Our New Year’s Eve wasn’t full of party revellers, huge crowds and explosive fireworks. It was celebrated in a very civilised yet casual way of a sit-down dinner party for 10, held at a recently renovated tiny cottage on the mid-NSW coast.
We were in Stuart’s Point for New Year’s Eve and staying in the little renovated cottage. My friend, Jen, was staying in the cottage her grandfather built about a hundred years ago, that backs onto the property we were staying in.
Jen told me she had planned a New Year’s Eve dinner and that it was going to be held on our verandah around the bar-be-cue. There would be an assortment of family, friends and age groups gathered and Jen, being a forward-thinker, had already planned the menu.
But I don’t like to be idle so I said, ‘Okay, well I will set the table. I have in my suitcase, (that one of my readers is now referring to as my Mary Poppins carpet bag), candles I brought with me from Sydney. What’s on the menu?’
And Jen rattled off everything she was preparing in her kitchen that was in original condition and the size of a linen cupboard. I said, ‘Jen, you have to let me make something; I’ll do the salads’. Jen agreed and then I said, ‘And I’ll get some drinks’, and she said, ‘The drinks are sorted’. (If you have a friend like this, you want to hang on to them).
So I strolled down to the corner store and looked at the one row of vegetables and wondered what salads I could make. I can tell you now, decisions are very easy when there’s less than a dozen items to choose from!
I made a potato salad using baby potatoes that were steamed then cut in half. The dressing was sour cream and whole-egg mayonnaise with capers and chopped baby gherkins. I did try to use cornichons instead of gherkins as they are a little more sharp in flavour and have better crunch but cornichons are very elusive in Stuart’s Point. I topped the salad with some chopped organic eggs, chives and mint from Jen’s garden.
The green salad was fairly basic. I bought a packet of baby spinach leaves and added to it some halved cherry tomatoes, steamed snow peas and toasted slivered almonds. However, for Christmas, Elsie, (my parents’ dog), had given me a bottle of very special olive oil and a bottle of treasured caramelised balsamic vinegar and I had these in my carpet bag as well. The salad was taken to new heights. Jen and I tasted the dressing and agreed, simple foods can go to another dimension if the oil and vinegar are exceptional.
Drew attended to the barbie. He was in charge of the sausages and the eye fillet of beef Jen was able to buy from the local butcher. He was also in charge of the music box that came with me in my carpet bag.
The entire evening was completely relaxed and casual. We started the meal with a pre-dinner drink together with a cheese and nut platter.
The entree was a deconstructed prawn cocktail where you took an iceberg lettuce leaf, filled it with prawns, topped it with Jen’s homemade dressing, then wrapped it up to eat with your hands.
Then we had oysters served very simply with wedges of lemon.
If you didn’t want oysters there were lamb kofta sticks made by Jen and these were also served with freshly squeezed lemon juice.
The main course was the sliced beef with sausages and the salads.
There were also prawns that had been coated in a spicy coconut batter then fried and served with a homemade dressing.
And then we had dessert. I don’t know where Jen found the space or the time but she had whipped up a Bombe Alaska. It came to the table and in spectacular style was set alight while we all reeled back, not wishing to lose an eyebrow.
The Bombe was sliced and served with fresh berries and a glass of French bubbles, Christmas cake I had in my carpet bag and lots of chocolates.
We had a toast to friends old and new, then sat back socialising until 2015 disappeared and the new year began. From start to finish, our New Year’s Eve was fabulous. It was simple but relaxing, festive yet intimate, and casual yet elegant. I hope your New Year’s Eve was equally as good.