Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Please Help My Lovely, Lovely Mum

To Throw Herself A Party
probably taken in about 1967 - my mum and me in bristol england
Last Friday my wonderful mum, Christine, retired from her job. She worked really hard all her life to give my sister, Beccy, and me everything she could. For a while she was a struggling single parent but she always put us first. I can't thank her enough for everything she has done for me. It is more than a daughter should expect. We weren't spoilt children and I am glad that was the case, but we never went without. And even when times were tough and material treats were more difficult to come by, we all pulled together as a family and made it work. We were never short on love. Thank you mum!

In a couple of weeks my mum is hosting her own retirement party and this is where you, my dear readers, come in. I'd like you to help her with some ideas for a buffet. She is not an adventurous cook like me, but she'd like to create an impressive spread of food to share with her ex-colleagues whilst remaining on a sensible budget and without overcomplicating things or making things to difficult for herself. Simple but impressive ideas are the order of the day.

Food bloggers are an industrious bunch. If you have a recipes or ideas from your own websites that you think might help my mum on this occasion, I think she would love it if you could share some ideas with her in the comments section of this post. Here is a list of what products are seasonal in the UK right now although you needn't restrict yourself to this list because at Sainsbury's you can buy just about anything. Thank you in advance for your suggestions, everybody!

PS. Want to leave a link to a recipe in the comments and don't know how to do it?
Just cut and paste this piece code into the comments and replace the url and recipe name.
<a href = "http://your-post-url.com/">RECIPE NAME</a>

PPS - One of mum's retirement plans is to start a blog! Unfortunately for us I don't think it is going to be food-related.

PPPS - Don't forget to join in tomorrow's sparkling Wine Blogging Wednesday!

Archive | 2004: Opening Night Party of the (now closed) La Suite.

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Please Help My Lovely, Lovely Mum


  • At 12/9/06 07:07, Blogger Sam said…

    I am going to start the ball rolling by suggesting chicken liver crostini.

    Cheap, impressive and capable of converting the most ardent liver-haters. Plus my mum loves liver!

  • At 12/9/06 07:17, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is delicious, beautiful, impressive and very simple. Don't know about the budget but if she's going to splurge out on one thing, shrimp is always good.
    Scroll down to the Deviled Shrimp recipe.

  • At 12/9/06 07:20, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    And, I should have added, congratulations to her! Sounds like quite a mom and a much deserved retirement. Hope the party is a blast!

  • At 12/9/06 07:22, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam what a wonderful post I am feeling quite emotional and I have started printing recipes; so I will say a big thank you for all the ideas that I know will come flooding in from your friends and fellow bloggers. I will let you know how I progress. thank you

  • At 12/9/06 08:10, Blogger s'kat said…

    This hot spinach cheese dip is easy and delicious. The only issue is that it needs to be kept warm, probably in a small crockpot, or even a fondue-style server. There is also a recipe for sausage-stuffed mushrooms on the same page that is TO DIE FOR!!! Of course, there's a bit more work involved with that one, don't know what sort of time constraints she's up against.

    At any rate, congrats to your Mum! She sounds like a wonderful lady.

  • At 12/9/06 08:36, Blogger Ilva said…

    These zucchini filled tomatoes are really tasty and simple to make:

  • At 12/9/06 08:58, Blogger Beccy said…

    That's a lovely tribute Sam, I agree with you wholeheartedly! Mum must give you the gateaux Dianne recipe.

  • At 12/9/06 09:43, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I would suggest smoked salmon skewers
    - there is no real work (the beauty of it!) but it looks & tastes great.

  • At 12/9/06 09:46, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    fixed link to the salmon skewers

  • At 12/9/06 09:50, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This was a hit at one of my dinner parties and it's very simple to make.


    Congrats on the retirement, Christine!

    Sam, thanks for a great blog - I've been reading for awhile but never posted a comment. All your posts about Coco500 convinced me and my boyfriend to go for an anniversairy and we enjoyed it very much! We tried the marrow bones - a first for both of us. So thanks!

  • At 12/9/06 10:35, Blogger Unknown said…

    THis is really really easy and takes maybe 10 minutes (to juice the key limes). One can also buy key lime juice if need be. It's quick and simple. Juice the limes with a garlic press if you have one to make it even quicker!


  • At 12/9/06 11:16, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Mazel tov to your mother!

    My staple for these kind of events are an apple and cheese platter, layering thin slices of cheddar, jack, and apples together and providing some french bread rounds.

  • At 12/9/06 13:04, Blogger Dibital Nation said…

    i've been on a pear dessert kick lately, and of all the pear things I've cooked, this pear crisp has been the biggest crowd please. it's easy as they come and perfectly scrumptious


  • At 12/9/06 13:35, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam, congratulations to your mother. She must be so proud of you for all the good will you engender in the world.

    From my catering days ("Beauty & The Feast")...here are two of my stand-by dishes, that are utterly simple, are these:

    1) Dried apricots with goat cheese and a basil leaf. The sum is greater than the parts: they are beautiful and they make your mouth think. (If you know what I mean.) Get the moister, brighter, flatter kind of apricots, not the ones that are like ear cartilage.

    2) New potato "crackers" with gorgonzola-walnut "paté."

    • 2 lbs. (or more) new potatoes, the size of duck eggs.
    • 1/2 cup each: walnuts, gorgonzola, and cream cheese
    • black pepper
    • finely chopped fresh parsley

    • Food processor
    • Piping bag with a large star tip (if you like...you could just spread with a knife)

    Get smallish new potatoes and boil them gently in their skins. Do not overcook: you want them to be fork tender but not with the skin bursting. Drain and let them cool off, then slice them into 1/4" rounds, as they will be the "crackers" for the cheese.

    In a food processor, put 1/2 cup of walnut (pieces, whatever) and brr-r-r-r-r-r-r-rp them until they are completely chopped to bits. But not so much that they turn to glue.

    Add 1/2 cup softened cream cheese, a bit at a time, and blend thoroughly, until creamy. Do the same with 1/2 gorgonzola.

    Add a healthy dose of fresh cracked black pepper, and mix thoroughly. Pipe onto the potato rounds, and garnish ever so lightly with the chopped parsley.

    Put on a pretty tray, and turn 'em loose.

    Tip: if the bag gets clogged, it's probably a walnut. It happens.

    : D

  • At 12/9/06 13:42, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If your mum wants something that can be made ahead (actually has to be made ahead), looks great, tastes great, and is awfully fattening, the stack of savoury crepes never fails. It's rather a lot of work but that can be spread out over a couple of days (2 days before, make the crepes, day before, assemble, etc.)

  • At 12/9/06 14:15, Blogger Amy Sherman said…

    Congratulations! I have two "cheesy" ideas.

    A very easy party snack that looks kind of cool is Goat Cheese Grapes. You pat softened goat cheese around grapes until covered, slightly rolling in your hand into a round shape, finally roll the covered grapes in finely chopped pistachios or walnuts.

    I used to make that brie appetizer where you dip the whole brie wheel in beaten egg, then coat it in bread crumbs and chopped nuts, then saute it in butter. A slightly firm or cold wheel of brie works best. Very gooey, melty and tasty!

  • At 12/9/06 14:54, Blogger louise said…

    Last time I hosted a brunch for a lot of people, I made a frittata that was baked in the oven as a vegetarian option, and as an easy way of doing eggs for lots of people - and it disappeared really quickly.

    Breakfast Frittata

    By the way, I can't believe how long it's taken me to find your blog! I am 1) from England, 2) grew up near Bristol, 3) lived in Palo Alto last year and 4) took the professional culinary course at Tante Marie's while I was there!

  • At 12/9/06 15:02, Blogger The Old Foodie said…

    Hello Sam and Sam's Mum! If salads are going to be on the buffet, I'll offer the world's best Salad Dressing (my family says so anyway). It is "Asian style" but even people who dont like "spicy" food like it. It is great on any salad, including your basic mixed and tossed green, but sliced red, yellow, green peppers are impressive on a buffet table. I dont have a link to it 'cos its in my head.
    1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1/4 cup lime juice (lemon at a pinch, but lime is better)
    1 clove garlic, crushed
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce (the seedy Thai-style, not hot)
    2-4 teaspoons sesame oil (I like more).
    You can make in bigger quantities as it keeps well in the fridge, but usually needs topping up with the sesame oil which seems to flatten out.
    Have fun.

  • At 12/9/06 15:06, Blogger Stephanie said…

    Congratulations to your Mum!!

    A recipe I go to again and again, both for it's ease and 'wow, that's good' factor, is Pasta Salad with Mozzarella, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Olives.

    I would recommend swapping the red wine vinegar in the dresing for balsamic; the red wine vinegar makes it too...tart, while the balsamic gives it a warm, and fabulous, flavor.

    It's something she can make a day or two in advance, because the flavors only improve with age!

    Have a wonderful party!

  • At 12/9/06 21:02, Blogger Ellen said…

    From one single mom to another--congrats! An easy appetizer finger-food thing is hearts of palm rolled around ham spread with cream cheese. Another good thing to spread on bread is this recipe for chermoulah, peppers cooked in olive oil, vinegar, and garlic. My sister does a cool thing with blue cheese and sliced apples and pears. I'll have to write her and ask.

  • At 12/9/06 21:18, Blogger Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said…

    Congrats to your mum!

    I was going to recommend the dried apricots and goat cheese, but I see someone beat me to it. Another yummy hors d'oeuvre--dates wrapped in sliced raw bacon cooked for about 8 minutes under the broiler until the bacon is crisp. You can tart these up, if you like, by stuffiing the dates with cheese or nuts before bacon wrapping and baking.

  • At 12/9/06 22:43, Blogger Catherine said…

    Congrats to Sam's mum!

    My fav. super-easy, impressively tasty recipe is Cheese Sables a wonderful little appetizer.


  • At 12/9/06 23:11, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Congrats to Sam's mum!

    I love this easy fig appetizer

    halve ripe figs, top with a small cube of blue cheese and roll in paper thin slice of prosciutto. These are eye rolling back in the sockets good.


  • At 12/9/06 23:34, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't know about using blackberries in a cheesecake, but here's the baked cheesecake recipe I use.

    I've had good luck with strawberries and blueberries, or you can leave them out and just have a plain vanilla based cheesecake.

    This is one of the first recipes I tried when I started baking, and is quite simple to make, and is a great crowd pleaser.

    Oh, and congrats to Mum.

  • At 13/9/06 00:55, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh, how nice to retire!

    My 2cents:
    For large buffets, I sometimes like to roast up a big 'ol glazed ham and serve it with buttermilk biscuits and some nice mustard on the side so people can make little sandwiches. It's not very chic, but it's cheap, simple, and guests seem to dig it.

  • At 13/9/06 03:12, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    How about a greek spicy feta-cheese dip? I use a pack (or two) of feta cheese, some greek yoghurt, a red-chilli chopped up, and some olive oil (quite a bit). It turns out really great, is a classic of greek food, and goes well with vegetables and bread.

  • At 13/9/06 05:41, Blogger Jenny said…

    I just did an amateur catering thing for a friends party for her parents birthday, more than 40 people, and what went over well and was very simple to make was quiche. I made both spinach and cheese and a straight 4 cheese quiche, keeping things vegetarian. They are great because they can be served warm, cold or room temperature. Add a salad to the side and you have a meal!
    Congrats on the retirement Sam's Mum!

  • At 13/9/06 06:54, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've been wanting to try this recipe for Cheddar-Chive Gougeres. I think they'd be a hit for any event. Congrats!!

  • At 13/9/06 10:06, Blogger Sam said…

    On behalf of my mum I would love to thank you all for all these wonderful ideas. There are some really great ones. I'll see if she'll take some photos as the event so I can let you all know how she got on.

    By the way - those of you who suggested the cheesecakes and the quiches - you read my mum perfectly - for all my childhood that is exactly what she would make every time she threw a little self catered party.

    mum - i will try and get my friend jeanne's prosciuttio wrapped dates recipe because it is a winner and she told me it was easy!

  • At 13/9/06 18:59, Blogger Alice Q. Foodie said…

    Sam - This is so sweet! I don't really have any appropriate recipes on my blog, but I can give you a quick one here. It's super easy and very good, and looks really cute to boot. Someone made it for a party for me - I don't even like brie normally, but I loved it and I have made it several times since.

    Brie "Cake"
    Two identical wedges of brie cheese - rind carefully removed
    1 package of cream cheese, thoroughly softened
    1/4 tsp of nutmeg
    drizzle of honey (it's so hard to measure!)
    1-2 Tbsp of butter, softened
    1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
    1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds

    Whip the softened cream cheese and butter with the nutmeg and honey to taste. Fold in the dried cranberries. Set the first wedge of brie on a plate and smear some of the cream cheese mixture on top - then put the other wedge on top of that. "Frost" the top and back with the remaining cream cheese mixture so it looks like a giant slice of cake. Sprinkle with the sliced almonds and press them into the surface. Spread some additional almonds and cranberries on the plate for garnish, and serve with bread or crackers.

  • At 13/9/06 19:24, Blogger Erin said…

    I made Nigella Lawson's recipe for Grilled Eggplant with Feta, Mint, and Chili for a bridal shower, and it was a HUGE hit. It's an elegant combination of vegetables and cheese, and can be served cold or at room temperature, which is great.

    Thinly slice 2 large eggplants lengthwise into about 10 slices each. Lightly brush the slices with oil and cook on a grill, stovetop or under a broiler for 2 minutes on each side. Crumble 8-9 oz. feta into a bowl with 1 diced red chili, a large bunch of chopped fresh mint, the juice of 1 lemon, and black pepper to taste. Pile a heaping teaspoon of the feta mixture onto the end third of each eggplant slice and roll up into a bundle. Place seam side down on a plate - makes about 20 rolls.

    Congratulations - best of luck with the party!

  • At 14/9/06 07:04, Blogger Julie said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 14/9/06 07:08, Blogger Julie said…

    Congratulations to Sam's Mum! In July, I orchestrated a cookout/rehearsal dinner for my beautiful sister-in-law's wedding. In this post, there are three recipes for dishes we made that day, but the one I most recommend is the Baked Bean Salad with Apples and Bacon. It is impossibly simple and cheap. It is a bit homey, as it is made in a slow cooker and is mainly a gussied up version of baked beans. Still, it is hard to convey how utterly tasty and addicting it is. Every guest will rave about it. The corn salad is also wonderful and was a huge hit, but it is slightly more labor-intensive. You can double the baked bean recipe if you have a very large slow cooker or dutch oven. Happy partying!

  • At 14/9/06 07:51, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    How about some meats, antipasti style on a platter?

    The other thing that I did for a friend's post-wedding celebration (ie when she came home from her wedding abroad and celebrated with her friends) was a big chicken noodle salad. There's a recipe in Rachel Allen's book for it, but it's so easy (and fake-Thai, this is Ireland after all!) basically you marinade sliced chicken breast in some soy, sesame, chilli, ginger, then griddle it or fry it. Then you make a kind of satay dressing with peanut butter and the usual suspects, then toss the salad of chicken, some veggies, and some noodles. I served it on 'spoons' of chicory leaves and it was delicious.

    Could dig out the recipe tonight for you if you wanted?

  • At 15/9/06 06:07, Blogger Sally said…

    Man! Everything sounds so good here. You want something good and easy? Try Amish Macaroni Salad:


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