“I really do like to make an event out of every meal,” says Laura Jackson. If you followed her Instagram during lockdown, as she celebrated setting the table for all dinners no matter how small or simple, you'll know she's speaking the wholehearted truth.
Laura's passion for experiencing and enjoying food is at the heart of Hoste, the supper club and lifestyle brand she founded which aims to “democratise the dinner party and make entertaining easy, fun and achievable.”
That's certainly what she's done with Hoste's new Papier collaboration which includes two stationery stars that are first time pieces for Papier: a
“I'm always Whatsapping friends recipes, always. I've always wanted to send a proper recipe card but I've never found any nice ones that I like. Well, they're not really a thing! So I feel like we've got this amazing product which isn't really available anywhere else. The same with the hosting book as well. It's so exciting!”
Whether you're planning a big post-Corona gathering, a romantic meal for two, or maybe even something more like this, Laura has some key advice for you.
“I always love having a thread for a dinner, a purpose for people to be gathering. Whether that's a birthday, Christmas or an Italian night with Italian food and cocktails. I find it much easier to construct a dinner party when you have that purpose.”
“Don't ever go too overboard with your guests. Only cook for the amount of people you feel comfortable cooking for. There's no point stressing yourself out.”
“Cook something that you've cooked before. It's really hard in this pandemic but I would always tend to go with sharing platters because I find them a lot easier. I'll do a big shoulder of lamb or a big roast chicken or a big bowl of potatoes. Things that feel plentiful, so if people are still hungry, they can help themselves.”
“I rarely do a starter. I'll always do a canapé and make that a bit substantial. Whether that is a charcuterie board or crudités, or even something simple like a big lump of parmesan cheese and some honey that people can cut off themselves.”
“Then I'll always cook something for dessert, that doesn't really require cooking – because once you've had your main course, you don't want to have to start cooking again. Something you've cooked earlier basically to make your life easier, like a tart.”
“Have a simple table cloth with simple napkins – because then you can jazz the napkins up. Whether you're using ribbons, napkin rings, string, or nametags. It's basically about having a simple kit which you can then elevate by adding in different pieces.”
“Keep your eyes out when you’re out and about. I love the high street for really nice glassware and placemats. I also love Etsy and eBay and going to charity shops and vintage shops. I always say to people when they're on their travels, just have a little look around.
You might think, ‘I'm not having people round this week or this month,’ but just getting those 50p, 20p wine glasses when you see them, for the next time you are going to use them, is a good way to build on your entertaining set at home.”
“I'm a big fan of mixing and matching. I think it's really nice. It's also really interesting around the table when people say, 'Oh, where's this from?' and you've got a story for it. So I think it makes an interesting table, layered with stories and interesting bits and pieces.”
“I think the host really needs to be seated on the end. You're going to be slipping off, going to get dinner and bringing it back. So you don't want to be sat in the middle and leave a space there.”
“For the playlist I always put on Northern Soul. Failing that, a good film soundtrack. I am a big fan of O Brother Where Art Thou. I think it's one of the best soundtracks.”
“Beware how you serve your fish! I had an Italian night and I did this really amazing, wild sea bass that was so nice. We decided that to serve it, we'd take the head off. I put it on a baking tray and put it back in the oven. A week later I was like, 'What is that smell? Why can I smell rotting fish?'.
Then I opened up the oven and there was the rotting fish head. It took me about another week to get rid of the smell. It was so bad. I cleaned the oven out about four times. I had candles, incense going, all the windows open. It took ages, it was so disgusting!”
There's a whole host of things to love from Laura's Papier collection. She's turned her eye to designs for wedding stationery, wellness journals, notebooks, personalised nursery art, and postcards. And that's just for starters.