Throw a summer party


I’m busy planning my 34th birthday party. I'm hoping to do better than the mojito party I threw for a friend’s birthday last year. I spent one whole gorgeous summer's day inside, rolling cheese and fillings in pastry, making spanakopita, making salt-cod fritters, making flatbreads…

When the first guests arrived I slipped off my apron and promptly put myself in charge of dispensing obligatory vodka shots. Being a sympathetic host, I had several myself. I lasted about... oh... an hour. Then I crashed, crawled to a small room and begged everyone to leave the lights off and me alone. Not this party-hostesses most shining moment…

But a cautionary tale, dear reader, because there is nothing worse than spending more time prepping for a party, than actually having one.

Here is my plan to get through party-season without a plundered wallet, poisoned liver and 5% extra body fat…

Stick to a few main dishes and make lots. Cover a table with unprinted newspaper or muslin and pile high with cornbread, tortilla chips or colourful root-vegetable chips. Team it with chunky guacamole and homemade hummus. All healthy and delicious. Add big bowls of sticky chicken wings. Or cheesy meatballs. (Squeeze the meat from pork bangers, roll into small balls and stick a small block of cheese into each before frying). Or bite-sized spare-ribs. (Get a butcher to cut ribs into 5cm pieces.) Done.

Only make things that you can completely prep before guests arrive. Sometimes you can’t resist the urge to fiddle just a bit. Mainly because you need an excuse to open a bottle of wine and hang around in the kitchen hours before the party actually starts. Still - you don’t want to be cooking when your guests arrive.

For those occasions crostini is a great option. Brush 1cm thick slices from a French loaf with olive oil and roast till golden. Top crostini with a smear of goat’s cheese and some caramelised balsamic onions (or bought onion marmalade).  The sky’s the limit with toppings – smoked salmon and marscapone, charred red peppers, hell, you can even make sticky oxtail.

Puff pastry is an easy way out – although not a healthy one. Roast a punnet of tiny rosa tomatoes. Roll out a whole sheet of puff pastry. Top with roasted tomatoes and your favourite cheese. Bake, scatter with pine nuts and rocket and serve.

And then my final tip. Don’t be shy to buy as much pre-made stuff as possible and give it your own twist. Take mini choux balls for example. Many bakeries will sell you the choux ball sans filling if you order them in advance. I fill mine with a thick béchamel sauce that is loaded with gorgonzola cheese and drag them for a minute through a hot oven before serving. Absolutely irresistible.

I want to hear what your best ideas for party food are - email me here! Just remember – there are tired party girls like me everywhere who need your ideas. The best party recipe contribution will get this month’s R500 voucher.

- Aletta Lintvelt


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