Thursday, 25 June 2015 02:41

Around The World

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Around The World

Make a great dinner party even better by hosting a themed event! Break out the décor, plan the menu accordingly and ask your guests to dress up for the ultimate evening. Lara Bailey goes global to get the (dinner) party started.

Whether you’re a seasoned dinner party host or a beginner wanting to make an impression, a themed party is a great way to create a relaxed vibe and enjoyable atmosphere. By selecting a theme, it gives your guests cues about what to wear, what food and drink will be on offer, and what to expect from the evening. A themed party can also be a great icebreaker if you’re inviting people from different circles or bringing strangers together for the first time.

To determine what will work best for you, think about what style you like (to really get in the spirit, you should have appropriate props!), what most of your friends will enjoy, and most importantly, what food you are a whiz at cooking up. A dinner party is not the time to experiment with cuisine you’ve never attempted before!

If a certain type of food happens to be your speciality – burritos or homemade pasta for instance – it can be a good idea to let this guide the nature of your theme. Whatever your favoured flavours, here is Melbourne Kitchen + Bathroom Design’s guide to the ultimate themed dinner party.

FRENCH FEAST

If you’d like to serve up some traditional French fare but you’re a bit intimidated by the thought, fear not! Sophisticated doesn’t have to mean complicated. If you’re not overly familiar with French cooking, consider keeping the entrée and any finger food fairly simple, and focus on creating an outstanding main and dessert.

Cheese platters are a must, so be sure to purchase, or even make, a range of soft cheeses to pass around the moment your guests arrive.

If you’d like to get a little more creative than serving produce from the packet, consider deepfrying portions of camembert, or baking brie. Add sliced fruits, paté and grapes, as well as crackers or bread, to your platters so you’re offering a bit of everything. Other easy-to-hold and simpleto- eat appetisers include gougères (cheese puffs), bacon-wrapped scallops on skewers, mini croissants, escargot, and ham and brie mini baguettes – among dozens of other delicious options of varying cooking difficulty!

If you’re having a sit-down entrée, try to cook something that is relatively simple to make for a few people, like bisque or onion soup. For the main event, it’s best to stick with the classics: coq au vin, confit duck, beef bourguignon, cassoulet or ratatouille, for example. There are plenty of recipes that incorporate meat and vegetables in the French repertoire, so you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to making a rounded meal.

Lastly, the pièce de résistance: dessert. French desserts are indulgent and delectable, so don’t hold back. Consider offering a variety of mini desserts, or make a big serve of one or two to serve your guests. From profiteroles to crème brûlée, éclairs to apple tarte tatin, soufflé, caramel pears, macarons, mille-feuille and everything in between, you can let your imagination run wild.

The beauty of a French theme is you can make the food as simple or as complex as you like. Stick with simple platters of breads, fruits and cheeses early on if you’re not up for a challenge, or go all out and end the evening with a homemade croquembouche (not for the faint of heart!).

For décor, you can opt for Eiffel Tower emblems on tablecloths, napkins and bunting, and even purchase salt and pepper shakers and candles to match. Keep it provincial and understated with cream tones on everything, or embrace the red,
white and blue. And remember to serve guests French wine, Champagne and strong coffee to complete your French-inspired experience.

Bon appétit!

 

MEXICAN FIESTA

Fusing elements of Spanish cooking with its own unique approach to flavour and ingredients, Mexican food is a universal crowd pleaser, and for good reason. Flavoursome and moreish, the distinctive nature of Mexican food will have your guests wanting more.

Kick things off with some finger food that will give your guests a literal taste of what’s to come. Plenty of Mexican cuisine lends itself to being prepared in appetiser form – it isn’t difficult to hold or eat, and people won’t be standing around awkwardly with skewers in their hands once they’ve eaten. Taquitos (rolled tortillas that are stuffed then baked) are great to offer around, and you can select various fillings, from spicy beef to vegetarian. Quesadillas and mini enchiladas can also make ideal finger food. Regardless of what you serve throughout the appetisers and the subsequent meals, homemade guacamole is a must, so perfect yours well in advance! Add spices or salsa to put a signature spin on your version.

For main, it pays to keep things fairly casual, and opt for sharing-style meals as opposed to more formal options. Plates of sizzling fajitas, burritos and tacos are ideal. You can either prepare them before you bring the food to the table, or hand around the tortillas and taco shells and let everyone help themselves! Offering a range of fillings, like chicken, beef and beans (frijoles), and mild and hot options will keep people happy and encourage everyone to get involved around the table. Try to get an idea of what your guests like well in advance or you may run out of one particular filling or ingredient.

After the heat from the savoury meals, it’s time to cool the palate with some tasty desserts.

Although the mains and appetisers hold appeal for Mexican food, the sweet stuff is just as enticing. Again, sharing small bites is the way to go. Cook up a batch of icing sugar-dusted almond biscuits, fruit-filled chimichangas (try banana) and enchiladas (go with apple), as well as cinammon churros and a lemon flan.

In terms of drinks, margaritas in all flavours are definitely called for, as are tequila-based drinks, Mexican punch, and Coronas (as well as a host of other Mexican beers). Just be sure to fill up on dinner and dessert beforehand!

In terms of setting the tone, make sure you’ve got some mariachi music in the background, adorn the wall with Frida Kahlo posters, and hang up some piñatas. Whether they’re just for show or real ones your guests can take a swing at, your dinner party will end up being more fun than Cinco de Mayo.

 

LITTLE ITALY

An Italian-themed dinner party will work well for formal or relaxed occasions. From the staples of pasta and pizza (homemade only!) to more nuanced dishes, Italian food has something for everyone, and is bound to be popular among
your guests.

Appetisers will be a cinch, so you can pour your energy into preparing the main. Hand out antipasti platters featuring the usual suspects – cured meats, olives, cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, mini bruschettas and herb bread. You can add skewers or seafood (or just about anything else) to put your own spin on the antipasti, so opt for simple yet flavoursome items to get things started.

For an entrée that is easy to whip up, consider making a batch of minestrone, or small portions of gnocchi or arancini. Italian food can be filling, plus it’s tempting to keep eating it, so try not to fill your guests up too much prior to the main event.

When it comes to the main, you can play it safe with pizzas, risotto and pasta-based dishes, or you can think outside the square and try something that requires more preparation or skill, depending on your cooking ability and what you think your guests will most enjoy.

If you’d like to use chicken for your main, you could consider making cacciatore; for a lamb- based dish, you can opt for grilled lamb chops with asparagus; for a seafood option, you could serve grilled octopus with a rocket and parmesan salad, or for a beef dish, try a classic like meatballs or lasagne.

Italian desserts are every bit as appealing as the savoury dishes. This is the ideal time to show off your perfected tiramisu, panna cotta, gelati, cannoli or biscotti, or to whip up something your guests may not expect. Try your hand at a cassata (a marzipan-covered ricotta cake with liqueur and candied fruits), quick and easy pignoli biscuits, or a mascarpone torte.

Make sure you nail the drinks portion of the evening, too. Start with aperitifs like a good prosecco or vermouth, or serve Campari or martinis. Throughout the evening, cocktails like Bellinis, Americanos and Rossinis are sure to go down a treat. Having Italian wine on hand, as well as limoncello and bottomless cups of coffee of course, will be essential.

For your décor, you can upcycle tins of chopped tomatoes to use as vases, light some candles and roll out a red-and-white check tablecloth for a rustic feel. With the right ambience and delicious food, you’ll be living la dolce vita in no time.

 

ASIAN SENSATION

Asian food is extremely popular in Australia, and whether you choose to focus on cuisine specific to one country or mix-and-match your favourite Asian-inspired dishes, you’re sure to put on quite the feast.

Chinese food is bound to be a big hit with your guests, and boasts a huge variety of meal options. Beyond the expected – and almost essential – inclusions of fried rice, noodles and dumplings – you can impress your guests with a host of different dishes. Break out your san choy bow, spice up your life with salt and pepper prawns, or try your hand at sweet and sour chicken, pork or fish.

If Japanese food is more your style, then it’s time to perfect your miso soup and sushi rolling techniques. Add to these staples tempura seafood and vegetables; ramen noodles; mushroom, leek and fish broth; and teriyaki beef with salad. To really get into it, you can purchase a teppanyaki plate and make the experience more authentic.

If you want hot and spicy and/or sweet and savoury flavours, it’s hard to go past Thai food. Spicy shrimp in coconut milk broth, curry of all types, pad thai, tom yum soup, curry puffs and satay will be high on the list. Remember when preparing Thai food that the key is to balance the sweet and savoury elements so one does not overwhelm the other – get it wrong and you could have a dinner party disaster on your hands.

Whether you choose to whip up cuisine inspired by one specific country or instead offer a broad mix of your favourite dishes, a dinner party with a range of Asian food will keep hungry guests happy. If you do go cross-cultural and opt for meals from various countries, you can keep a common thread going by incorporating dishes popular across Asia, such as rice-based sides and tofu.

Complement the food on offer with Asian beer and wine, green tea, and of course, sake. Dessert, too, can replicate some of the flavours and/or textures from the drinks and earlier dishes – think green tea cake, ice-cream or crème brulee; red bean cake, fried sweet potato balls, fried bananas, coconut cake and lychee pudding.

To create the right mood, hang up paper lanterns, put down bamboo placemats, and, of course, eat with chopsticks (or at least, try to). Splashes of vibrant red will also help create an enjoyable, authentic ambience.

 

Read 264052 times Last modified on Thursday, 25 June 2015 02:46