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How to Host a Summer Party, Scandi-Style

How to Host a Summer Party, Scandi-Style
12 June 2023 Samantha Anderson

Lifestyle expert at Contura shares guide to hosting the perfect, stress-free summer do.

As the days continue to get lighter, longer, and warmer – bringing with them the exhilarating realisation that the arrival of summer, once a distant dream, is now just around the corner – there is no better time to start thinking about hosting your next summer feast.

Catharina Björkman, Scandi lifestyle expert at Contura, believes Brits should take inspiration from the simple, stress-free celebrations enjoyed by Scandinavians; in particular, their annual celebration of Midsummer (24 June) – the perfect opportunity to enjoy the summer sunshine with loved ones, minus the stress.

Catharina says, “Midsummer celebrations are centred around food, friendship, and friluftsliv – a Nordic concept which emphasises the importance of enjoying the outdoors. Taking place around the summer solstice, the occasion heralds the start of the summer season.

“The timing and nature of Midsummer celebrations volunteer the occasion as the perfect source of inspiration for those looking to throw an impressive summer party. Better yet, its strong ties with Scandinavian culture – one that has come to be synonymous with the ‘less is more’ approach – mean that this inspiration comes with a focus on keeping things simple.

“Tendencies to over-complicate, under-prepare, and overthink hosting duties mean that, too often, people take the joy out of precious time spent with their family and friends. It does not have to be this way!”

Read on for Catharina’s Scandi inspired guide to enjoying a fuss-free summer party with loved ones…

Get ahead of the game

Though it seems obvious, the more time spent preparing in the days, weeks, and even months before your party, the more time you will have to enjoy it on the day. With Midsummer now less than a month away, there is no doubt that preparations for what is one of the most popular events in the Scandinavian social calendar will have already begun.

Plan a menu in which you can prepare the majority (if not all) of the dishes ahead of time so that, when your guests arrive, all the efforts of simmering, slicing, dicing, boiling, baking and roasting, are largely out of the way. Another huge advantage of preparing your meal in advance is that if you have a culinary disaster, which happens to the best of us (!), you have the time to simply start afresh.

Summer is also the perfect excuse to fill your menu with foods that taste just as, if not more, delicious when eaten cold. Ask any Scandinavian and they will tell you the same thing: pickled herring is an absolute must-have at any Midsummer feast. Typically served cold alongside bread, new potatoes, and hard-boiled eggs, this Midsummer menu mainstay is a perfect example of a dish that can be prepped ahead of guest arrival and that requires minimal effort to serve on the day.

Whilst this salty fish is admittedly an acquired taste, there are plenty of other staple Midsummer dishes that can offer Brits some more familiar inspiration, from crispbreads and berry jams to cheese quiches and beetroot salads. These are just a few of the many delicious dishes that can be made in advance meaning that all that’s left for you to do on the day is serve and enjoy!

A piece of cake

Stick to dishes that are designed to be made for the masses – traybakes, frittatas, salads, tear and share breads, finger sandwiches, and cakes are all great examples. Such recipes avoid the fuss required to know exactly how many people will be coming over and how many stand-alone portions are required.

If you’re set on serving hot food, a BBQ is always a great option when cooking for a crowd in the summer months, and it doesn’t have to be reserved for meat. Instead try grilling halloumi and watermelon kebabs for a delicious salty-sweet flavour combo, crunchy spiced corn on the cob and garlic-cream stuffed mushrooms which can be enjoyed with a selection of salads.

The naturally larger scale of these one-for-all dishes also provides the perfect opportunity to create an eye-catching centrepiece for your table. One need only see a glimpse of Sweden’s Prinsesstårta (also known as princess cake) – a bright-green coloured, cream-filled, and multi-layered dome – to feel inspired!

Many hands make light work…

A common mistake people make is feeling that they have to do everything on their own. A defining element of the famous Scandinavian smorgasbord is the help-yourselves approach. These buffet-style spreads are not only impressive to look at, but also allow guests to pick and choose as they wish. This saves you time that would otherwise have been spent dishing out food to the guests, as well as simultaneously avoiding unnecessary waste or hunger from misjudged portioning – a win-win.

Sharing the load of hosting duties need not only be confined to the day of the party itself. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend to help out by bringing some nibbles or a pudding; more often than not, they’ll be more than happy to get involved. This is also perfect for those planning on serving a buffet, picnic, or smorgasbord-style feast where duties can more easily be shared out.

Remember refreshments

Drinks are an often-underestimated element of a party, however, given that it tends to be one of the first things that guests are greeted with upon arrival, a stand-out drink is the perfect way to set the stage for the fabulous party ahead.

Welcoming people with a homemade concoction is sure to impress; for example, shot glasses filled with homemade schnapps are a staple of any Midsummer table, whilst homemade lingonberry and elderflower cordials are often served to those wanting something on the softer side.

A fruit cordial is a fantastic base for creating a refreshing, summertime drink and, given that most recipes are relatively straight-forward and can also be prepared (and even frozen) well ahead of consumption, they are an easy win. On the day, simply mix your pre-made cordial with some fizz – be it champagne or sparkling water – to make a delicious aperitif that will get all your guests in the party spirit.

On a more practical note, be sure to have large jugs of water out on the table. This saves you the never-ending task of running around topping up water glasses by allowing your guests to help themselves instead. Simply check the water jugs between courses and refill as and when required. Add a few slices of lemon, orange, or cucumber for an extra splash of colour and flavour too.

Embrace the outdoors

Given that Midsummer is all about appreciating nature, it is no surprise that the celebrations surrounding it are traditionally held outdoors. If you are lucky enough to have a garden, there really is no better way to enjoy the warmer and longer days of summer than by hosting your party out in the open.

Everywhere you look at a Midsummer event you will be sure to find plenty of flowers. These are great for adding a sophisticated, colourful touch to any party set-up. Decorate the centre of your table with vases or jam jars filled with seasonal flowers – such as sweet peas, lavender, or delphiniums – and add edible-petals to your ice trays for a practical but pretty way of keeping your drinks cool.

When it comes to dining alfresco, save yourself some steps by having an ice-bucket, filled with plenty of bottles and cans, tucked away in a shady corner of the garden. With this, you can keep your guests quenched with refreshingly cold drinks without constantly having to dash back and forth between the kitchen fridge and the garden. In fact, guests may even feel encouraged to help themselves to the ready supply. Either way, an ice-bucket gives you more time to sit back and enjoy the company of your loved ones.

Though the daytime might be spent keeping cool, don’t be caught out when the sun goes down, taking the natural light and warmth with it. Solar-powered fairy lights are a sustainable and effective way of creating an atmospheric, gentle glow to illuminate your garden in the late evening. And a stash of cosy blankets will be a welcome sight when the temperatures start to drop.

Be sure to have some candles made with citronella on hand too – the natural oil is a well-known natural insect repellent – as your guests won’t be the only ones who find this setting appealing.

The most important thing to remember is that parties are meant to be fun! Once your guests arrive, try to relax and enjoy the evening that you have worked so hard to prepare. At the end of the day, your family and friends are there to see you and so if you are having a good time, there is a high chance that they are too…


Notes to Editors:

  • Rooster PR will coordinate comment, interview and profile opportunities for Contura UK Country Manager, Phil Wood.
  • The Contura PR team will also arrange visits to the nearest Contura Design Centre dealerships or the Contura showroom in Doncaster to see the product range.

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