Longer sunny days lend themselves to leisurely entertaining, says Kate Wilson from Prof’s @ Woodlands Cafe.
If we are responsive to the seasons, we have a quite different approach than we do during the colder months.Appetites are lighter; we crave fresher food, less carbs and brighter, sharper flavours. And hydration is on the increase!
We not only want our guests to enjoy themselves, we also want to enjoy our time with them, and during the preparations beforehand.
Consider either an assembly menu (make your own at the table) or a sharing menu with platters of nibbles and tapas. Guests can choose at their leisure what and how much to have, without fuss. The nature of such a meal is that it can stretch out for as long as you are feeling hospitable. And the great thing is that while it may take some thought beforehand, it takes minimal preparation.
Delicious dips and spreads
Recently a small gathering of us included a vegan, a vegetarian, a fussy eater, a light eater and some foodie omnivores. Our theme was hamburgers, and with each person making their own at the table – easy peasy.
I like to add my own touch and usually make all the dips and spreads and sometimes the bases. But the glory of assembly or sharing menus is that if you wish, all the food can be bought from your local supermarket or specialty food store.
On the presentation side, I make up for my lack of finesse by channelling summer vibrancy with bright colours and contrasting textures, either in the food or with interesting platters and bowls. If you are going full-out with a grazing table, different heights (say tiered cake stands) add interest. Plus, I usually have a few edible flowers in the garden, which can be added to lift the vibe.
Take care to ensure that if someone is allergic or coeliac, there is no cross-contamination, and always check the labels when you are buying your food.
An easy theme is Mediterranean food. For example, a typical Med spread, with enough variety to cover most dietary requirements, can include the following:
Prosciutto, chicken, focaccia, white bean dip, hummus, pesto, roast garlic, fresh mozzarella, grilled haloumi, olives, cherry toms, roast capsicum and umami bites.
I have included umami bites for a number of reasons. They are unusual and add interest while guests try and guess the secret ingredients. You do have to make them (see following recipe) as I have never seen anything remotely similar in the shops. The bites are also seriously addictive and can also go down very well as a bar snack – particularly with beer.
And speaking of drinks, to keep your guests well hydrated, make sure you have jugs of water and non-alcoholic drinks.
To finish, a summery boozy drink that is dear to my heart is Sangria. Typically, Sangria presents itself as a red wine fruit punch. However, our favourite recipe is lighter in taste and one for which we have some nostalgia, having discovered it when in Portugal. Proportions are variable, but the following works for us. In a 1.5 litre jug, place a generous handful of frozen berries and some orange slices. Pour in ½ to 1 cup brandy and let sit for five minutes for the fruit to absorb the brandy. Pour over a whole bottle of sparkling wine. Top up with orange juice and/or lemonade and ice. Let your guests know that it has some potency and prepare for a long leisurely afternoon…
1 cup flour
115g butter – chopped
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
50g can anchovy fillets – drained
½ cup pitted black olives
½ tsp cayenne pepper (heaped if you like it hotter)
• Throw all the ingredients into a food processor and whizz until a dough ball forms
• Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes
• Preheat the oven on bake to 200°C
• Roll out the chilled dough on a floured surface to 2-3mm thick
• Cut to desired shapes/sizes (I do small (5cm) triangles)
• Transfer to a baking tray with baking paper on it
• Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown
• Cool on a rack
• Serve with tapas and other nibbles