Tag Archives: entertaining

T&T 06 | Party Etiquette Tips

teaandtattletemplate_partytips

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In this episode, Sophie and I are getting into the festive spirit, as we discuss etiquette tips to help guide hosts and guests alike through the whirlwind of the party season. We provide our most handy hints for smooth sailing when you’re entertaining and tackle common bug-bears such as how to get people to RSVP promptly, whether it’s acceptable to ask guests to remove their shoes (assuming there’s no cultural custom to do so) and what hosts should do when a drink invariably spills.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts too!

What are your best etiquette tips for parties? Do you have any handy hints for getting people to RSVP, or how to deal with early arrivals as a host? Do you mind being asked to take off your shoes?

Happy Listening!

Effortless Entertaining | A Great Cheeseboard

Effortless Entertaining | Create the Perfect Cheeseboard

It’s always lovely to have friends over, but sometimes the thought of planning a sophisticated cocktail party or fancy dinner is overwhelming, especially if you’re already busy and tired (and these days, who isn’t?!). When you want to entertain in a low-key, stress-free way then I suggest throwing a wine and cheese party. Here are my tips for creating the perfect cheeseboard

++ Choose at least 3 different types of cheese: one hard (e.g. Comté or smoked cheddar), one soft and mild (brie is a classic for a reason) and one strong (blue or goat). When eating a cheeseboard, it’s usual to always end with the blue. It can be fun to pick a theme too: all English or all Italian cheeses, for example.

++ Think about colours: green and red grapes with dried apricots and / or cherries are a great way to inject aesthetic interest into your platter.

++ Have a mix of salty and sweet flavours : olives and nuts with fresh figs, honey and dark chocolate (goes very nicely with port!).

++ Group foods together on the platter: it’s a good way to section up the platter according to colour and texture and makes it much more visually appealing.

Effortless Entertaining | Create the Perfect Cheeseboard Effortless Entertaining | Create the Perfect Cheeseboard

What are your own tips for creating a great cheeseboard?

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No Bake Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

No Bake Pumpin Chiffon Pie - the perfect recipe for an easy Thanksgiving party! via Miranda's Notebook

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers! Of course, there’s no holiday here in the UK, but I still can’t let Thanksgiving go by without creating some variation of pumpkin pie – my all time favourite dessert! Even if you’re not in the States, I recommend making this pie as a treat this weekend (you can eat it whilst watching the Friends Thanksgiving marathon).

I first spotted this recipe in Adrianna Adarme’s gorgeous book The Year of Cozy (Adrianna also writes one of my favourite food blogs – A Cozy Kitchendo check it out!). I’m always on the lookout for simple, easy to prepare recipes, and a no bake option is definitely appealing when the majority of London kitchens are pretty minute with small ovens. There actually is a tiny amount of baking involved in the dish (you have to bake the crust), but this can be made the previous day (or I’m also fully behind cheating a little and simply buying a pre-made crust!). I recommend making this pie the day before you want to serve it anyway, as it requires at least 5 hours chill time in the fridge. Also, whenever I’m preparing a big meal, it gives me a lot of peace of mind to know the dessert is done and dusted.

I’ve adjusted this recipe a little to suit my own preferences and what I had in the house. The original calls for rum, but I’ve used grande marnier instead. I also had to use more melted butter to hold the gingersnap crumbs together better, and I tinkered with the spice mix a little. No Bake Pumpkin Chiffon Pie. Click through for recipe via Miranda's Notebook

No Bake Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
Author: 
Serves: 6-8
 
A delicious, easy option to help make your Thanksgiving dinner a breeze.

Ingredients
For the Crust:
  • 2 cups gingersnap crumbs (from about 25 biscuits).
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
For the Filling:
  • 3 tablespoons Grand Marnier
  • 2 teaspoons unflavoured powdered gelatin
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup whipping cream (or heavy cream)
  • ½ cup + ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon quatre epices
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly whipped cream to serve
Instructions
To Make the Crust:
  1. Preheat the oven to 175° C. Break up the gingersnaps into a food processor and pulse until broken into crumbs (or place the biscuits into a ziplock bag and bang with a rolling pin).
  2. Place the 2 cups of crumbs and salt in a medium bowl. Pour in the melted butter and mix until the crumbs are moist. Transfer the mixture into a 9" pie dish and press the crumbs firmly and evenly until they cover the bottom and sides of the dish.
  3. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until slightly darker in colour and firm to the touch. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before adding the filling.
To Make the Filling:
  1. Pour the grand marnier into a small bowl and add the gelatin to the bowl, then set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat, add the pumpkin, whipping cream, ½ cup sugar, 2 egg yolks, cinnamon, quatre epices, nutmeg and salt. Cook the mixture, continuing to stir, until it reaches a temperature of 175°F (I used a candy thermometer). Transfer the pumpkin mixture to a medium bowl and stir in the grande marnier and gelatin. Set the bowl aside to cool.
  3. Whilst the pumpkin mixture is cooling, beat the 2 egg whites (the easiest way to do this is with a Kitchen Aid, in a metal bowl with the whisk attachment. You can also do this with a handheld electric whisk, but be warned - it takes a while!) until they begin to hold peaks. With the beater still going, sprinkle in the remaining ¼ cup sugar and keep whisking until stiff peaks form.
  4. Gently fold in the egg whites, a little at a time, into the cooled pumpkin mixture. Add the pie filling to the gingersnap crust and transfer to the fridge for 5 hours, or overnight.
  5. Just before serving, add a topping of freshly whipped cream and garnish with a sprinkling of any leftover gingersnap cookie crumbs, or with some cinnamon.

 

What are you feeling particularly thankful for this year? After feeling full of energy yesterday, in the evening I started feeling really unwell with a fever and sore throat. Rather than concentrating on the frustration of getting sick though, instead I’m feeling grateful that I can spend today taking it easy at home and doing my best to get better asap (there’s pie to enjoy, after all!). As always, I’m so thankful for this blog and the many fun things it inspires me to do, as well of course for my followers who take the time to read the posts and who get in touch via commenting and social media. I so appreciate your support! This year I’m also really thankful to have the opportunity to move back into more central London: moving is always stressful, and I hate the packing, but in January we will be in our new flat which is very exciting.

Anyway, happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it, and a very happy Thursday to everyone else!

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Butternut Squash and Tahini Dip

Butternut Squash and Tahini Ottolenghi inspired recipe - click through for printable version

When it comes to entertaining, I’m all about keeping it as effortless as possible. As the host, you are responsible for setting the tone, and  being a stressed out mess is the surest way to ruin a party. So my advice is always to keep things simple, plan well and make sure you have fun too. Entertaining can be as pain-free as having some friends round for wine and simple snacks: nuts, a cheese board, crisps and some crudités with a great dip. Rather than emptying out a tub of hummus from Sainsbury’s, I think it’s a nice touch to make your own (it will elevate your party without too much hassle and will always be more delicious). For this Butternut Squash and Tahini dip, the food processor really does all the work so it’s extremely easy to throw together (although do bear in mind the rather long baking time for the squash – this definitely can’t be made in 10 minutes).

I’m a huge fan of Ottolenghi’s recipes, and I discovered this spread in Jerusalem a few weeks ago. I instantly wanted to try it out and was pretty pleased with the results. The recipe calls for date syrup, but I substituted maple syrup (always great with butternut squash), and I couldn’t resist adding a scattering of pomegranates as I’m rather obsessed with this fruit at the moment!

This delicious butternut squash and tahini dip, inspired by an Ottolenghi recipe, is a perfect choice for effortless but elegant entertaining. Click through for the full recipe. This delicious butternut squash and tahini dip, inspired by an Ottolenghi recipe, is a perfect choice for effortless but elegant entertaining. Click through for the full recipe.

Butternut Squash and Tahini Spread
Author: 
Serves: 6-8
 
An easy, crowd-pleasing dip.

Ingredients
  • About 970g worth of diced butternut squash (this is a very large squashed, or I used almost 3 bags of already diced fresh squash from M&S, which really does make this dish effortless!)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 70g light tahini paste
  • 120g Greek yoghurt
  • 2 small garlic gloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp mixed black and white sesame seeds (or all white if you don't have black)
  • 1½ tsp maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C or 180° Fan.
  2. Spread the squash in a good-sized roasting tin and add the olive oil, cinnamon and ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix everything together well (I just use my hands), cover the tray tightly with foil and roast in the oven for 60-70 minutes, stirring once half way through the cooking. When baked, remove the tin and set aside for the squash to cool.
  3. Once cool, transfer the squash to a food processor bowl, along with the tahini, yoghurt and garlic. Pulse until everything is combined into a coarse paste (don't let it become too smooth).
  4. Spread the dip over a plate and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Drizzle over the maple syrup and finish with a scattering of pomegranate seeds.

 

What are your favourite nibbles to serve guests?

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Brandy Alexanders: Perfect for Autumn

brandyalexander

Having an evening in doesn’t mean you can’t make it a  lot of fun, and one thing I like to do to liven up a night at home is to whip up some cocktails. Brandy Alexanders take about 10 seconds to make so they’re perfect for when you get in on a Friday night after a long week.

All you need is some brandy, cream and creme de cacao. Pour 1 oz of each into a glass, stir, sprinkle with a little freshly grated nutmeg and voila – your weekend is off to a great start!

What’s your favourite Friday night tipple?

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‘This is the Life’ Summer Cocktail

Summer Cocktail | Miranda's Notebook

This summer cocktail recipe is inspired by my Canadian grandmother. I couldn’t help but think of her when the idea for this drink came to me. When my grandmother first visited me properly in London, we had a fabulous time as I introduced her to my favourite London haunts, as well as the delights of a classic G&T for our evening aperitif (I imagine she’s since got most of Regina,Saskatchewan hooked by now too). We travelled around London, Yorkshire and Oxford together, as well as further afield to Vienna. These trips were before the days of hashtags, but if I had been on instagram then, every picture would no doubt have been tagged #thisisthelife.

So, in honour of my grandmother, I’ve created a ‘this is the life’ cocktail. It’s not a G&T, but I think she’d still love it! Served with a Rachel Khoo inspired dip of pea, mint and preserved lemon, it couldn’t be better and is my new quintessential summer drink.

Summer Cocktail | Miranda's Notebook Summer Cocktail | Miranda's Notebook Summer Cocktail | Miranda's Notebook Summer Cocktail | Miranda's Notebook

A mere sip of this cocktail is enough to have you sighing deeply, kicking off your shoes and trotting out to the garden to relax in the sun. There’s something wonderfully refreshing about this drink, and it definitely sets a holiday tone!

'This is the Life' Summer Cocktail
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Your quintessential summer cocktail! I recommend serving with this easy to whip up pea dip - absolutely delicious!

Ingredients
For the cocktail
  • ¾ - 1½ oz Campari per glass (depending on how strong you like it - I went for ¾)
  • ¾ cup freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
  • ¾ cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
  • sprig of mint and grapefruit peel to garnish
For the dip
  • 350 grams freshly shelled peas
  • 1 preserved lemon
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 large bunch of mint (leaves only)
  • 150 ml creme fraiche
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
For the cocktail
  1. Pour Campari into glasses, add ice-cubes and top up with grapefruit and blood orange juice.
  2. Mix together with a spoon, then add a sprig of mint and peel of grapefruit to garnish.
For the dip
  1. Cook the peas in salted, boiling water until tender. Drain and then rinse in cold water.
  2. Finely chop the preserved lemon into small pieces and mince the garlic.
  3. Place the peas, mint, preserved lemon, lemon juice, garlic and creme fraiche into a food processor and blend until smooth.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. This dip is best eaten on the same day, as it gradually looses its bright green colour.

 

Do you have any recipes inspired by a loved one? What’s your standard summer drink?

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Hostess Gift Idea: Homemade Chilli Vinegar

Hostess Gift Idea | Homemade Chilli Vinegar | Miranda's Notebook

This is one of the easiest hostess gifts you can make, and it’s perfect to bring if you’re invited to a summer dinner party or BBQ. All you have to do is pick up some nice bottles with corks (although mason jars / old jam jars will also do), a few chillies and some cider vinegar and you’re good to go.

Making chilli vinegar is so simple, I can’t really call it a recipe! Simply place 5 chillies in a sterilised jar and add 500ml of white or cider vinegar (I used cider vinegar) and leave on a sunny windowsill for 3 days. Then, strain the vinegar and pour into individual bottles, adding some fresh chillies to the bottles as desired.

Hostess Gift Idea | Homemade Chilli Vinegar | Miranda's Notebook

Chilli vinegar is delicious to use in a simple vinaigrette dressing, poured over a hot shrimp salad or baked sweet potato chips. The vinegar adds a wonderful kick to the dressing and dish!

You can also make a similar vinegar using herbs instead – simply replace the chilli with whichever herb you like!

++ For another great hostess gift idea, try my Homemade Vanilla Extract. ++

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Strawberry Milkshake Cake

Strawberry Milkshake Cake Recipe | Miranda's Notebook

Yesterday, I blogged about my top choices for Mothering Sunday gifts, but often one of the very nicest ways you can spoil your Mum is to bake her a lovely cake and have a good long chat over copious amounts of tea.

This Strawberry Milkshake Cake is absolutely perfect for a Mother’s Day treat: it’s one of the prettiest cakes I’ve ever baked, and the delicious flavour sends me right down memory lane to when a strawberry milkshake shared with my Mum was one of my biggest treats. I have many fond memories of a particularly loved American diner in California that we went to sometimes for a burger and shake, and when I was in high-school in Switzerland, a regular after school Friday routine would be to go with my Mum (or sometimes a boyfriend or friend) to our favourite cafe in Nyon, which has the most delicious strawberry frappés anyone has ever tasted.

I’ve adapted the recipe from one in Lisa Faulkner’s new cookbook, Tea & Cake (which is gorgeous and would make a fabulous Mother’s Day gift in itself). Here’s my version:

Strawberry Milkshake Cake

Ingredients:

For the cake:
300g butter, softened (plus some extra for greasing)
300g Nesquik strawberry milk powder
4 eggs
300g self-raising flour
4 tablespoons milk

For the icing:
300g butter, softened
500g icing sugar
150g Nesquik strawberry milk powder
50ml milk
Pink food colouring

To decorate:
200g strawberries, sliced (plus extra to scatter on and around the cake, if desired)

1/ Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line two 8 inch cake tins with greaseproof paper.

2/ Cream the butter and strawberry milk powder together until pink and fluffy.

3/ Add the eggs 1 by 1, alternating with a spoonful of flour, then add the remaining flour and the milk and mix to combine.

4/ Divide the mixture between the two cake tins (you can weigh them to make sure they’re even) and bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 mins, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes before turning them out of the tins onto wire racks to cool completely.

5/ While the cakes are cooling, make the icing by creaming the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add 2-3 drops of pink food colouring to turn the icing a pretty pink. Mix the strawberry milk powder with the milk and add it to the icing.

6/ Sandwich the two cakes together with some of the icing and a layer of sliced strawberries, then roughly spread a thin layer of icing on top and around the cake. Place the cake in the fridge for 20 minutes to set the ‘crumb coat,’ then remove and spread the remaining icing onto the cake until it is well covered. Place strawberries on and around the cake to decorate.

7/ Enjoy whilst reminiscing over old photos with your Mum.

Strawberry Milkshake Cake Recipe | Miranda's Notebook Strawberry Milkshake Cake Recipe | Miranda's Notebook Strawberry Milkshake Cake Recipe | Miranda's Notebook Strawberry Milkshake Cake Recipe | Miranda's NotebookStrawberry Milkshake Cake Recipe | Miranda's Notebook Strawberry Milkshake Cake Recipe | Miranda's Notebook

I think my Mum is quite happy that this blog means she’s getting to have a few Mother’s Day celebrations in advance of the actual day! I promise I’ll do something nice on March 15th too, Mum!

Are you planning to bake or cook anything to celebrate Mothering Sunday? I’d love to know what if so!

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract | Miranda's Notebook

I love making my own vanilla extract. It’s so easy, and it’s fabulous to have plenty to hand as I use it all the time for baking. It’s much more frugal to make your own too, as tiny jars of the stuff cost a surprisingly large amount. I also like to pour some into little mason jars to give as gifts – they make super hostess or housewarming presents. Or of course, you can be very generous and give the whole lot!

I recently made up a batch, and will soon be dividing it up, keeping some for myself and ear-marking the rest for gifts. With a pretty handwritten tag and a simple sprig of flowers, a jar of homemade vanilla extract is sure to delight any of your foodie friends. Here’s the Ina Garten recipe (if you can call it a recipe – it’s so easy!) that I use:

Homemade Vanilla Extract (makes 1 large bottle)

Ingredients:

12 (I use 13, a baker’s dozen!) vanilla beans
1 bottle vodka

1/ Place the vanilla beans (if you split them lengthwise the flavour develops more quickly) into a tall mason jar and pour the bottle of vodka over top.

2/ Leave the bottle to sit at room temperature for at least a month, until the beans are soft enough to squeeze out the seeds when you cut the end. Add more vanilla beans or vodka as needed.

3/ The vanilla extract can be stored at room temperature indefinitely.

Homemade Vanilla Extract | Miranda's Notebook Homemade Vanilla Extract | Miranda's Notebook Homemade Vanilla Extract | Miranda's NotebookHave you made vanilla extract yourself before? Do you have any good ideas for homemade hostess gifts?

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Frozen Lemon Mousse

lemonmousse2

This frozen lemon mousse is one of my favourite make-ahead, easy dessert recipes, and makes the perfect light, but indulgent treat for Valentine’s Day. I’ll definitely be serving this mousse, as well as my Crab Chili Risotto, on Saturday – they go so well together.

Make Ahead Frozen Lemon Mousse (serves 4, or 2 with leftovers!)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 tsp. (1/2 packet) unflavoured gelatin
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup (250 ml)whipping cream
2 tablespoons crystallised rose petals (optional)
Handful of fresh raspberries to decorate

1/ Dissolve the gelatin in the lemon juice in a heat-proof bowl set over simmering water.

2/ Beat the egg yolks with 1/3 cup sugar until mixture is lemon coloured.

3/ Fold the lemon gelatin mixture and lemon zest into beaten yolks. Gradually add remaining 1/3 cup sugar, beat egg whites with pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks. Blend large spoonful of beaten whites in lemon-egg yolk mixture.

4/ Whip cream and fold remaining whites and whipped cream into lemon-egg mixture, but don’t over blend – allow some white to show.

5/ Fill souffle dish or individual glass dishes 2/3 full and  freeze for 2-3 hours, or overnight.

7/ Serve either frozen (let it thaw for a few minutes before serving so it’s not rock hard), or serve fully thawed (my preference).

8/ Top with fresh raspberries, and (if desired) crystallised rose petals (it is Valentine’s Day after all!). 

lemonmousse5 lemonmousse3 lemonmousse4

I grew up with my Mum making this lemon pudding, and it’s a firm favourite in our family for a reason. The flavour isn’t too sharp, but still pleasantly lemony, and I love the creamy texture.  Do you have a favourite lemon dessert?