Early on in the organising of Archie’s 21st birthday party, I knew I wanted to be involved in the catering, but that I didn’t want the entire responsibility. I knew I would be sculpting and decorating the cake the day before the event and with the mammoth job that would be, there would be little time leftover for anything else. If I didn’t want the guests to starve, I would have to hire a caterer.
I didn’t know any caterers.
But, at Alfie’s school, someone told me about a mother who had recently catered for another school’s event which was for over 300 people and it was a huge success. I figured that if this mum could pull off a cocktail party for over 300, she would probably find our guest numbers of 110, a breeze. The theme for that event was The Great Gatsby and Mel, the mother, had designed a menu to suit that theme. It occurred to me that the cuisine on the Titanic and the cuisine eaten during The Great Gatsby era would have been fairly similar.
I was introduced to Mel and by a bizarre coincidence, we found out we had recently started following each other on Instagram.
Mel, from Food Envy and her partner, Donna, loved the theme and said they would be more than happy to be the caterers for Archie’s party. We decided that as it was a five-hour party, we would need 10 items. Food Envy would make eight of them, four hot and four cold. I would make one cold and one hot appetiser and then for something sweet, the cake would be served as dessert.
I told Mel that when Archie was in London he went to the Titanic exhibition and bought me a cookbook that shares all the recipes served on the fateful voyage. One of the recipes served to first class was a pate. I thought it would be lovely to start the evening with this pate. The guests were arriving at 7pm and for the first half-hour the waitresses would be standing at the gangway with trays of drinks. The guests could take a drink then come across the gangway and head to the table where they could help themselves to the pate that was served with crackers, cornichons and pickled onions. Food Envy styled the platters for me. The pate is fairly easy and straightforward to make. It’s very smooth and creamy with a lovely hint of rosemary. The original recipe asks for duck livers but these are difficult to source so I made mine with chicken livers.
The first appetiser to come out of the kitchen was Egg Toasts with Caviar. These were beautifully presented on checkerboards Mel had made for the Gatsby party. Each bite-sized morsel of egg toast was dipped in either orange or black caviar that alternated along the checkerboard. I thought this appetiser was a fabulous and colourful start to the evening. These were served as the string quartet played and I think the two things combined really helped the guests travel back to a time long ago.
You can’t have an English party without a chicken sandwich and so the next appetiser was the Fabulous Poached Chicken Sandwiches with tarragon, basil and lemon mayo. One thing Mel and I didn’t work out was who would be responsible for taking photos. I completely forgot and so alas, I have no image of the chicken sandwiches to show you but I can say, they were amazing and I managed to have two of them.
We then had Peking Duck in Black Sesame Pancakes. Now these aren’t what you would have expected to be eating in the UK one hundred years ago but I saw this listed on Mel’s catering menu and thought it was a dish we couldn’t pass up. And as good as these were, they weren’t photographed! I can say they were beautifully presented and looked very striking with the black sesame seeds in the pancakes.
The next appetiser was Shredded Chicken, Brown Rice, Rice paper rolls with homemade Hoisin sauce. These delicate parcels were wrapped in cucumber that had been sliced as thin as paper using a mandolin, and then rolled in rice paper. They were very attractive little parcels and I think I’ll ask Mel for her homemade Hoisin sauce recipe – just so I can share it with you!
The first of the hot items were the mini quiches I had made. I made mushroom and bacon and asparagus and bacon. I have blogged these before and yes, they are a staple of mine that do tend to turn up whenever I’m entertaining but these quiches just seem to be something everyone will not only eat but also enjoy. I was flattered when Mel told me she loved them so much she’d like the recipe.
Next we had Roasted Cauliflower soup with blue cheese and a wafer. This was one of my most favourite dishes of the night. I never knew a little blue cheese went so well with cauliflower soup. I loved the presentation in the little cylinders and it was great the way you could scoop the soup using the edible wafer.
Then we had smoked cheese and roast pumpkin risotto balls with Napoli sauce and parmesan snow. I just love risotto balls and these were a very tasty appetiser that looked very pretty with the ‘snow’.
It’s always good to have a couple of ‘substantial’ items on the menu especially with a lot of big young men in the room. Our first substantial item was the pork and beef brioche sliders and I have to say, I didn’t get to enjoy one. But – there is at least a photograph and I do know the big boys in the room really loved these – woofed them down.
The final appetiser of the night was the coconut fish and chips with garlic aioli. The fish and chips were served in paper cones with a wedge of lemon and a drizzle of aioli. Again, this is a dish I didn’t get to sample or even photograph but there was a lot of cooked battered fish leftover and I took it home and reheated it for the boys who’d stayed the night, the next morning. With no complaints.
For those who still had room, we then had cake that was a dense white chocolate cake covered in chocolate ganache and fondant.
I thought it would also be appropriate to serve after dinner mints as I imagine these must have been very popular back in the day. As popular as after dinner mints were when I was growing up (you didn’t dare turn up to a dinner party without a box), I suddenly realised they have all but disappeared. I wanted either the wafers that were made by Red Tulip (now discontinued) or the round mints wrapped in foil (also now obsolete). I managed to find after dinner mints on a website based in Queensland and had them shipped down to me. Unfortunately, they’re not wrapped in foil as these days everything has to come in a sealed packet – such a shame!
I also thought it would be fun to give the guests a packet of Life Savers as they were leaving. From the same website, Tom’s Confectionery Warehouse, I bought bulk quantities of peppermint, musk and five-flavours.
I know I didn’t leave hungry and I don’t think anyone else did either.
Mel from Food Envy is a fantastic caterer who works with your budget and preferences. She and her partner, Donna, work calmly and professionally under pressure (and let’s face it, we had some kitchen antics given I’d supplied the waitresses and they are all friends of Arabella’s and completely inexperienced and more interested in keeping an eye on the party than an eye on the job!) I found all the dishes to be of excellent quality and beautifully presented. If you’re interested in having Food Envy cater your next event or you’d just like to see some of her recipes, you can follow her on Instagram.
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