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Cooking for crowds on a budget

Remember to have fun folks, it's your holiday too.

10 Dec 2009

Hi everyone,

Have you ever wondered why it’s called the silly season?

Is it because the general indulgence of any kind becomes alarmingly normal? Or is it the strong and very real urge to jump on the desk at work and do something weird?

The more I look around me at this electrifyingly busy time, the more I realize that mostly everyone seems to be going through the same thing. There is a global tiredness that has settled like a fine dust and it feels like something vital is going to pop.  Not really silly, more like crazy, hectic… insane?

It’s the high pressure hose of tying everything up at work, school holidays, last minute shopping and trying to plan for meal upon meal of festive get-togethers. As it turns out, everyone accepted your drunken invitation for a fabulous lunch and you have no idea of what to cook, let alone how to fit it into your budget which has gone south.

The get-out-of-jail-free card is simple.

Keep it simple and your life will all be a happier more holiday-worthy place. There’s nothing worse than a stressed host who runs around trying to overdo a perfectly good meal with all sorts of frills and time-wasting extras that simply don’t need to be there.

My top 3 tips to lighten the load of festive cooking:

1. Plan your menu in advance and do the shopping a day or two before. It really makes a difference.

2. Don’t try to do too much. If there is a short cut, take it, the only person who’ll notice is you.

3. Do not take the opportunity to try out that new recipe you wrote down on a napkin the other week, the chances are it’ll flop and tail-spin you into downing something that should only be downed at midnight.

Try some low maintenance, high flavour crowd pleasers that will leave you relaxed and having a dop with your guests.

1. Gourmet boerie rolls - serve these juicy babies with a homemade spicy sauce, some special potato wedges and this funky Kalahari biltong salad and you’re sailing.

2. Paella - make a couple of big pans of this tasty one dish wonder and you've got an impressive but easy meal. Pre-prepare this simple spinach, apple and pecan salad and have a fancy finish with an gorgeous bowl of fresh strawberries and chantilly cream. You can enjoy a hassle-free evening and a fabulous meal.

3. Whilst you leave a couple of legs of lamb to roast in the weber, lay out a big table with things like garlic bread, hummus, cool minty yoghurt and some colourful nutty couscous. Everyone helps themselves and then end off with some wedges of beautiful watermelon, some lollies and you’re done.

4. Do some lovely whole snoek on the braai in a gorgeous apricot and chilli glaze, it's tasty and easy on the pocket. Pop some mielies in the coals wrapped in foil and serve with a marinated potato salad, then top it off with some cool ice-cream and these easy fruit kebabs with a hot chocolate and orange sauce. Oh yes.

So breathe out and stop worrying, ‘tis the season to be silly. Pour yourself a glass of bubbles, put on your slops and fire up the braai, you’ve got some friends coming around.

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