Leaping into spring some exciting developments have happened,
Firstly Philippa Davis, postcard recipes now has a face book page which I would love you all to like and share, I will be posting more photos, videos, cooking tips and recipes. Click here to like face book
I also have been on the radio chatting to the lovely William Sitwell, editor of Waitrose Food, about life as a private chef. You can listen to the interview by clicking this link Radio Soho
If you see a crocodile…
‘Row, row, row your boat’ has got to be a top classic when it comes to kids songs, this was made clear to me when my 5 year old niece recently gave me all her variations. Favourite renditions would have to include:
“Row, row, row your boat gently down the river
If you see a polar bear don’t forget to quiver”
Row, row, row your boat gently to the bay
If you see a pirate ship sail the other way “
Row, row, row your boat gently to the shore,
If you see a lion there don’t forget to roar”
These lines were unfortunately swimming round my head as I went to my job cooking for a party of 50 people celebrating the start of a rather serious and successful female London rowing team.
I love cooking for parties whether there are 2 or 150 guests expected (just providing I haven’t been told to cater for 2 and 150 show up). I know some find it more stressful then pleasurable catering for numbers so I thought I would use this blog post to give a few tips and tricks for preparing for a party.
Firstly anything you can prepare before the day, do and if you don’t have a fleet of staff at your disposable get some friends or family to help, its more fun.
Laying tables, this can be done up to two days before the event if you turn the glasses up side down.
Flower arranging can be done the day before, if you have some where cool to keep them, and moved into situ on the morning, make sure they are either low enough to talk over or will tower high like a canopy above the seated guests. You can use anything from jam jars to Milano glass just try and get some sort of continuity with either colours, shapes or style. When decorating a large table it can take more time and flowers than you think.
Think how formal you want it to be and what sort of occasion you are catering for, if its for a rather fun loving and rowdy crowd you probably don’t want to get out your best white linen and spend the evening worrying that someone’s going to decorate it with their red wine.
Napkins – for large numbers believe me everyone hesitates whether it’s acceptable to use good quality paper instead of cloth. Trust me no one will ever go home tutting that the evening was spoilt not being able to dab their mouths with a Weissfee napkin.
Sort out serving dishes and utensils the day before (carefully dusting down that wedding gift dinner service you only use every seven years).
Nothing is worse than a warm glass of white wine (ok that’s a bit of an exaggeration but its not nice). Drinks can all be bought in advance and put in the chiller, remember it can take longer then usual when there are lots and the fridges and freezers are fuller than normal with food ect.
Cocktails – are a thoughtful and fun way to start the party, I like to put seasonal twists on mine so at the moment it’s all about forced rhubarb or blood oranges.
Water – make sure you have lots of jugs or bottles at the ready and that they are refilled, no one will thank you for a hangover due to dehydration. If using jugs it delicious to put slices of lemon, lime or cucumber or sprigs of mint in.
In a ‘Stepford Wife’ (or husband as men these days are in the kitchen more than ever) perfect style world you would of course calmly gather all the ingredients from local shops and markets in ones wicker basket. In reality you are probably trying to juggle preparing for the party, taking little Johnny to the dentist and keeping a watch on that piece from 1stdibs that has caught your eye. So if short of time there is no shame in getting the bulk of ingredients in an Ocado delivery.
If you are a fearless and experienced cook its fine, you can choose to put soufflés for 16 on your menu or make 5 different flavoured macaroons for petit fours if not…choose dishes you have made before and that are not too complicated. It’s meant to be a fun occasion for everyone so it doesn’t make sense to choose something that causes tears and tantrums in the run up.
Don’t plan on making too many different dishes, its best to do a few really well then prepare a Caesar like feast.
Make sure one course is completely finished before guests arrived (I usually do the desserts) so there is less pressure and distraction on you as the host during the event.
Buffets (although not a word I love) or platters of food popped in the middle of the table are a brilliant way to feed a group and take my word for it everyone from Dukes to Captains of industry are doing it. This style of serving food has various advantages in that guests can control their own portion size, its saves time and space on plating up food and passing round food or gathering at the feeding trough can help break at the ice at the beginning.
Remember if you decide on using a buffet table think about the flow of people – centre isles are great as guests can work their way round and not cause a human traffic jam but if you have to serve from a table in the corner make sure they start at the wall end with the empty plates then work their way into the room finishing with picking up their cutlery and napkin.
Choosing your menu
Good dishes to prepare for parties are ones that don’t take up too many pots and pans ( you don’t want a pile of washing up as guests arrive) or that can be made ahead and cooked or reheated on the day.
Curries, pies, cobblers, lasagnes and tagines are all good for this as well as paella which is the recipe for this postcard.
Philippa Davis postcard recipes now has a face book page, please click here to like and share face book
Boats rowed to shore: 9
This seasons party cocktail: Rhubarb, gin and prosecco
Paper vs Linen : Paper
Chilled drinks and hosts: 100 %
If you see a crocodile ; run!
Ive been on William Sitwells radio show Biting talk, click hear to listen
Chicken, Chorizo and Prawn paella
Amazing soups, risottos and paellas start with an amazing stock so it is totally worth investing time and money in it.
If you don’t have a paella pan you can make it in one or two large frying pans and transfer it onto platters for serving.
2 tbs olive oil
2 large handfuls of prawn shells or 300g of prawns with their shell on
1 glass of white wine
½ a glass of dry sherry or brandy
1 free-range chicken carcasses
1 white onion peeled and roughly chopped
1 head of garlic sliced horizonattly in half
bunch of parsley stalks
1 tbs black peppercorns
1tbs fennel seeds
In a large pot fry the prawns shells in the oil until starting to slight;y brown then slosh in the wine and brady or sherry.
Add the there stock ingredients then fill the pot 1 inch from the top with cold water.
Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for about 1 hour ( preferably 2).
Drain the stock through a sieve into another sauce pan and leave to one side.
There are of course many variations including a rabbit and snail one, but no ones ever requested it. My favourite is this chicken, prawn and chorizo.
2 tbs olive oil plus a little extra for the chicken
2 white onions peeled and chopped into approx. 1 cm squares
2 red peppers chopped the same size as the onions
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
6 bay leaves
300g cooking chorizo chopped into small chunks ( can be the spicy sort if that’s what you like).
10 skinless and boneless chicken breasts cut into 3’s (you can use more or less depending on how hungry the crowd you are feeding are)
840g paella rice
700g peeled raw prawns
2 handfuls of cooked peas
3 tbs finely chopped parsley
1 x large pinch of saffron mixed wih 50ml just boiled water
Bring the prepared stock to a simmer
In your frying / paella pan sear all the chicken pieces in a little of the olive oil till browned on each side then remove from the pan and put to one side (you are not cooking them through at this stage).
Then on a medium heat fry the onions, pepper, chorizo, garlic and bay leaves in the olive oil for about 10 minutes until lightly caramelised, stirring regularly.
Add the rice and stir well so everything is hot .
Carefully pour the stock onto the rice so it comes about 2 cm above the rice, add the chicken and season with salt and pepper.
Let the pan simmer till most of the liquid has been absorbed then test the rice to see if it needs more cooking and liquid.
Once the rice is almost there add the prawns and peas. Cook for another couple of minutes so the prawns cook through and the peas are hot.
Once everything is cooked sprinkle over the saffron water and parsley. Squeeze over the juice from one lemon then cut up the other 2 into wedges and place on top of the rice
Serve with garlicky aioli and a fresh crunchy green salad.
Note – You don’t want the paella too sloppy or dry so you will have to judge for yourself how much stock to add in the final stages of cooking.
Next stop, Portugal…