category events

The consummate entertainer

Gathering friends and family together to share a meal is one of life’s true pleasures. Often, though, the pressure of having everything just so diminishes that joy. If you’ve ever been to a party where the host has been flitting here and there in a frazzled state, you’ll know that being the host with the most is meaningless if you can’t stop and enjoy your guests. Nobody wants to feel as though they’re a burden on their host or sense any frenetic tension in the air. The point is, always, to have a good time. So, if you’re hosting this Easter, even if you’ve left the cooking to us (well played!), here are our tips for a harmonious, enjoyable event. And because sometimes a drink goes quite a way to relaxing everyone, we’ve included some easy jug recipes, too.

Step one: The guest list
When deciding who to invite for your event, it always pays to ensure your guests have something in common. But spice things up with a wild card guest or couple, who are interesting and unexpected. Sometimes you need a live wire to get ignite the energy and get people mingling. Just keep the numbers small to ensure you can circulate around to all your guests. Afterall, grace is about making time for everyone.

Step two: Be welcoming
When you go out to a nice restaurant for dinner, you look for the little details in the service that make the hospitality feel genuine. It’s the same at your own home. As host, it’s your job to create a feeling of welcome for your guests. It’s as simple as offering a drink on arrival, styling your home with fresh blooms, or hiring a heater or bringing out rugs when it’s chilly.

Step three: Get set
Guests don’t want to see their hosts folding napkins and polishing cutlery, it makes them feel uncomfortable. And, as host, you don’t want to be leaving your guests to their own devices while you buzz about setting the table. Make sure everything is in place before the first arrival. Use a mixture of textiles in unifying tones and scented candles or flowers to bring warmth to the table. Placecards are a nice touch if you have a crowd that don’t already know each other and might be nervous about choosing where to sit.

Step four: Music, please
Nothing exacerbates the awkwardness of stilted conversation like the absence of music. The right tunes help guests relax and fills in any natural silences. Just make sure to choose music that fits the mood of your party. Be prepared with a few different playlists that you can alternate throughout the night. A good trick is to have a wind-down one for when it’s time to wrap things up.

Step five: Help yourself
As host, it’s your job to set your guests up with their first drink, but they shouldn’t have to rely on you every time their glass is empty. Create a nicely styled watering station with ice buckets filled with drinks where people can top themselves up as needed. It’s a nice idea to include a few premixed cocktails in jugs as a delicious alternative to wine and beer, see our recipes below.

Step six: Command commonsense
Being a great host really is about minimising stress on yourself so you can be there for your guests. A little commonsense goes a long way in achieving this goal. For example, never try a new recipe for the party – recipe fails don’t make for a relaxed host. And make life easy on yourself by outsourcing dessert to a professional, be it a beautiful cake from your favourite bakery (or Katering at Home), or a tub of artisanal ice-cream.

And last but absolutely not least: Don’t be rude
You might think you’re just getting ahead of the clean up, but whatever you do, do not wash up while your guests are still enjoying themselves. Nothing makes people feel more like they’re being pushed out the door than a host who excuses themselves to wash dishes. If you find the stress of mounting dishes unbearable, and if you can afford it, hire the help of a young neighbour or family friend to clear tables and wash up for you.

Spiced pear and ginger cocktail
Makes: 2ltrs
180ml Grey Goose La Poirse vodka
60ml ginger liqueur
60ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
300ml fresh pear juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
Ice
600ml chilled soda water
600ml dry sparkling wine
1-2 sliced pears, 6-8 cinnamon sticks, mint sprigs, to serve
Honey and cinnamon syrup
85g honey
60ml water
2 sticks cinnamon

To make the honey and cinnamon syrup, place the honey, water and cinnamon in a small saucepan over low heat and stir to combine. Simmer for 10 minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Remove the cinnamon sticks and set aside.

To make the cocktail, combine the vodka, ginger liqueur, lemon juice, pear juice, and the honey and cinnamon syrup, and vanilla extract in a large jug. Stir to combine and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, fill a large jug with ice and the chilled cocktail mixture. Top with soda water and sparkling wine and stir gently. Garnish with pear slices, cinnamon sticks, and mint to serve.

Tip: You can make the cocktail the day before and store in the fridge. Simply give the mixture a good stir before adding the ice, soda water, sparkling wine and garnishes.

Plum and mint gin fizz
Makes: 1.2 litres
Ice
360ml gin
Soda water
Plum slices, lime slices, mint sprigs, to serve
Plum puree
1kg dark red plums, cut into chunks
75g caster sugar
10g ginger, peeled and sliced
1tbsp lemon juice

To make the plum puree, place the plum, sugar, ginger, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until plums release their juices. Remove lid and cook for a further 6-8 minutes or until the plums soften and start to fall apart. Allow to plum cool slightly. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until a smooth puree forms. Set aside to cool.

To make the cocktail, place 600g of the plum puree into a large jug, fill with ice and top with gin. Stir to combine and top with soda, thinly sliced plum, lime slices and mint to serve.

A cool change

Last week, Kate and the team thoroughly enjoyed styling and catering the launch of a stunning new Meriton development in Dee Why called Lighthouse. With the event being held on the Northern Beaches and with the building echoing a cool Hamptons-esque vibe, we decided to make good use of beautiful fresh seafood and lovely late-summer produce. But it won’t be long before our menus begin to take on a more autumnal tone.

We’re slowly but surely sliding into the cooler months. The memory of summer is slipping a little further away with every day that dips below 30-degrees. Green leaves are quietly turning to rusty-brown and stone fruit and berries are dwindling in our shopping baskets.

Our thoughts are turning to restorative soups, sour pickled plums, robust pulses and slowly braised meats. But, if you know what to look for, summer has left a few little gifts in her wake.

You might be surprised to learn that mushrooms are beautiful at this time of year, especially king brown and field mushrooms. In fact, we’re so excited about these spongy, pudgy little earth-dwellers that we’re creating a mushroom bar for an upcoming event. There’ll be mushroom gnocchi, shiitake dumplings, mushrooms stuffed with quinoa, and a fantastic truffle mushroom cappuccino.

And while peaches and nectarines are winding down, late-summer, early-autumn plums are sweet and plump. There are few things more delightful than a perfectly ripe plum. Most people seem to miss the season entirely, grabbing them too early when they’re still tart, giving this crimson gem a bad wrap. But if you catch them now while their skin is deep purple and they’re ever so soft to the touch, you’ll find yourself with a full-blown plum addiction.

Which is exactly what we’ve developed here at Katering HQ. We’ve had to come up with a way to devour as many plums as possible before they disappear, so we created this gorgeous plum and apple crumble that makes use of the last plums and crisp, new season Granny Smith apples. In the interest of enabling your new addiction, we’ve shared the recipe, below.

Enjoy!

Plum, apple and almond crumble

8 large plums, halved, stoned, and chopped into large chunks
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
80g brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
The finely grated zest of one orange
Crumble
180g plain flour
Pinch of salt
140g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
60g rolled oats
75g Demerara sugar
30g sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 200C. Place the chopped plum, apple, sugar, cinnamon, orange zest and 100ml water in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Cover and cook gently for 5 minutes or until apples are softened. Transfer to a shallow, medium ovenproof serving dish and set aside.

To make the crumble, place the flour and salt in a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the chilled butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the oats, Demerara sugar and almonds. Scatter the crumble over the fruit in large chunks. Bake for 30 minutes or until crumble is golden. Serve with fresh vanilla ice-cream or cream.

Happy New Year… let’s eat

If your year hasn’t quite kicked off with as much momentum as you’d like, then may we suggest a do-over? Yep, it’s time to embrace the Chinese calendar and restart 2019 with Chinese New Year!

Celebrations to usher in the New Year kick off about now, a week before the 2019 Year of the Pig ticks over on 5 February. Which means there are plenty of opportunities to flex your chopsticks and shovel in as many dumplings as possible.

Sure, the enjoyment of dumplings isn’t confined to Chinese New Year, but any excuse to devour even more of those pillowy parcels is wholeheartedly welcomed by us.

This year, it’s all about the pig. The prosperous chubby jowled pig is not only a delicious animal, but also the twelfth sign in the Chinese zodiac. According to mythology, when the Jade Emperor was deciding the order of the zodiac, the pig overslept and arrived last, taking twelfth place.

But don’t worry, it’s not all sleep-ins and bacon, the pig is a sign of wealth in Chinese culture and those born in the year of the pig are said to be realistic, hardworking and enthusiastic. Well done, you.

Whether you’re a pig, dog or snake, Chinese New Year is loads of fun. The City of Sydney puts on a great Lunar New Year party every year, so check out some of the events and, if it’s been a while since you’ve ventured down to Chinatown, now is the best time to visit for a pork bun and a custard tart.

Chinese New Year also provides an excellent excuse for a dumpling dinner party at home with family and friends. But as New Year falls on a Tuesday just as school goes back, you may not feel so inclined to spend hours in the kitchen perfecting your dumpling folding technique. Don’t worry, though, because we have. All you need to worry about is dusting off that rice cooker.

Our nimble-fingered chefs have been busy crimping little squares of pastry filled with pork and ginger, chicken and water chestnut, Peking duck, chicken and shiitake, and tofu and spinach, as well as prepping other classic meals such as duck pancakes and Hainanese chicken.

For the full menu, click here. Whip out your bamboo steamers and get ready to celebrate!

From all of us here at Katering at Home, kung hei fat choi!

 

Bringing some style to the table

My mother made sure that we set the dinner table correctly for dinner every night in our house. It was a skill I have come to appreciate as an adult but also a ritual I enjoyed as a child. Surprisingly my brother and I didn’t mind this daily chore!

I have the pleasure of working directly across from our Senior Event and Wedding coordinator, oh and the owner of Katering Kate white! She has helped me create this blog that only scratches the surface of dinner settings and meal sharing, you will hear her thoughts, tips and tricks throughout this piece.

The basic formal dinner table place setting is below, it is a tad more formal then your usual week night dinner, but it is a skill every entertainer should embrace.

When dining as a guest it is important use your utensils from outside in finishing with dessert at the top. The same goes for plates.  Start at the top and work your way down. Especially when sharing a meal and multiple courses using one plate at a time will save your dear host that extra plate to wash up between courses or at the end of a long night.


Candles and flowers are always a great addition to any dinner party table, our Katering events team use flowers and candles wherever they can to create a mood and intimacy for guests. When sharing meals with friends and family it is important to decorate but also to use your space wisely. You will have large platters of food being passed around and they are going to need a place to sit once everyone has had a taste.

I suggest that when you set the table have items that are easily removed when service starts. So, flowers in small vases and centre pieces that can be put on the side board while the guest marvel and devour the delicious meal you have presented. I would  encourage you to keep candles on the table, taking them away might leave a light gap in the middle of the room just shuffle them around on the table to have ambient light and no burnt hands reaching over!

Here are a few photos of some beautifully styled tables before and during food service

Now the table is set it’s all about the food and how you present it. Protein or main element of the meal should be presented centre stage of the table. Although if you have a large table to feed it is good to split this onto two plates so that each end of the table will get to try and enjoy the full experience paltered up beautifully as well as not missing out on the choice selection.

The supporting choir or back up dancers are your side dishes and all the bits and pieces that make your dinner a complete and interesting meal, these can be piled high into bowls or delicately scattered around on smaller sized plates that are easier to manage.

 

When laying out all the food to share it is a good idea to keep it along the middle of the table not just for ease of passing but everyone’s eyes will be focused on the food and the abundance of food. This creates an atmosphere of a grand feast and who doesn’t love a long feast with family and friends!

Now that you are inspired to host your next dinner party, and maybe slightly stressed at all the work involved in such undertaking. Why not let Katering at Home help you out? We can handle it all! From the hero roast chicken, to the crunchy salad and saucy side dishes it can all be ordered via Katering at Homes Weekly Wenu and Family Favourite menu. We even have dessert covered with a classic apple pie or pull apart cinnamon rolls. All you need to do is set the table and invite the guests. Simple!

Or maybe you are so inspired that you want to host a large diner party and it’s still a bit too much even with Katering at Home’s help! Give us a call on 9319 2700 and our event team will happily assist in bringing your ideas to life, they will even set the table!

Don’t forget Katering at Home orders close at 8pm on Thursday night! Don’t be late or you will miss out!

 

Author Rene Hunter – Marketing

Chinese New Year celebrations

This Friday (February 16th) is Chinese New Year, variously known as the Spring Festival or the Lunar New year. Chinese New Year is centuries old and is the most significant holiday in China.

The city streets fill with festivals, arts, entertainment, markets, dancing and fireworks spectacles. Chinese New Year celebrations encompass a vibrant and energetic display of colour, culture and tradition.

What better way to partake in the joy of Chinese New Year than with our divine Chinese braised pork bao buns  A soft, pillowy steamed sleeping bag of bun encasing salty and sticky braised and pork belly, pickled carrot, cucumber, shallot, coriander and sweet Hoisin. New to the weekly menu and available this week only, be sure you don’t miss out!

We also have a delightful new addition to our Family Favourites menu for this month only. Delicious chicken and vegetable dumplings. These ‘pot stickers’ are a most important Chinese New Year food as they are symbolic of both plenty and new beginnings for the coming year. As perfect snack to fill hungry teenagers, cook them straight from frozen and enjoy. Little fingers will love them too, with dinner sorted in 10 minutes you can take back some time for yourself.

If you plan on celebrating, why not take the opportunity to gather some friends and have a giggle re-creating our recipe for Super Stretchy Chinese Noodles.  A real treat to make and lots of fun.

The humble lamington

If you plan on celebrating the Australia Day long weekend festivities with the inclusion of a few baked treats (and so you should because any excuse will do really) then it’s time to dig out the Mixmaster, and your best frilly apron this weekend.

We are all pretty proud of our Aussie desserts – Pavlova, Anzac bikkies, fairy bread and of course, the classic lamington sponge, possibly one of our most favourite iconic treats.

Like many my age, I have been blessed with fond childhood memories of the delicious, coconut and chocolatey treat that is the lamington cake. My family, with two young boys in tow, were avid participants in the local Scouts club. Every other weekend quickly became a regular social and community affair. Each year around Australia Day all the mothers and volunteers would gather round with their colourful aprons on, producing hundreds and hundreds of lamingtons to be sold at the local Scout fete for charity.

I was young but had already developed an insatiable drive and enthusiasm to get my hands dirty in the kitchen and what better way than having the opportunity to dip them into the gooey, sticky mess that is the humble lamington. Often, I’d be found hiding under the table while ladies busied themselves chatting, gobbling down any of the defunct, fluffy sweet morsels with sheer delight.

I have memories of community and togetherness…..  for me and many others, the humble lamington is truly embedded into my Australian heritage.

Subsequently, 20 years later, most of which time was spent in the kitchen as a professional pastry chef, I’ve not had the opportunity to make many of these little gems. Yet they are certainly imprinted in my reflective childhood memories with the likes of rock-cakes, (strange things that they were) lemonade scones and pikelets, which seem to be making a solid revival in my house these days with two children under five.

I am sure you’ve noticed lately the lamington is a little bit on-trend, with tricked up shredded organic coconut, soft as a cloud gluten-free sponge, Swiss chocolate sauce and numerous fillings ranging from popcorn custard to Pina Colada, pandan and peppermint.

As we celebrate Australia Day this week, I feel it only fitting we go back to our roots and start with a beautiful, fluffy and simple lamington; made the old fashioned way, perfect with an afternoon cuppa.

Use this base recipe as a guide, keep them simple or jazz them up any way you like. Personally  I’m a fan of the jam and cream filled variety but each to their own really. No matter how you have them, these little treats are a guaranteed crowd pleaser!

  • 4 whole eggs
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 25g soft butter
  • 80ml boiling water
  • 270g desiccated coconut
  • 750g icing sugar
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 20g soft butter
  • 180ml milk
  • Preheat the oven to 180c (160c fan-forced). Grease and flour a 20cm x 30cm pan, line the base with baking paper.
  • Beat the eggs in a small bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar, beat for about 8 minutes or until the mixture is thick. The mixture should form thick ribbons when the beaters are lifted.
  • Meanwhile sift the flour and cornflour together three times. Combine the butter and boiling water in a small heatproof bowl.
  • Transfer the egg mixture into a large bowl. Sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture; using a whisk or a large metal spoon, gently fold, then fold in the butter mixture.
  • Pour into the prepared pan. Bake in a moderate oven for 25 minutes or until the sponge springs back when touched lightly in the centre and comes away from the pan. Turn onto a cake rack to cool.
  • Cut the cake into 20 even pieces.
  • Meanwhile, sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a large heatproof bowl; add the butter and milk; stir over a medium saucepan of simmering water until icing is smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • Pace the coconut into a bowl.
  • Dip each piece of cake into the icing with a fork and turn to coat then drain. Toss into coconut and gently pat to coat
  • Leave to set on a wire rack.

Author: Katherine Hunt