Be My Guest!

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I love hosting and entertaining, getting friends together and enjoying food & drink in an intimate environment is my ‘happy place’! On Friday night, I held a dinner party for a group of my oldest girlfriends from school to celebrate Valentine’s day.

About a month ago, when I first emailed the gang to get a date in the diary I had just bought Supper Club, which is all about the joys of entertaining in your own home. Kirstin Rodgers however, entertains strangers with her Supper Clubs. She is a skilled cook, with much experience in catering for large groups of people, unlike me! She is also responsible for getting the Underground Restaurant craze fired up in the UK! However much I love to cook and bake, a group of more than 5 can come with it’s complexities and in turn, result in lost sleep leading up to the big day. So I came up with some pointers below, that help make the process a whole lot more efficient and enjoyable from start to finish.

In Advance

  • Invites! I personally email my invites to guests, as that is the most reliable form of communication with a large group of friends. As much as I would adore to use pen and paper at all times, it is not always viable time wise and can be expensive. My mum introduced me to the fabulous ‘Paperless Post’ which is ideal for any occasion. You can also see when the mail has been read and the guest can respond by the click of button. It adds charm & ease right from the start of the organising…
  • Putting your menu together– firstly, I would find out if there are any dietary requirements within your party. No point finding out once it’s too late and throwing you into a panic! When you have confirmation of this, start piecing together your seasonal menu using books, magazine tear outs, Pinterest…Keeping in mind your own level of skill and experience (I should mentioned my first attempt at making fresh ravioli on the day of was daring to say the least and resulted in a few fails, disaster! Read my next blog on pasta to hear ALL about that).

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(For Friday night, I printed out my menu’s and on the back of each one I put a different Love poem. Adding a romantic twist!)
  • Music- make a playlist that last lasts at least 4 hours, so you don’t have to worry about fiddling around with the ipod during the night. Bear in mind that this music is for your guests too and so you have to think about what they would enjoy? Choosing something like ‘Death Metal’ wouldn’t be everyones cup of tea for instance…
  • Shopping lists- a few days before the party I go through all the recipes and make a note of ingredients, I then go through the cupboards and start crossing off anything I might already have. Once I have a list of things to buy, I split the list into 3; ‘Fresh Produce’, ‘Supermarket’ & ‘To Drink’. Doing this keeps it all clear and concise and ensures that nothing is overlooked! 

The Day Before

  • Start Shopping– Head to the Supermarket with that list you have made and buy your condiments, juices, dairy produce etc. 
  • Got Everything? Do a count of all your crockery, glassware and cutlery to make sure you have enough. I realised the day before that I was short of one set, so lucky I checked! Phew!

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  • Your table- get your table ready and arrange your seating plan. Name places are lovely ‘extra detail’. Think about who should be next to who, things in common, any newcomers to the group? It is important to give this some thought so that you get the dynamic right.

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  • Drinks– Go on a booze run to your off license with your ‘Drinks’ list; having decided on your menu at this point, go for wine’s that compliment the meal. I asked the lady in the shop near me to recommend good wines having told her my menu and she was unbelievably helpful. We got the task done in under 15 minutes! A bottle of prosecco or champagne as an apreratif is a good starting point, 1 glass each as people are arriving is a nice gesture. 3 bottles of red & 3 white’s for the table for a group of 9/10 people (it is roughly 5 glasses per bottle by the way!) and there is nearly always at least 1 beer drinker in the group, so I like to have a 6 pack in the fridge just in case.

On The Day

  • Get cooking! Anything you can cook in advance and put in the fridge, then do it! I made the fresh ravilioli & filling, chocolate puddings and herb crust for the lamb as early as I could, that way I had an organised mise en place and was ready to go once guests have arrived.
  • Flower arrangements- do it yourself! It is a really nice touch to have fresh flowers on the table and I like to buy a few bunches from the market and put little posies together myself. I think 3 different flowers, with some sort of greenery works perfectly. Old jam jars are the perfect vase for a small arrangement and add a rustic flavour…buy flowers on the morning of, otherwise they will start to look a little sad.

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(I used Anenomies, Hyacinths and Roses brought together with Solidago. It’s colour theme was romance but that hint of yellow remind us that spring is on its way!)
  • Fresh produce-Your 3rd and final list. It is so much more cost effective to buy all your fresh fruit and vegetables from either a green grocer, or if you are lucky… a fresh fruit & vegetable stall in a local market or farmers market. On the day, I wake up at 7am and get straight to my local to pick out the best before it goes. You can sleep tomorrow… so an early rise is definitely necessary to get everything done.
  • Hoover! I am a messy cook, so once everything is set, it is essential that I hoover the kitchen/living area and make sure the kitchen is looking acceptable (especially as my kitchen and living room are all in the same space). Get rid of any bin bags and dirty tea towels too, very off putting.
  • Atmosphere. Just before the guests arrive and once you are dressed and ready, it is time to get everything just right. Music on, not too loud. Turn the lights down a bit and get  some candles going (just be careful not to put them in any precarious places).

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Now It’s Showtime!

We Ate…

Starter

Beetroot Ravioli with Ricotta & Sage Butter

Main Course

Herb Crusted Lamb with roast potatoes, Kale & Beetroot Top

Dessert

Molten Chocolate Pudding with Amaretto Cream

&

Cheese Board with Chilli Jam

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We Drank…

Moet & Chandon Rose Imperial

Glorioso, Reserva 2006 & Cosme Palacio, Rioja 2008

Pazo Do Mar, Ribeiro Blanco 2010

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We Listened…

My love-themed playlist starting with 1940’s early blues, moving onto 1950’s (Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone…), then the swinging 60’s with Elvis & Ray Charles. The tempo progressively became more energetic, which coincided perfectly with the gradual volume increase and liveliness of my guests.

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We Played…

‘Apples to Apples’ provided by my friend Parker, the Games Master. A hilarious game, especially when tipsy.

P.S. It definitely helps to know your opponents in this one!

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And One For The Road…

Mmmm, Amaretto Sours

(Made by me but special thanks to my friend & colleague Chris who kindly text me the recipe, on demand, at 01:00 a.m. Gotta love him!)

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Why don’t you let us into some of your dinner party secrets….

Thank you Molly, Emily, Parker, Charlotte, Simon, Rupert, Lara & Skippy for being wonderful guests.

(Readers, I apologise for the lack of quality and of photographs but I was having far too much fun to snap!)

Juicy Business


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Post Christmas and New Year many people desire to shed a few pounds and having one or two ‘juicing days’ is a great way to kick start this, without needing to cut down too much during the whole week.

I have worshipped my Le Duo Magimix juicer, ever since I got it a couple of Summer’s ago. It was a really hot June and I was juicing for my life; beetroot, lemon, carrots, apples, ginger and raspberries to garnish… trying out loads of different refreshing and healthy drinks. I reckon a lot of people think you need lots of time to do it, but really it can be quick and effortless, although cleaning up the equipment can be a bit of a bore. Best thing I find is to make a big batch and decant into several bottles, which will keep me going for a few days makes the whole process all the more worthwhile. If you share a fridge with others, then labelling the juices with ingredients and a date too might be a good idea.

In the beginning I was desperately trying to get a simple green apple juice but kept on battling with the ‘oxidation reaction’ i.e. it was going brown within 2 minutes. Although there is no harm in that it totally changes the flavour, the sharpness and appearance and adding lemon was not cutting it. One day, I was talking about this to a friend of mine when she emerged from a cupboard with a little tub of Vitamin C powder (scientifically called, ascorbic acid). “This is the trick” she said and so it was….

Adding even the smallest pinch to your juice right at the beginning will preserve the freshest taste and keeps your apple juice bright green, it also gives your body an extra boost!

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I store my juices in a glass bottles and they keep for a couple of days. You can get yourself a ‘Korken‘ bottle with stopper from Ikea or the swing top glass bottles from Butlers. They also do a very cool looking ‘Refill‘ one which I have my eye on for a next purchase! My only advice would be that if you are planning to put these in the dishwasher, the swing top will loosen a little and might fall out eventually. Hand washing is advisable, especially with the easy cleaning methods mentioned in this post.

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Health Benefits

I asked my mum (a Dietician), to help me summarise the health benefits of juicing and they seem pretty endless so i’ll keep it short and sweet.

Juices are great for keeping you hydrated! In winter months in particular we tend to be in and out of rooms and transport with central heating, wearing layers of clothes leading to perspiration and therefore loss of fluid. It is important to keep our levels topped up for healthy skin and essential bodily functions as well as for keeping the viruses at bay!

If you were looking to lose or control your weight, it is not a bad idea to supplement a meal now and again with a nutritional juice. If you are serious about it then it would be great at this point to get yourself a recipe book to aid you along, show you different options and diversify your diet. The book I use is called Smooth and Juicy by Joanna Farrow.

Fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables provide the vitamins & minerals for general health. In the summer there is an abundance of produce, making ‘being healthy’ readily available, which I believe we take for granted. It is however, during these Winter months, when we still need the same nutrients (if not more) so juicing using seasonal root vegetables, citrus fruits & tree fruits is a good base to work on. I get my fruit and veg from my local market, where it is always seasonal and very well priced.

To find out what fruits and vegetables are in season, I found a fun chart on the Eat Seasonably website.

Recipes from Friends!

My boyfriend Isaac loves any juice with ginger in, as it give things a kick.

“My favourite is beetroot, apple and ginger. I drink it in the mornings for a fresh start to the day”

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India is a bit of a domestic goddess, she told me about her juice of the moment which she makes daily in her Breville Juicer!

“Really good for fighting a cold! It is kale, spinach, romaine, parsley, cucumber, celery, apple, lemon, ginger. I like it with a dash of olive oil at the end and sometimes I will add other tinctures like aloe or flax seed oil…”

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My friend Tilly and I share the same favourite. This yummy juice is cucumber, celery, apples, lime and ginger (pictured). The crispy, zingy green apples really wake you up, so this is the perfect energising drink for an early morning.

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More than a juice…

Susie wakes up to a breakfast smoothie.

Soya milk, mixed berries and low fat natural yogurt. My inspiration for it was Jamba Juice’s ‘Bright Eyed & Blueberry’”

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…and Fearne (who is about to become a yummy mummy!) is craving this delicious combo!

“I first put some crushed ice in the blender, then add a handful of blueberries, half an avocado, a skinned kiwi, some kale, and sometimes a bit of papaya too. Them some chia seeds which are so good for you! Top all of this off with a big splash of almond milk. I drink this every morning before breakfast so even if I have an unhealthy day I’ve had a load of vitamins in one go in the morning!”

Tips for the clean up!

  • Milton (used for cleaning babies bottles), in liquid or tablet form. Follow instructions on the label in terms of dosage and pop it in the bottle once you have finished with your juice.
  • Dishwasher tablet broken up, with boiling water and shake shake shake!
  • It is probably worthwhile investing in some bottle brushes, the ones you might use for a baby’s bottle.
  • A spatula is a good tool for scraping out the bits of fruit from the juicer after use. With the Le Duo, MagicMix juicer, they provide something very like a spatula for this (seen here), which makes all the difference.
  • Lastly, clean the juicer straight away otherwise it really is harder to get the dried fruit and veg out. In the Summer especially that would be a breeding ground for fruit flies, so stick it straight in the washbowl before sitting back to enjoy!

Thank you to all of my lovely friends who shared their recipes, I hope everyone enjoys trying them out.

Please feel free to comment below & tell us what you like?