Happy days people - spring has sprung! Which means it’s time to come out of hibernation, shake off the cobwebs and any traces of cabin fever and do a little outdoor entertaining without the fear of frostbite claiming your toes.
We went nuts last weekend giving the backyard a much needed spruce and shovel, clearing up the mess that winter and all of it’s rain left behind and now, now we are ready to enjoy the outdoors again.
I’m rather fond of the old alfresco dining. Vibey tunes on loop, a spread of tasty food and drink and a gathering of people I love to laugh with. Does it get any better than that? Nah I don’t think so.
I have a mental checklist I tick off when I am preparing to entertain as there are several things I believe are important ingredients to pull of a doozy of a do without spending all day fussing around. I want to be sitting down and enjoying the time with my guests, not faffing around.
EASY SPRING ENTERTAINING CHECKLIST
1. MOVE IT OUTDOORS
More than likely you have been couped up indoors during winter, so you are probably keen to soak up a little bit of that spring sunshine. If you are anything like me, you may be knee deep in spring cleaning the inside of your house and so you don’t want to unnecessarily mess it all up again.
Head outdoors. Set up a table in the backyard or at the beach or park. Throw a picnic rug or two on the grass, whatever! Start making up for lost time.
2. KEEP THE FOOD TASTY BUT SIMPLE
You don’t want to be in the kitchen cooking all day, so set a menu and keep it simple.
My basic menu includes something tasty to whet the appetite, a selection of noms to fill my guest’s bellies and maybe something a little sweet to wind down to.
3. SET THE MOOD WITH MUSIC
In my opinion, background music sets the scene. I am one of those weird iTunes nerds who creates a new playlist for every gathering and I choose my tunes to personally suit my guests. What can I say? It’s my thing!
4. KEEP IT FUSS FREE
Not only do you want to be free to relax and spend time with your guests, you want your guests to feel relaxed and comfy too. I love setting everything out buffet style so everyone can pick and choose what they would like on their plate and parents can serve their kids what they know they won’t need to beg them to eat. If kids are dining with you, leave your fancy crockery in the cupboard and mix and match your every day faves - you don't want yourself or your guest stressing about breaking anything precious. You can pick up some great crockery and cutlery basics from Coles that won’t break the bank.
5. DECORATE AND SET THE SCENE
You don’t need to go to a whole lot of trouble, just grab a bunch of flowers when you are getting your groceries and put them in whatever vessels you have lying around. Bottles, jars, tin cans, it all works. They are a cheap way of adding some pizazz to your setting and they never fail to brighten up a space. The sight of fresh flowers has the power to make everyone happy, who cares why - they just do.
6. DON’T BLOW THE BUDGET
I went through a phase where I used to spend a fortune on food for my guests, to the point that I would get so stressed about whether I could actually afford to entertain in any given month or not. Your menu doesn’t need to be expensive to keep your guests happy - just thoughtful.
Take advantage of the weekly specials Coles has on offer. Each week you will find 12 fresh specials in store from Friday-Thursday including their monthly heroes line up - a selection of 100% Australian grown, in season products at a bargain price.
7. RELAX AND HAVE FUN
Entertaining is supposed to be fun and nothing shakes those winter blues faster than getting out in the gorgeous spring weather and chilling out. It’s good for your health and good for your soul; what better excuse do you need to invite a bunch of friends around to say “Helllloooo Spring”
Here’s some recipes I put together taking advantage of the September Hero products at Coles; Strawberries, Pineapples, Avocados, Asparagus, Snow Peas and Spring Onions.
4 egg yolks
3 cloves of garlic
1 cup of olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Crush and grind your garlic and sea salt to make a paste.
Add the garlic mixture with your egg yolks and lemon to a blender or in a bowl ready for a stab blender.
Slowly add your oil as you blend until your aioli forms a thick creamy texture.
MUSTARD POTATO SALAD
5 large potatoes boiled and diced
1/2 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup of sliced spring onions
A healthy pinch of sea salt
A healthy pinch of cayenne pepper
4 slices of bacon diced
In a bowl mix together your vinegar, sugar, eggs, mustard salt and cayenne pepper. Give it a good beating and set your dressing mixture aside.
Over a medium heat fry your bacon until crispy and then pour in your dressing mix and stir constantly until it thickens.
Pour your mix whilst still warm over your potatoes, toss with your spring onions and serve hot or cold
PINEAPPLE & STRAWBERRY BREAD
3 cups of Plain flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
4 beaten eggs
1 1/4 cups of vegetable oil
2 cups of castor sugar
250g of sliced strawberries
250g of crushed & drained pineapple (use a blender to crush your pineapple and drain the excess juice to drink later)
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (170 for fan forced ovens)
Mix together your eggs, sugar, oil, strawberries and pineapple and then set your fruit mixture aside.
In a large bowl sift together your flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and then add your fruit mixture and stir until combined.
Divide your mixture between two greased or lined loaf tins and cook for 50 - 60 minutes, checking with a skewer that they are ready.
Cool on a wire rack and serve warm or cold.
AVOCADO & PISTACHIO DIP
The fruit of 2 ripe avocados
Juice of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1 lemon
30gms of chopped roasted pistachios (roast raw kernels in a hot oven for 2 -3 minutes)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 pinch of lemon zest
Sea salt and fresh pepper to season
In a bowl mash your avocado with a fork adding a pinch of sea salt, lemon juice and olive oil until your get the consistency you prefer.
Mix through your chopped pistachio nuts and drizzle with lime juice and a good grind of pepper.
So tell me - are you ready to say Hello to spring?
Do you like to entertain at your joint?
Got any fail safe tips for fun, budget friendly entertaining you can share with us?