Monday, 23 April 2012

That's why you'll aways find me in the kitchen at parties...

At one stage on Saturday afternoon, my (as yet, child-free) youngest brother looked into our playroom and announced that the sight of approximately 35 18 month-11 year old children watching Tangled and sugar-loading on lemon drizzle cake and Fruit Shoots was ‘his worst nightmare’. I had to correct him and advise that his worst nightmare would in fact be when the TV went off, but the reason why I mention this is that we have a reasonable-size cottage (small rooms, low ceilings etc), and I had somehow managed to invite approximately 120 (give or take) people for my birthday party – probably half and half adults & children (again, give or take). There were children in the playroom, children playing football, children at the park over the road (with responsible older child – thanks Rowan!), children hiding out in the bedrooms and the cooler ‘children’ making the best of our ipod selection (Massive Attack and some old Ministry of Sound Ibiza albums were about the best they could come up with) in our sitting room.

I always find some welly boots add a certain je ne sais quoi...
On the other hand, us adults – all 60 or so of us were crammed into an area approximately 4m by 12m, made up of our dining room and decking – with the French doors open (for ease of access between the cakes and the fizz) and a gazebo keeping off the (thankfully infrequent) showers. Ok, so it wasn’t the kitchen, but in that fine tradition, we had all crammed ourselves into the smallest space possible. Believe it or not, the sun shone for most of the time, the bunting fluttered in the breeze, and if I do say so myself, I think it went rather well. A bit like a wedding without the commitment bit. My lovely, lovely Husband did a fab job with the fizz, Allotment Junkie, my brother and his wife, and my school friends were wonderful doing tea and topping things up and everyone was WONDERFUL. I have amazing friends and family - all of you - and I had a ball. Bring on 50 that's all I can say.

In case you were interested, this is what we catered – and ended up with literally one small plate consisting of 1 pumpkin cupcake, a few slices of fruit bread and 3 pieces of chocolate and walnut brownie – pretty good going, given that on Saturday morning I was worried that I didn’t have enough, and then just before everyone arrived, I was worried that there was far, far too much...

I decided that we ought to have a little savoury in the unlikely event of there being anyone there who didn’t like cake (I know, I know, but I do like to cover all eventualities, however unlikely), so:
4 loaves of bread made into smoked salmon sandwiches (used 450g of smoked salmon) and cucumber sandwiches (2 cucumbers) (thanks Hugh and Natalie)

750g puff pastry made into marmite and cheese swirls, raspberry jam and cheese swirls and ham mustard and cheese swirls (see below).

And now, the important stuff:
40 bottles of fizz (30 of prosecco, 10 of various - by that stage, I’m not sure anyone was really worried- brought by lovely guests)

70 mini chocolate ├ęclairs and 2 trays of ginger shortbread (thanks, Allotment Junkie)

60 cupcakes (various flavours) (thanks Catherine, Emmie, Kathryn, Louise and Ruth)

1 tray of exceptionally scrummy peanut and Crunchie rocky road type thing (thanks Louise)

1 fruit loaf (thanks, Rachel)

2 trays of lemon drizzle traybake, 2 of raspberry bakewell slice, 1 of chocolate and walnut brownie

30 florentines – an afterthought, but I’ve been desperate to bake them ever since I saw a Nigella recipe for them in Domestic Goddess, and first thing on Saturday morning before anyone else was up seemed like a good time as any...
80 teabags (yes, we did actually drink tea... then more fizz)

I didn’t take any  specific pics, but they're on the green plate on the right of the table, and in the interests of providing a recipe in this post, here’s what I did for the savoury swirls (with thanks to Sarah P, who gave me the idea ages ago):

Take 250g puff pastry, roll into a rectangle if not already rolled. Spread with e.g. Dijon mustard, top with chopped ham and grated cheddar, roll up long the long side, slice into rounds, approx 1 cm thick for dainty, 2 cm for chunky, place rounds on a greased baking sheet, whack into pre-heated oven (2000C fan)  for 15-20 mins till golden – job done. You can make these with almost anything – marmite and cheddar – good for kids’ parties - pesto and parmesan, tapenade (I nearly did this, but my French friends had bought me some particularly delicious tapenade as a gift and I was feeling selfish...), sundried tomato paste and mozzarella...


  1. Happy Birthday ....... are you still clearing up! x

    1. managed to return the teapots & the teacups this evening; also took 50 bottles to the bottle bank... gazebo is still up but it's been raining almost constantly since...

  2. So glad you had a great day and that the rain held off. All sounds fantastic - lovely food and fizz! Can't quite get my head round the fact you had about 60 kids in your house....
    Did you have to make a speech? x

    1. Neither can I (although at least the weather was with us so they could do running around outside) and yes I did although by then rather a lot of prosecco had been consumed... I thought I had got away with it, but no, and then I was upstaged by one of the footballers who was totally covered in mud...!

  3. Happy birthday! I was thinking about your party over the weekend. Glad it went well - bunting looks great...but those eclairs!!! Delish ;)
    I can't remember if you bought the book Plenty? Anyhow, made the leek fritters and accompanying sauce the other night..... ooooh la la! They were fantastic! Definitely worth a go.

    1. yes i did get Plenty. Thanks for the tip - I am feeling completely lacking in any kind of food inspiration at the moment, and we're out of fishfingers :-)

    2. Oh I know that feeling. Sit tight. It will return!

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