There’s nothing I relish more than a good birthday party. So many opportunities to cook! On Saturday we held our birthday Ping Pong Picnic Party in the Park with mulled cider on a camping stove and lots of delicious cheeses. And birthday cake of course.
Below are several of my favourite party food recipes from a few past birthday celebrations…
Lemon Polenta Cake with Pistachio Cream
Spinach and Feta Filo Parcels
Chicory Leaves with Gorgonzola, Pear and Walnuts
Don’t f0rget to decorate the kitchen!
For 2l good dry cider use 100ml cloudy or freshly squeezed apple juice
1 apple studded with cloves
1/2 an orange, sliced thinly
1 cinnamon stick
Put all the ingredients into a pan and warm gently.
Drink, preferably outside, under a tree, in Autumn.
The apple, orange and cinnamon will last for at least 4 rounds (that is 4 lots of 2l of cider) but after that the spiciness will have weakened, so make sure to have spare, this goes down a bit quickly especially at a big party!
Lemon Polenta Cake with Pistachio Cream
330g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
130g fine polenta, plus extra for dusting
300g caster sugar
4 large free-range eggs, beaten
300g ground almonds
1½ tsp baking powder
4 tsp plain flour
Grated zest of 4 large lemons and juice of 2
100g caster sugar
Juice of a large lemon
150ml double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
4-5 tbsp lemon curd
Handful of chopped pistachios to decorate
Preheat your oven to 160 degrees, gas 3
Butter a 23cm springform cake tin, line the base with baking paper, butter again and dust all over with a little polenta.
In a big bowl or your food mixer beat the softened butter and caster sugar together until light and fluffy, then gradually add the beaten eggs
Fold in the polenta, almonds, baking powder and plain flour with a metal spoon.
Add the lemon zest and juice, combine.
Spoon into the cake tin and smooth the top.
Bake for 1¼ hours until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean
Meanwhile, make the syrup by heating the sugar and lemon juice in a pan until the sugar has dissolved
When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and poke holes into the cake with a skewer. pour over the warm syrup and let the cake cool in the tin for 20-30 minutes, then remove from the tin and completely cool on a wire rack.
When the cake is cool, make the icing. In a bowl or your mixer, beat together mascarpone, ricotta and cream until smooth and thick. Sift in the icing sugar and mix well in. Spread the icing over the top of the cake and then drizzle over the lemon curd, you can swirl the curd into the icing with a skewer. Finely chop your pistachios (or you could use almonds) and sprinkle over the top of the cake.
Watch it disappear in milliseconds.
Spinach and Feta Filo Parcels
6 sheets of filo pastry
2 tbs chopped fresh parsley
500g cooked drained and chopped spinach (squeeze all the juice out so you have a sort of spinach paste or use frozen which is pre-chopped, you’ll still need to squeeze it)
200g feta cheese
50g butter, melted
salt and pepper
Cook or prepare your spinach (if using frozen, thaw out, drain and squeeze then use. If using fresh, wash it, then put it in a pan over a low heat with the lid on, you will need no more water than this, then drain, squeeze and chop finely)
Pre-heat the oven to gas 4 / 180 degrees
Chop the shallots finely and sautee in a little olive oil for 5 minutes or so.
Chop the feta into 1cm squares
Mix the spinach with the shallots until heated through, add the parsley feta and a good grating of fresh nutmeg to taste. Season.
Slice each of the filo sheets in half length ways, you want strips about 10cm wide and 30cm long (or you can make little hors d’oeuvre sized parcels by slicing each sheet into 3)
Brush a little butter along the edges of the pastry and put about 2 tablespoons of the spinach mixture into the right hand corner.
Now for folding:
Take the pastry by the bottom right hand corner and and bring it to the opposite corner above the mixture.
Brush the edges with a little melted butter then take the bottom left hand corner and lift it straight up and over. Continue until you reach the end (it should take about 5 folds.) Make sure to press the edges together so the filling can’t leak out.
Brush a baking tray with melted butter and the top and sides of each parcel too and bake for 35 minutes until pastry is browned and crisp.
This recipe is from the bbc website. They are VERY sweet, but that’s what you want at a party. Classier biscuits to follow…
250g plain white flour
85g golden caster sugar
175g unsalted butter , at room temperature, cubed
2 tbsp lemon juice
250g white icing sugar
1 tbsp raspberry jam
Heat oven to 180 degrees / gas 4. Put the flour, sugar and butter into a food processor. Whizz until the mixture forms crumbs, then pulse a little more until it forms a ball.
Put in the fridge for at least an hour
Dust a clean surface with a little flour, then roll out the dough to about the thickness of a £1 coin. Stamp out rounds using any biscuit cutter or a water glass, then if you want them ina ring shape cut out the middles with the end of a piping nozzle. Lift onto baking sheets and bake for 10 mins until pale golden. Cool on a wire rack.
Put the lemon juice into a bowl and sieve in 175g of the icing sugar; stir together to make a smooth icing add a DROP of water if it’s not liquid enough).
Into another bowl sieve the raspberry jam (or you’ll block up your nozzle!) and add 2 tsp boiling water, mix, then sieve in the remaining icing sugar.
Spoon the lemon icing over the biscuits, then drizzle or pipe the pink icing over. I piped people’s initials on the biscuits but you can just drizzle with a teaspoon to make splotchy wobbly lines or dots or anything else you fancy!
Leave to set for at least 20 mins. Will keep for up to 2 days in an airtight tin, longer if left un-iced.
I invented these biscuits for a brand new perfect baby boy, Caspar or Mr C as he is known to his friends. Obviously he couldn’t eat them but his parents were happy to have something to give to visiting friends and family. I think they make a perfect gift, very pretty, delicate and light. And they taste delicious!
Almond, Lemon and Honey ‘Caspars’
2oz castor sugar
1oz muscovado sugar
4oz plain flour
2oz ground almonds
zest of 1 lemon
handful of flaked almonds
1 tbsp poppy seeds
Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees or gas 3
Beat butter and sugars together, add honey and combine
Add flour almonds and lemon zest and mix until a rough dough
Form into a ball and chill in the fridge for at least an hour (this dough freezes very well too)
Dust a clean surface with a little flour and roll the dough out to the thickness of a £1 coin.
Cut out with a water glass (or biscuit cutter) and sprinkle over a couple of flaked almonds, a few poppy seeds and a scattering of castor sugar
Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and place the biscuits on
Bake for 15 mins but keep a close eye on them. They are done when they are golden brown but they’re very delicate so be careful when lifting them onto a wire rack to cool
Chicory Leaves with Gorgonzola, Pears and Walnuts
A very simple pretty snack to serve at a party, we had these at my mum’s birthday and they went down very well.
3 heads of red chicory and 3 of green
2 tbs yoghurt
3 pears quartered and sliced very finely (put the slices into ice cold water with the juice of a lemon to stop them browning)
100g walnuts, chopped and toasted for 10 mins in the oven (gas 4 / 180 degrees)
You want to make small batches of these as chicory browns quite quickly, have about 8 on a plate and 8 in the fridge at all times
Mix gorgonzola and yoghurt together to form a soft loose consistency (add more yoghurt if needed)
Slice the end off the chicory and separate the leaves. You probably can’t use the first 3 leaves as they will be too thin and floppy
Put around 2 teaspoons of the cheese mix into a leaf, tuck a pear slice in next to it and sprinkle with walnuts.
We also had excellent parma ham from the fabulous deli with finely sliced melon, home-made hummus, mini goats cheese and red onion tarts (recipe later) and my sister’s amazing bulgur wheat salad (recipe please R!)
Eat, drink and be merry…Have a great party! Remember to invite me and I promise to bring edible gifts.