranean roast lamb, you know the one that falls apart at the touch? Served with some crispy roast potatoes – yum! Think about a variety of fresh salads to offer on the day and what sides to include. Fried rice can be made in advance and is more flavourful if you make it the day before (serve at room temperature).

What’s your advice for someone planning on hosting a lunch? 

Plan, prep and enjoy…I highly recommend writing a list and giving some thought to what meals to make, including a signature cocktail. [When I make this list] it also breaks down the ingredients for all dishes and what I will need for my go-to desserts like my popular tiramisu and rocky road. My best advice is to do what you can ahead of time including grocery shopping and make what you can the day before. 

What are some ideas on how to set it up? 

Lay out the tablecloth and style your table in advance. Layering your dinnerware, adding some natural linen napery and a little… flair. This could include a decorative ornament or a touch of nature, too. 

@dezi_cooks

Tom Sarafian, chef and founder of Sarafian

 

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A post shared by Tom Sarafian (@toumsarafian)

What’s your go-to dish?

I love putting together a big table full of cold mezze to start lunch. Vegetables like peppers, eggplants and zucchini cooked over charcoal and marinated in olive oil are beautiful when prepared a day or two in advance. They taste best when taken out of the fridge in the morning and left to come to room temperature by lunchtime. Dress them with flaked sea salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with homemade labneh, fresh herbs, crusty sourdough, pickles and olives – which can all be plated before your guests arrive.

What’s your advice for someone planning on hosting a lunch?

My greatest tip is to cook a barbeque the day before. Sliced zucchini, eggplants, tomatoes and spring onions simply cooked over charcoal then marinated in olive oil and sea salt are beautiful served at room temperature the next day. I love serving cold barbeque meats as well. Butterflied chicken, lamb and beef cooked then refrigerated overnight. Take them out of the fridge before your guests arrive and thinly slice. Arrange on large plates and serve with toum, harissa, fresh herbs and lettuces. 

What are some ideas on how to set it up? 

I love serving a simple spread of cold mezze for lunch in the summertime. A beautiful table full of many small dishes like hummus, baba ghanoush, labneh, raw and pickled vegetables, olives, fresh cheeses, breads, seafood and cold sliced meats. These can all be plated and ready to eat before your guests arrive, so you’re relaxed and can enjoy a stress-free lunch as well. 

@toumsarafian 

For more ideas on how to host a lunch, read this

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