Friday 30 December 2011

Join the party...?

Last Friday evening, we threw a party for our neighbours & friends-within-walking-distance. 22 in all...
Plenty of iced pitchers of a non-alcoholic cocktail I found in Nigella Lawson's Christmas book called a Mistletoe - lime cordial, fresh lime juice & ginger beer...

warm & shiny house with plenty of candles...bowls of spiced nuts and pretzels...

a table ready to receive the food - which everyone helped themselves to...

a bright & sparkly Christmas tree in the corner (essential!) At last year's party we served lots of plates of canapes and small bites...but while these are lovely, I found that I spent most of my time in the kitchen replenishing platters instead of talking to people! So this time, I did things differently...a big pot of slow-cooked (for 24 hours) shin of beef, with red wine, star anise, coriander, orange & white soft that it could be eaten with a spoon...a deep bowl of steamed rice...a giant pan of crispy & delicious Greek Spinach & Feta Pie (Spanakopita)...

and two marvellous salads from the first Ottolenghi book - Fennel, Pomegranate & Sumac (supposed to have feta in too, but I left that out as it was in the pie) and Green Bean, Orange & Hazelnut...all wonderful. And just plates & forks so minimal washing up! To follow...nuts & dried fruits...

to go with the 3 whole cheeses - Blacksticks Blue, a strong cheddar truckle & a whole brie...

plus chocolates & squares of brownie & gingerbread. Everything except the rice (which took 10 minutes) was done in advance...and so I had plenty of time to enjoy talking to people that I usually only say 'hello' to throughout the year, as well as relaxing & having a few drinks myself! The perfect pre-Christmas evening.

On Wednesday, we took a trip out to the Cotswolds to have lunch at a gorgeous pub I've long wanted to visit - The Kingham Plough and it didn't disappoint. Wonderful food in a gorgeous setting in a small Oxfordshire village of creamy stone cottages...

the fire was glowing and the pig was lifesize!

A blue-skied mild day in that magical limbo between holidays. Lovely treat!

Hoping that you are embracing the fun of the season too...and taking time to relax and enjoy it all...

Wishing you the happiest of New Years....filled with love and luck and everything good


  1. How nice to attend your party which sounds fantastic and to go on an adventure too. All your dishes sound to die for and I bet the neighbors are wishing Xmas came but twice or more a year.

  2. I make the best spanakopita, by heart, using the nosometer (aka instinct and experience). Okay, probably the best after yours.

  3. Dear Rachel,

    Wishing I could have attended your pre Christmas party! Everything looks so pretty and the food you prepared all sounds so scrumptious! I love Spanakopita! I can imagine how the fun time your guests had over at your place. Thanks for sharing the deliciousness with us! Taking this opportunity to wish you, Paul, Alice, your parents, sisters and the rest of your family a happy, healthy New Year! May 2012 bring you continued blessings.

    Rosinda xoxo

  4. Just gorgeous as usual. I would have loved it all, except the meat of course! Happy Happy New year my darling xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  5. Sounds wonderful! Have fun and a very happy new year to you!

  6. Oh Rachel....your pre-Christmas party sounds magnificent-what a hostess you are!!! Oh how I would have loved to partake in all the delicious foods and wonderful conversation.....What a great mixture of foods. I have purchased Ottelenghi's book and must try some of these adventurous recipes in the New Year!!!! Bravo for balancing entertaining with being present as well!!! (something I definitely struggle with)

    Happy New Year!!

  7. What a wonderful array of delcious sounding and looking food. So nice to be able to do ahead and enjoy your guests. Bet they went home with a nice full tummy with lots of good memories of a great gathering. Wishing you, Paul, Alice and your family a most happy and healthy New Year ever! xoxo

  8. Your pre-Christmas party sounds so cozy and inviting. The details of your menu and libations is so clear that I can almost taste the yummy food you prepared. (I wish I HAD!)

    Happy New Year to you, Rachel.

    xxxJudy in CA

  9. What a wonderful party, Rachel! It sounds like such fun!


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