13 May 2021

How to Survive Culinary Calamities 

Dinner parties are set to return from May 17th as six people or two households are allowed to mix indoors.  We’re all longing to see friends and family, and some adventurous lockdown cooks will be keen to display their newly-honed culinary skills.

However, there’s no doubt that the prospect of home entertaining can be somewhat daunting for many of us. Breaking the isolation of lockdown can cause mild panic and social anxiety, compounded by the fact that we feel that our culinary competence has been eroded by long months of making do with scratch meals and TV dinners.

But should things fizzle, flop or backfire in the kitchen, here are Debrett’s failsafe tips for navigating any dinner party disaster.

Be prepared

The key to remedying kitchen disasters is to keep a well-stocked kitchen and stay calm. There’s no need to confess to a blunder; present your salvaged dish with confidence. Your guests don’t need to know what your original intentions were!

Over seasoning

If you’ve added too much salt to a soup or stew, dilute with water in small amounts, tasting as you go. You can also add more bulk in the form of veggies, rice, noodles or pearl barley to absorb the excess salt or pepper. Another trick is to add cubes of raw potato and leave them to soak up the salt – but don’t forget to remove them before serving!

Too sweet or spicy 

A little sugar or honey can calm an overly fiery dish, and guests may appreciate a side dish of cooling cucumber raita or sour cream with chives. If you’ve used too much sugar or honey, temper the sweetness with sour – add lemon juice, wine or vinegar.

Fall-back food

If a meal’s burnt to a crisp or you’ve dropped it on the floor, pasta, eggs and cold dishes work excellently as fall-back meals that can be rustled up in minutes. Think Spanish omelette or frittata, pasta pesto, carbonara, Nigella’s spaghetti with Marmite, Greek salad or gazpacho.

Pudding problems

A layer of fresh or dried fruit can salvage a cake that has sunk in the middle or a mousse that hasn’t quite set – then serve with plenty of cream or ice cream.

Smell of burning

Get rid of the smell of burning before guests arrive by opening doors and windows, lighting scented candles or warming cinnamon sticks in a saucepan of water – far more pleasant than heavy air fresheners.

Spillages and breakages

Salt soaks up red wine stains; leave for 30 minutes before vacuuming. Gently dab dried red wine stains with soda water, or two parts hydrogen peroxide mixed with one part washing up liquid. For tea and coffee stains, mix one teaspoon of white wine vinegar with a few cups of water and spray or pour over the stain, then blot with a clean tea towel or kitchen paper.


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66 Baker Street
Weybridge KT13 8AL
United Kingdom
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