Thursday, 31 October 2013

D is for Day of the Dead

Tomorrow is the Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos in Spanish), a primarily Mexican holiday that celebrates the lives of the deceased through food and drink, music and activities that the (dead) relatives enjoyed during their lifetime.

To put together your own party, concentrate on decorations that are skeletons and skulls.  And while this sounds morbid, being Mexican these are incredibly colourful and beautifully decorated.

And for just £3.10, you can buy a party pack to download and print to hold your own, more international version of a happy Halloween!

Given I've just put my own family and friends through a big party, I won't be celebrating this year this's too good a celebration to miss!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

H is for Halloween

I'm having a party!  It's a bit of a big birthday this year and rather than hide away, I've decided to throw a party and make sure everyone knows I'm 30...ish...well...maybe 30 + 10!

And with 26 guests saying they'll be on they way for 26 October, I've got to decorate my rooms and cook up a feast.

And given I want to be able to spend time with my guests, we're having curries.  I can cook them all a couple of days in advance, keep them in the fridge, put them in the oven with the timer set to turn on as guests arrive to warm them back up. The rice is cooked in the rice cooker.

However they need to be themed up a bit, so I'm giving them new names.  My menu therefore reads as:
  • Swamp Dip & Crisped Dragon Skin (Raiti & mini poppadums)

And for pudding:

When serving the curries, adding food tags to sit next to the dishes will be enough.

But for the puddings, I needed to decorate the cakes, buns and ensure that the fruits sweets really snaked their way out of the jellies as they set and ensure they were suitably spooky.

The lemon cupcakes therefore had strips of ready-rolled icing cut to size to cover the top with a couple of sugar eyes set on each bun.  Meanwhile the chocolate cake was covered in dark chocolate and a web piped in white chocolate over the top.

And I had a lot of fun raiding eBay for suitable decorations.

For extra support and/or if my ideas for recipes don't appeal, check out Martha Stewart's Halloween party planner.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

V is for Vegetarian

Since 1977, this day has marked World Vegetarian Day according to the North American Vegetarian Society.

And while I have to admit that I am much more of a carnivore than even an omnivore, two things have pushed me to serving up more vegetarian food than before.

The first is the impact on the environment.  While we all talk about climate change, you personally can make a bit of a difference by eating less meat (as well as the obvious use of public transport etc.).

The second is the creation of this delicious recipe.  Yum!


1 cauliflower, leaves removed
1 broccoli
350 grms macaroni pasta
50 grms croutons
300 mls crème fraîche (full fat)
150 gms grated cheese (veggie friendly of course)
1 teaspn English mustard
Pinch grated nutmeg
Knob of butter

  1. Heat the oven to 180°C.  Bring a pan of lightly salted water to boil.
  2. Cut a star shape out of the base of the cauli, leaving the head whole, and stand in the boiling water.
  3. Turn down the temperature and simmer for 4 mins.  Cut the broccoli head into 2-3 pieces leaving florets whole and slot in (base down) around the cauli in the pan. 
  4. Simmer for a further 2-3 mins.
  5. Drain all the water off the veggies, cut off the florets and tip them into a buttered ovenproof dish.
  6. Cook the macaroni pasta as per the packet BUT only cook it for 4 mins.
  7. Meanwhile mix the crème fraîche with the mustard, some S&P, nutmeg and 100 grms of the cheese.
  8. Drain the pasta, reserving a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water, and add in the crème fraîche mix.
  9. Add that to the veggies and add in the pasta water to loosen the mix if needed.
  10. Scatter on the croutons and sprinkle on the remaining cheese
  11. Bake in the over for 10-15 mins until bubblingly brown and when the pasta/veggies are tender to the point of a sharp knife.

Served hot, it feeds four.