There is something truly special about the onset of fall. Yes, the cozy clothing and décor updates make our happiness meters go off the charts, but it’s also the dinner parties and entertaining during the cooler season that really make our hearts skip a beat. Who doesn’t love the chance to host your favorite people at home, enjoying interesting conversations, indulging in delicious comfort food, sipping on wine to a killer playlist? It’s definitely our idea of a good time.
But even though you know how to have fun, that doesn’t mean you necessarily know how to put it all together. To help you out, we asked the creative duo Laura Jackson and Alice Levine of Jackson&Levine to share some exclusive excerpts from their stunning new book, Round to Ours, with a few tips and tricks on creating a tablescape for fall that’s perfectly imperfect. Read the excerpts below and scroll down to the end for three of Laura and Alice’s delicious and easy recipes to make for your guests as a bonus.
If you’re hosting your own Friendsgiving or fall event soon, be sure to tag us on Instagram with #MyDomaineEats so we can get inspired too.
Plates, Platters, and Cutlery
“For as long as we have been running the supper club we have used Falcon enamelware. We would love to tell you it was the plates’ utilitarian look and beautifully striped edges that fitted in with our grand style master-plan, but in all honesty, they are just the most practical piece of kit we use: stackable, lightweight, unbreakable and practically non-stick. Plus, in a small apartment, they are handy space-savers.
“We intersperse these with our ceramics: we often find lone pieces at car-boot sales rather than sets, so none of it ‘goes together’ but this adds character. If you want to be adventurous then why not sign up to a ceramics class and make your own? Granted this may be a lengthy process (everyone can use paper plates until you’ve finished the set!), but the results are so rewarding.
“Large platters are very practical for big lunches or dinners; guests can just help themselves rather than you having to fuss with individually plating food. There are some really fabulous ones in the likes of The Conran Shop or Liberty London (based in the U.K.) but they don’t have to be expensive—platters are usually the items that go into the sale. We bought most of our serving platters second-hand and they were really inexpensive (change from a fiver!). It’s worth having a selection of different styles for different occasions: plain, patterned, ceramic, contemporary and wooden, for everything from canapés to pasta.
“At our Scandinavian supper club, we went for the D.I.Y. option and served the starters on wooden boards that we salvaged from a local skip. We cut them to size, sanded and cleaned them up—quite a job, but it was worth going the extra mile, especially as they were free.
“Cutlery for us should be clean and simple and it’s worth investing in a set—vintage or new. We have a great set of timeless ivory-handled cutlery that we picked up from a seaside town (it’s always worth a detour via the charity shops).”
“When it comes to serving up, it’s best (and easiest) to keep things as relaxed as possible; informal and plentiful is far more inviting than rigid and sparse. Then, by adding a few flourishes, a simple sharing plate can be brought to life. If you don’t have enough ramekins, for instance, why not use big sharing bowls for mousse or Eton Mess?
“Think about textures and colors, even when it comes to your food. In winter, try brightening up a piece of slow-cooked meat by finishing with some apricots or pistachios. In summer, salads really benefit from a scattering of pea shoots or torn herbs, and a big dollop of aïoli will bring humble beans to life.
“A mandoline is really useful for making quick and rough salads with kohlrabi, radish, and celeriac; it doesn’t need to be precise but will look great—we use ours all the time.
“Edible flowers are a fantastic way of adding something really special to any simple dish—sweet or savory. There are so many ways you can use them—crystallize them, make floral sugars (lilac is a favorite) or dry them. Rose petals look like jewels when scattered over chicken and a handful of fresh scarlet nasturtiums in a bowl of green leaves looks spectacular.
“You can buy them online or at some greengrocers but growing your own is a much cheaper option.”
“At the supper clubs, we always have a table plan: people like direction and can feel lost if they don’t have an allocated seat. It’s also a way for us to be strategic and encourage guests to meet new people. We always want to steer away from anything too twee (we are not wedding planners) so we prefer to replace traditional name cards with something a little more unique. We often tie names to herb bundles or attach brown tags to personal table gifts.
“Guests love to have something to take away with them, so we tend to make extra of one element of the menu – for example, for our first supper club we made a rosemary infused oil (to rub on lamb) and we put the spare oil into brown apothecary bottles sourced from Wares of Knutsford. At another evening, when we served deep-fried courgette flowers, everyone’s gift was some courgette seeds in a little brown envelope to plant at home (though one guest did eat them!).
“We have a typewriter and at the start of our supper club adventure, we used to buy really good paper from the stationer’s or online from GF Smith, and type out the menu. We played around with textures and paper stocks – one of our favorites was a translucent peach paper.”
Flowers and Plants
“The past few years have seen a real resurgence of the use of flowers and plants in interior design. It wasn’t that long ago that terrariums weren’t available in the UK and ‘indoor plants’ used to mean a spider plant in the school art room. Flowers have become way more relaxed, unfussy and frivolous (no more stuffy centerpieces) and plants have become a dinner-party table staple.
“Flowers, like fruit and vegetables, are seasonal, which will always help with keeping your table updated. Soft, pastel, dusty, full-headed blooms in summer are a good contrast to hearty foliage and climbing branches in winter. In summer, you can create a lovely-looking table simply with the addition of lavender plants, rosemary or mint, and they will also create a wonderful fragrance. In the colder months, mini squashes provide a wonderful burst of color for the table.
“Flowers and plants don’t just have to sit on the table: we once hung giant allium flowers upside down from the ceiling of the flat. Try it with big bunches of foliage and herbs, too. We tend to steer away from displaying flowers in standard vases, preferring Kilner jars, glass tumblers, ceramic pots or bottles.
“And it’s really easy to add a flourish to the table by using smaller herbs and flowers, fresh, dried or pressed. For an autumnal supper club, we pressed bright-red leaves and had these resting on the menus. We’ve done the same with meadow flowers then attached them with a gold paperclip. Taping fresh flowers to napkins using neon tape looked great too. A tie of seasonal herbs on each napkin looks lovely – this is something we have done when we have been short of time. Even a little sprig of rosemary would be enough to lift a really simple place setting.
— Visit flower markets for wholesale prices.
— Try the garden center for succulents and herb pots.
— Press individual flowers from a bouquet you have received.
— Dry out bunches of hydrangea heads or eucalyptus – the latter is particularly nice in the bathroom as the steam brings out the scent.
Make your next dinner party a delicious one with three of Jackson and Levine's simple recipes below:
Skillet Eggs & Chorizo
1 tbsp olive oil
150g cooking chorizo, skin removed, broken into small pieces
2 jalapeños (from a jar), finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp chipotle chili flakes
60g feta, crumbled
2 large handfuls of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
sea salt and black pepper
sour cream, to serve (optional)
Directions:Pour the olive oil into a large frying pan (25–30cm) and set over a medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook for about 5 minutes, until it starts to turn golden and release its fat, then add the jalapeños and cook for a minute.
Stir in the garlic then tip in the tomatoes and turn up the heat to get them really hot and bubbling. Add the sugar and chili flakes. Leave the tomatoes to bubble and lose a bit of their moisture, for about 5 minutes. Stir and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Make 4 wells in the mixture and crack an egg into the middle of each well. Leave to cook gently until the white is solid.
Tomato, Feta & Thyme Tart
butter, for greasing
375g all-butter shortcrust pastry
3 medium eggs
200ml double cream
12 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
125g soft goat’s cheese
150g feta, crumbled into small bits
400g cherry tomatoes, a mix of colors and varieties, halved
sea salt and black pepper
Directions:Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas 6. Lightly grease a deep, fluted, 25-cm, loose-based tart tin.
Roll out the pastry to the size of the tin with enough to hang over the edges. Lay the pastry in the tin and gently press it into the edges and ridges of the tin. Prick a few times over the base with a fork.
Put a large sheet of baking parchment on top of the pastry, so it has a large overhang, and fill with baking beans. Blind bake for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the paper and the beans and bake for 5 minutes more, until golden. Remove from the oven, trim away the overhanging pastry and set aside to cool while you make the filling.
Mix the eggs, cream and thyme leaves with some salt and pepper, then add the goat’s cheese. Use a whisk to mix it all, breaking the goat’s cheese up so it’s not in huge lumps. Pour the mixture into the pastry case.
Spiced Olive & Lemon Chicken
6 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick), skin on, or 1.4kg chicken pieces of your choice
2 red onions, sliced
4 plum tomatoes, peeled and halved
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 lemon, thinly sliced
100g pitted green olives
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
4 tbsp olive oil
225g cherry tomatoes, ideally on the vine
small bunch of flat-leaf parsley
sea salt and black pepper
Directions: Put all the ingredients, except the cherry tomatoes and parsley, into a large bowl. Add 220ml water and some salt and pepper, and mix together. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least a few hours, or overnight ready for the next day.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas 6.
Spread the chicken mixture out in a single layer in a baking tray or dish, with the chicken skin side up, and bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and continue cooking for another 20 minutes or until the chicken skin is colored and crisp, and the chicken is cooked through. Transfer to a serving dish, if cooked in a baking tray, sprinkle over the parsley and enjoy.
Recipes excerpted with permission from Round to Ours by Laura Jackson and Alice Levine. Published by Quadrille.