Saturday, May 4, 2013


We are knee deep in First Communion and Confirmation parties at the moment - it is wonderful to have a happy event to celebrate, filled with hope and promise.  An excuse to dress up and meet up (with some spirituality thrown in) what can be better than than?

In the current economic climate (!) many people are catering these events themselves (although I wonder if it's cheaper,  we probably way over cater when we are doing it ourselves!!)  and I have been asked for advice on how to manage without tearing your hair out!!

In an ideal world you would put the rest of the family into suspended animation for a few days before the party - imagine the house staying as clean as you have left it!!!!  AND being able to concentrate all your cooking attention on the party instead of the day to day meals!

When choosing your menu, first decide whether you want hot or cold or a mixture of both.  I favour a cold spread, but most people prefer to have a mixture - in this post I will cater for the cold camp!

Protein - the old reliables are always acceptable, roast sliced beef, turkey and ham* are lovely. Salmon is one of my favourites, particularly when portioned and served on a platter covered in a lettuce and sugar snap salad, with a dill dressing.  At the moment I'm really enthusiastic about serving tandoori chicken breasts, which are marinated for a few hours and roasted a day in advance - again these look great served on a platter strewn with green leaves.  For the veggies, although I don't generally make a specific vegetarian dish, many of the salads will contain cheese and nuts, so I reckon their protein intake is taken care of, and I don't feel too guilty!
*try cooking the ham in cola - it tastes great

Then come the salads - these come into a few categories:

Essentials (as in I'd be in trouble if these didn't appear!!)

Potato Salad (see here)
Caesar Salad
Coleslaw/Carrot Salad  (see here)
Rice Salad

Popular (these disappear in no time)

Beetroot (see here)
Bean  (see here)
Broccoli  (see here) Avoca call this their most popular salad, so perhaps it belongs in Essentials!
Green  (see here)

Ring the changes

Couscous (see here)
Any one that takes your fancy while reading blogs/cookbooks!!!

There are plenty more salads here on Brownieville Girl - just follow your own taste.

The most important factor when deciding is that 90% of the dish must be able to be prepared in advance - there is no point in being frazzled when the guests arrive.

One of the all time favourites is the Pesto Rice Salad (pictured at the front of this photo), it is best prepared in advance and  tastes delicious.

This recipe comes from Queen Delia's Summer Collection (in my opinion one of her top three).  I have made it with my own pesto, but have come to the decision that if you buy a really good fresh pesto, it tastes almost as good, but the saving in effort and money make it well worth using.

Pesto Rice Salad

225ml     risotto rice (arborio is good) - measured like liquid
tub          very best fresh pesto you can find (tesco finest is quite good)
450ml     vegetable stock, simmering
1             lemon, juiced
2 tbsp     best olive oil
25g        Parmesan cheese, shavings
              basil leaves to decorate
1 tsp       salt

Place the rice in a saucepan and stir in a quarter of the pesto, until every grain is coated.
Pour the simmering stock over the rice.
Place on the hob and bring to boiling point stirring with a wooden spoon.
Add the salt and give a final stir.
Put on a lid and bring the heat down to low, allow to cook for 20 mins.

When ready pour on the lemon juice, olive oil and remaining pesto sauce, and combine.
Taste and season as required.
Pour into a pretty serving dish and allow to cool.
Before serving scatter the basil leaves and Parmesan shavings over the top.