Boots on; jumpers and scarves out of the cupboard; new Paul Smith brolly in my bag (cheeky new purchase in the sales) and changed the playlist in the car – leaving those summer tunes behind. I am ready to go! All is good in my camp as my favourite season is upon us. I am not exactly sure why I love this time of year – be it the colours, the change in the food I seem to cook, (even without consciously knowing it), or the secret excitement that we are on the run up to the season to party, which is something I do quite well. For me there is every excuse to think about all the good things to come over the next few months – it’s time to experiment and long evenings in to perfect the most lavish of dishes and party tricks. When your guests come round you can serve them up with the utmost of ease and truly be the dinner party diva. So, with two fab celebrations right around the corner you can party with friends and family on a fun, or more formal level. Throw the doors back and invite the neighbours in for Halloween or Guy Fawkes. Be the envy of the street, leaving them in awe of your calm, collective creativity and effortless hospitality or spice up your dinner table for an evening of kitchen trickery, that only you hold the cards too. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to get organised. This is the simplest way for you to enjoy the evening too…and whilst you need to be thinking about these hot dates looming, we need to be embracing a few extra missions to make December a little easier too.
Time for a drink
So, now with job in hand,’ hedgerow heroes’ this month …sloes…sent from the heavens above. A little patience, sugar and gin turn these hidden gems into the drink of the gods.
Recipes don’t come much easier than this. I particularly like one that you don’t really need to measure! The bottle? It doesn’t matter what the size, the measurements I use work with everything. Use any bottle, the bigger the better in my book, the big 5l water bottles are perfect. Pop them through the dishwasher to sterilise them, then imagine there is a 10 equal part measuring line on the side. Sloes …PICK THEM NOW! Rinse and pop them in the freezer – this saves all the fiddliness of pricking them all. Granulated sugar is fine and as for the Gin, well I’m a Gordon’s girl at heart and loyal till the end. That said, you can really use what you like and supermarket home-brands are perfect for these tipples. Imagine each receptacle has 10 equal parts and make it up with 3 parts frozen sloes, 2 parts sugar and top up with gin. Shake every few days, and if you can wait six to 12 months then you are really onto a winner. Strain twice through a muslin and bottle up. Upon tasting, if too sweet just cut it through with a little more gin or, if not sweet enough, make a little sugar syrup to sweeten it.
Applause for your pud
So, here’s what is on the ’to do’ list: Christmas pud. I know Heston can rock this out with his hidden orange thing, and it tastes fab, but imagine the applause when, dressed in your Christmas Day pinny, mistletoe dangly earrings, and a very wry smile you serve your very own pud. Nothing, not even Heston’s could ever taste this good! Make it now, it’s one evening’s work, and they’ll be no wiping the smile from your face Christmas afternoon! Tried and tested over the years, this recipe by the mum of one of my colleagues, Mary Shelley-Smith, wins hands down.
This ‘rule by thumb’ recipe pretty much works with all tinctures. Don’t be scared, it can’t really go wrong, and it’s great fun tasting it all! Try rhubarb vodka and if you are feeling particularly festive add shredded silver leaf to create you very own 40% proof snow globe in a bottle. Okay! Orange, red, burnt amber – think fire, warmth, dark nights and bright lights. We have set the scene, inside or outside here are my tricks to be the hero at Halloween or flirty and fabulous for fireworks night.
It’s not just the food to think about. Consider what you are going to put it on or in. I bet your cupboards are bursting with ideas, you just don’t know it yet. Think glasses, tins (yes, the ones you throw away all the time) jars, little tea cups, pots and shots. These all make a perfect set of service ware for a party at home. Nothing needs to match perfectly. We can pull that all together with the boards or table that we set it out on. There are numerous great party menu ideas and you can check out the recipes at the Bonnie May Events website. Here’s just a few suggestions to get your taste buds tingling.
Vibrant soup shots – all made in advance. Green pea and crispy bacon, pumpkin and truffle, red pepper and black poppy seed croutons, green asparagus on herbs.
Pots of pasta – Chorizo and garlic prawns in a smashed tomato sauce over squid ink pasta.
Sticks and dips – Cheese straws to die for, Bloody Mary infused cherry tomatoes, torn onion and balsamic bread and delicious dips.
Get Stuffing – Filled sweet potato skins with beef steak chilli, salsa verde and soured cream
Gorgeous glasses – All shapes and sizes look fab. Fill them with fresh goats cheese, green apple and smoked duck breast or Cherry Chutney and Manchego shavings.
Style it out with these two tip top puds – apples in honey with Cointreau soaked grapes and a treacle top and a Lemoncello and pistachio crème brulee. Ta dah!