Throwing a New Year’s Eve dinner party and after some tips? In 2013, Laura Jackson and Alice Levine launched their food and lifestyle brand Jackson&Levine. The duo run a sell-out eponymous supperclub, described by The Observer as “the hottest in town” and have just written their first book, Round To Ours containing 24 menus perfect for every gathering. Their debut homeware range, a capsule collection of kitchen and table linens, designed in collaboration with Habitat has also landed in stores only last month. Now C&TH have collaborated with the pair to bring you the ultimate Mexican themed dinner party guide complete with recipes to ensure your guests have an unforgettable experience…
How to Throw the Best Dinner Party: The Jackson&Levine Guide
The Holy Trinity
It doesn’t have to be fancy but we have been to dinner parties where all we have been given was a side salad…
Have a stocked and interesting wine rack. Collect from your travels, buy that bottle of wine you loved when you went out for dinner (restaurants offer a discount on take-home bottles, or you can find most on the internet)
Stuck for what to play? Search your favourite film soundtrack on Spotify or play FIP the French digital radio station.This must be the place by Talking Heads and You Hit me Like TNT by Linda Jones are always on our playlist.
1. CURATING A PLAYLIST
Start with something lively and upbeat to get people going – you want the music to be loud enough for people to enjoy it but quiet enough for a conversation. If you want the dinner party to turn into a party-party, keep it up-tempo, otherwise add in some slower tracks, When you want your guests to leave, turn it down – a subtle (or not so subtle?) way to politely tell guests the party is over.
2. LAYING THE TABLE
Setting the table is just as important as the food. We source coloured glass, plates, mats, vintage crockery and fabric from our local market, charity shop and our travels -it;s nice to use tableware that has a story. Even simple touches like a beautiful napkin or table runner are an effortless way to make a meal feel a little bit more special. Decorate your table with simple flowers or herbs, which will naturally fragrance the room.
3. KNOW YOUR LIMITS
At the supper club we usually cater for 20 to 30 people, we have done much bigger numbers but for us we feel that those evenings lose a bit of intimacy. Ideally all of your guests should be able to sit around one table and have a conversation with everyone. At home, 15 has been the largest group we’ve had round.
4. TAKE SHORTCUTS
Do as much as you can in advance to save time. In winter, if you are cooking a stew or a chilli, start the night before to allow the flavours to enhance. Chopping for summer salads can sometimes take a long time, so do this in the morning and wrap any veg in damp jay cloths and store in the fridge to keep fresh.
5. PREP IN ADVANCE
Do as much as you can in advance to save you time. In winter if you are cooking a stew or a chilli it’s much better to start this the night before for the flavours to enhance. Chopping for summer salads can sometimes take a long time, do this in the morning and wrap any veg in damp jay cloths and store in the fridge to keep fresh.
If not taken too seriously themed suppers are’t tacky and are lots of fun. Wait for a scorcher ad get all hands on deck for this Mexican feast for four… just leave the sombrero at home
- Juice of 3–4 limes, plus extra lime wedges
- 600ml tomato juice
- Worcestershire sauce, to taste
- Hot sauce (Cholula or Tabasco), to taste
- Lots of ice cubes
- 4 bottles of Mexican beer (we like Pacífico, Sol or Corona)
- 4 shots of vodka (optional)
- Sea salt and black pepper
- Pour a layer of salt on to a plate. Rub the rims of four tallish tumblers with a lime wedge, then dip each tumbler rim in the salt.
- Add tomato juice to each glass to about a quarter full.
- To each glass add a squeeze of lime juice, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, a splash of hot sauce and some freshly ground black pepper.
- Top up with loads of ice and add a beer to each, with a shot of vodka if you like, and stir well. Play around with the quantities, depending how much of each flavour you like.
Tostadas with smoked salmon, avocado & chipotle mayo
- Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- 8 small corn tortillas (around 15cm in diameter)
- 6 banana shallots, finely sliced into rings
- 4 tbsp mayonnaise
- 2 tsp chipotle paste, harissa or any hot sauce you like
- 240g smoked or cured salmon, cut into thin slices
- 4 avocados, halved, stoned, peeled and sliced lengthways
- Bunch of coriander
- 2–3 limes, cut into wedges
- Pour enough oil into a medium, high-sided pan, to come about a third of the way up the sides of the pan, and heat it to 180˚C.
- Working in batches, deep-fry the tortillas in the hot oil for two minutes, turning them every 30 seconds, until golden brown. Remove from the oil and leave to drain on kitchen paper to absorb the excess. When you’ve finished frying the tortillas, drop the oil temperature down to 160˚C and deep-fry the shallots for about two minutes, until golden brown. Transfer these to clean kitchen paper to drain.
- Mix the mayonnaise with the chipotle in a bowl. To serve, top each tortilla with a slice of salmon, some slices of avocado and a dollop of spicy mayo. Scatter over crispy shallots and coriander. Finish with a squeeze of lime.
Black Bean Quesadillas
- 2–3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large white onion, finely diced
- 2 bunches of spring onions, finely sliced into rings
- 2 x 380g cartons (or tins) black beans in water, drained
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 8 small, soft, wheat tortillas
- 100g cheese, such as Cheddar (or cotija, if you can find it), grated
- Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a pan on a low heat, add the diced onion and fry until beginning to soften, then add the spring onions. Keep an eye on them; it’s good if they caramelise a little, just not too much. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the drained beans to the pan with a splash more oil, then add the garlic and fry until just turning golden. Add the smoked paprika and continue to fry until the beans are warmed through. Remove from the heat then briefly and roughly mash, but not to a paste; there should still be some whole beans.
- Heat a ridged griddle pan until hot. Spread a layer of bean mixture on to a tortilla, top with some onion mixture, sprinkle with cheese and top with a second tortilla, like a sandwich. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and ingredients. Griddle the tortillas on each side until the cheese has melted and griddle lines have appeared. Cut into quarters to serve.