If you’re anything like me and can’t decorate a cake to save your life then keep reading. I marvel at some of the incredible cakes out there but I can’t even begin to dream of creating anything that looks even vaguely attractive. Give me a piping tube or an icing gun and you can be sure that I will end up with a cake that looks something like this.
If you can relate to epic cake fails, I have good news for you. While we may never be able to create a cake that looks like some exotic animal from a faraway land, there are lots of easy and fail proof ways to decorate a cake yourself. You could even get a supermarket cake and give it your own touch with some easy DIY cake toppers ideas.
So here are 6 of my favourite easy DIY cake toppers that anybody can do. Yes anybody:
I am more than a little obsessed with fresh flowers as they always brighten my day, no matter what. I like to think of them as my happy makers. At this time of year, fresh flowers are in abundance so I love to treat myself to a bunch as often as I can. Many times it’s just a few daffodils or a single stem, other times it’s a full bouquet. When I get my flowers, I’m always thinking about different ways to display them. Just sticking them in a vase is fine sometimes but other times I like to play around with different displays. Here are 3 of my current favourite slightly more unusual ways to display flowers: Continue Reading "3 unusual ways to display your flowers"
Birthday’s are a big deal in our home. Everybody’s birthday is celebrated and marked in some way but especially Anya’s as for kids, there’s nothing more special. Anya’s birthday is in December and due to a major house move in December 2014, we weren’t able to have a proper party for Anya’s 6th birthday. So when she turned 7 last month, we wanted to celebrate properly.
Winter is always a trickier time for parties as having an outdoor party is out of the question. I didn’t want to hire a venue as it never feels personal enough so we decided on a small party of 10-12 kids at home. And then we thought about possible themes. We went through quite a few ideas but none felt inspired or exciting enough until I thought about a Bollywood party. Anya was so excited by this idea that I knew we had found our theme.
For parties and gatherings at this time of year I love to serve mini morsels of my favourite foods. That way, in one meal I can serve (and eat) so many delicious foods. Besides, nearly all our parties these days involve kids so making bite-sized party food lets me serve a range of mini dishes that will work for adults as well as kids. The biggest thing I consider when making bite-sized food is how much of the work can be done ahead – I always choose recipes that require minimal last minute preparations but that are still big on taste.
One of my favourite bite sized party foods are these gorgeous flavorful Chinese pork dumplings. Little morsels of deliciousness that go down a treat with any age group. So when Furniture Village asked me to come up with a favourite party food recipe for festive guests, I knew I had to go for this one. I like think of them as the Asian version of sausage rolls that make a nice change when you’ve had one sausage roll to many! And besides, I love dumplings – who doesn’t? So much flavour in one little bite!
I love serving finger foods at parties because they are so practical and easy for everyone to eat from the little people to the grown-ups. But they are labour intensive as you have to make at least 2-3 bites of everything per person. So I often mix up the menu with food that I can cook in large quantities in one pot and one of my favourite one pot party dishes is risotto. It’s easy to make and then you can serve mini portions in lots of ways – my favourite way is to dish the risotto in to mini espresso cups. Today I’m sharing a delicious corn risotto that I serve to big kids and little ones at parties.
The blackened corn in this risotto comes from my childhood. Some foods evoke such vivid childhood memories that they literally transport you back to that time and place. One of those foods for me is blackened corn. The only way we ever ate corn in India was to roast it on a gas hob flame, rub it with butter and spices and eat. The smoky, charred flavour is so delicious and goes so well in a risotto. I like to sprinkle a bit of pancetta on top but this is optional – you can easily keep the dish vegetarian by using veg stock and omitting the pancetta.
BLACKENED CORN RISOTTO IN A CUP Makes: 15 mini servings
1 tbs olive oil 2 generous knobs of butter 350g Arborio rice 1 onion chopped finely 2 cloves garlic chopped finely 150ml white wine 1.3l chicken or veg stock 2 corn on the cobs parmesan cheese small pancetta cubes cooked till crisp (optional) small handful roughly chopped parsley salt & pepper to taste
I start with blackening my corn on the cob. Turn on the gas hob to a medium flame and hold the corn over the flame using tongs or similar. Keep turning the corn around so it blackens evenly and of course be careful! The corn will make a few popping sounds but that’s fine. Cut the corn kernels off the cob and keep aside.
Next make your risotto. You can use your favourite basic risotto recipe or follow the recipe here. Heat the olive oil and a knob of butter, once melted add your onions and garlic. Cook on a low heat till the onions soften but don’t colour. Add the arborio rice and stir well so that all the rice is coated in the butter. Pour in the wine and continue stirring till the wine evaporates.
Now add your hot stock (keep it hot on a low heat) one ladle at a time. Keep stirring until the stock is absorbed by the rice and then add the next ladleful. Once your rice is nearly done and you have around 2-3 ladlefuls of stock left to add, throw in your corn and stir well. Continue cooking with the remaining stock till the rice is al dente (soft and creamy with a slight bite).
Finally add another knob of butter and a generous amount of grated parmesan, taste and season accordingly – you may or may not need salt depending on how salty your stock is.
Now the fun bit – dish out in to little cupcake holders, espresso cups, small glasses or anything similar you have. The corn risotto not only tastes delicious but also looks great in little mini cups. Sprinkle the tops with the crispy pancetta (if using) and a handful of parsley. Dunk a teaspoon in each and serve.
We recently went through a huge house renovation project. Of all the rooms in the house, it’s turned out that our kitchen is where we spend all our time. We’ve barely used the living room so far, even when friends come over as everyone gravitates to the kitchen. As a result of practically living in the kitchen, we have been having friends over a lot more and that has encouraged me to try new recipes and experiment more so I’ve been sharing more recipes here too. Recently I made these mini apple pie stacks which were yummy so I thought I would share the recipe with you as they are perfect little party desserts. And who doesn’t love an apple pie?
Kids and grown-ups alike will love these mini apple pies so they’re great for any kind of gathering. And the best part is that nearly all the work can be done the day before. I’m loving these as a festive treat -they’re a nice alternative to mince pies especially as they look so snowy and Christmassy with all that icing sugar. Not only are these mini apple pies delicious and gorgeous to look at, but they’re also easy to make.
So here’s how to make mini apple pies:
MINI APPLE PIE STACKS Makes:10 mini pies
6-7 granny smith apples peeled and cored (mini ones) ½ a 370g pack of ready rolled unsweetened shortcrust pastry 2 tbsp soft brown sugar butter ½ tsp ground cinnamon mixed with 1 tsp soft brown sugar 3 tbsp icing sugar creme fraiche
Start by cutting out discs of your shortcrust pastry. I used a 5cm diameter cookie cutter so that the apple pie stacks were small enough to pick up with fingers. Bake the discs on baking parchment for 10-15 minutes at 175ºC (or 350ºF) for fan assisted ovens. Otherwise just follow the guidelines on the pastry pack. To make sure that the pastry discs stay flat, place another sheet of baking parchment and a baking tray on top while baking. Take out of the oven and leave to cool – removing the baking tray on top.
Next slice the apples really thinly in to rings – ideally use a mandolin if you have one. The apple rings should be roughly the size of your pastry discs. Heat a large frying pan and melt a generous knob of butter. Lightly brown the apple rings a few at a time. They just need a minute or so on each side. Take them out just as they start to soften – you don’t want them too soft as they will be very tricky to handle later. Once all the apple rings are done, add another knob of butter to the pan. Once melted, put all the apple rings back in the pan and sprinkle with 3 tbsp of brown sugar. Very gently turn the apple rings in the butter and sugar to caramalise them. Once caramalised, leave the apple rings to cool.
Line a baking tray with baking parchment and start building your apple pie stacks. Take around 3 apple rings and place on top of each other. Sprinkle the top ring with the cinnamon sugar and add 3 more apple rings on top. Continue doing this until you have 10 apple stacks. Place another sheet of baking parchment on top of the apple stacks and a heavyish baking try or similar on top to compress the stacks a bit. Put in the fridge and leave to cool. You can do up to this stage the day before – just remember to place your pastry discs in an airtight container.
When you’re ready to serve, heat up the apple stacks in the oven on a low-moderate heat for a few minutes. Then place the stacks on the pastry discs, sprinkle the tops with icing sugar and place under a hot grill to brown. This will take no more than a minute or two and they will come out looking all golden and slightly charred at the edges like in the pic above. Once out of the oven, dust with more icing sugar and serve as they are or with a dollop of creme fraiche on top.
I’m not a huge fan of desserts but even I can’t turn down these delicious mini apple pies. The last time I made these for friends they disappeared in seconds so I suggest making 2-3 per person!
I will definitely be making these as a festive party treat next month when I have a few Christmas do’s. And the best part is that with our kitchen being so welcoming and user friendly, our friends often help with the last minute serving up. With our renovations we went way over budget with our kitchen but now I know it was so worth! I’ve since learned that a good place to get affordable and quality kitchens is betta living so maybe next time we will check that out. Does your kitchen inspire you to cook and socialise more?
I don’t always have time to make party food from scratch especially when there are quite a few dishes to make. Sometimes I rely on shop bought things – I tend to do this more with sweet things and desserts as shop bought desserts can be really good and there is so much to choose from. But even when I buy readymade stuff, I always like to put my own spin on it. Just a simple twist that makes it personal and served with love.
When I have kids over for playdates, one my my go to treats is shop bought madeleines. Madeleines are small enough for little hands and are generally loved by all kids so they go down a treat. Recently I thought about serving these madeleines for a kids party too – but I wanted to dress them up and put my own fun touch on them as I think food should be fun, especially kids party food. Madeleines always remind me of boats – they are shaped like boats and so I decided to turn them in to actual boats.
These couldn’t be easier to put together. I simply attached a sail to each madeleine using a cocktail stick. The sails are cut out of some pretty wrapping paper I had and I’ve taped them on to the cocktail sticks. Next, I put little flags on with each child’s name so that these little madeleines could double-up as cute edible place holders for any kiddy gathering. And to finish, a little sprinkling of icing sugar.
If you’re looking for more kids party food ideas, take a look at my fun fish and chips.
Eggs benedict is probably one of my favourite breakfasts ever. But strangely I hardly ever eat it for breakfast, instead it’s a dinner thing for me; especially on those lazy Sunday evenings when you don’t want to cook a full meal but still want something delicious. The last time I made these eggs it occurred to me that I could make mini eggs benedict which would be fun for parties. So I made these delicious little morsels when I had a few friends over and they were a hit.
To make these bite-sized mini eggs benedict you have to use quails eggs of course. I had no intention of poaching these tiny eggs so they’re fried instead – a lot easier and just as tasty. Also I have used a dash of sour cream instead of hollandaise sauce as hollandaise is tricky to make and even worse when you have people over. I’ve adapted quite a few bits to make it work as party food but the result is delicious and very do-able.
MINI EGGS BENEDICT Makes: 12
12 quails eggs 1 loaf brioche 6 rashers of pancetta sour cream chives salt & pepper
Start by slicing your brioche and cutting out small discs using a cookie cutter or similar – around 4-5cm discs that are 1 cm high. Next cook your pancetta rashers according to the instructions on the packet and drain on kitchen towel. Cut each rasher in half. I prefer pancetta to bacon for these mini eggs benedict because pancetta is thinner and crispier but you can use bacon if you prefer.
While the pancetta’s cooking, heat two large frying pans – one to toast the brioche and the other to fry your quails eggs. For the brioche, the pan should be very hot and once it is just put your discs in and turn over in about a 40-50 seconds at most – they toast really quickly. For the quails eggs, you need little olive oil and then just fry the eggs a few at a time so that they don’t break.
Now it’s time to assemble. Place half a pancetta rasher on each brioche disc. Top with a fried quails egg, season with salt and pepper, add a drizzle of sour cream and sprinkle with chopped chives.
In case your mini eggs benedict become cold while you’re preparing everything, just assemble (without adding sour cream and chives) and put them in the oven for a minute or two.
These mini eggs benedict not only taste great but they look so good too. And each little morsel is just the right size to give you a mouthful of delicious runny egg yolk with crispy pancetta and sweet, buttery brioche.
As we are getting closer and closer to the party season, I wanted to share some of my favourite party food recipes. Party food should always look as good as it tastes but for me shouldn’t involve too much last minute prep – you want to be able to spend time with your guests too. Easy, tasty and pretty is my motto! Last week I shared my mini fish & chips recipe and this week it’s these delicious honey soy and ginger chicken skewers. Small enough to be picked up by little or large hands, these chicken skewers are great for any kind of gathering – kids birthday parties, adult festive parties or mixed family gatherings. I usually serve them for mixed parties as it’s something everybody loves. Always make more than you think you’ll need because believe me when I say that these chicken skewers are so more-ish that they disappear in minutes!
HONEY SOY AND GINGER CHICKEN SKEWERS Makes: 20 skewers
20 mini chicken breast fillets (you can also use regular breasts sliced lengthways in to strips) 3 cloves garlic crushed 3 cm piece fresh ginger grated 3 tbs soya sauce 2 tbs honey 2 tsp soft brown sugar 2 tbs sesame seeds toasted 2 spring onions finely chopped (optional)
Put the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, honey and brown sugar in a large bowl and mix well. Add the mini chicken breast fillets and stir well so that all the chicken pieces are well coated in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours but preferably overnight.
Remove the chicken from the fridge about 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook. In the meantime toast the sesame seeds on a hot, dry frying pan till they turn light golden brown. Remove the chicken strips from the marinade and thread on to bamboo skewers – one strip per skewer. Put under a hot grill for around 7-9 minutes, turning halfway through. It’s really important not to overcook the chicken as it will get really hard so keep an eye on it at all times. You want it so that the chicken is just cooked through and the honey/sugar caramelises to a nice golden brown colour.
Arrange the skewers on a platter or I sometimes like to stand them up in a jam jar, scatter with the toasted sesame seeds and chopped spring onions (if using) and watch them disappear! I like to serve a bit of sweet chilli dipping sauce on the side but this isn’t essential.
With the party season nearly here, over the coming weeks I’m going to share some of my favourite ‘go to’ easy party food recipes. Some of the recipes will be for kids while others will be more for adults but even the kids recipes will work just as well for adults and the other way around. Also all these recipes are great for any kind of party – festive parties, birthday parties, informal get togethers – anything at all.
To start my party food series, there is nothing yummier than mini fish and chips. This is something I’ve often served at Anya’s parties and every kids adores it. I always make extra as the adults can’t seem to resist picking either. I’m not a big fan of battered fish, preferring breadcrumbed fish, so that’s what I go for. Also, the advantage of breaded fish is that it can be fried in advance and gently heated in the oven just before serving so you’re not left slaving over a hot stove after your guests have arrived.
Party food needs to look as good as it tastes. Of course it’s fun to make cute food sometimes – like animal shapes – but there are lots of ways to make your food look really fun and I hope to share a few of those ideas too along with my party food recipes. The most important thing of all is that the food is fresh and wholesome and is something that people will genuinely enjoy eating, not just looking at.
MINI FISH & CHIPS Serves: 10 kids (as part of a bigger menu)
400 gms firm white fish fillets (haddock or lemon sole are my preferred ones) breadcrumbs 3 eggs 2 tbs plain flour salt & pepper oil for shallow frying chips (oven chips or your own home made ones)
Cut your fish in to thin, long strips, like goujons but thinner – around 10cm/4in long pieces and 2cm/1in wide. This kind of size makes them really easy to pick up and eat with fingers. A great tip for cutting fish so that it doesn’t break is don’t cut it horizontally, but cut it lengthwise. Put your flour on a plate, beat the eggs and place in a very shallow bowl and place the breadcrumbs in another shallow bowl. Season the breadcrumbs with salt and pepper to your taste and then start breading – coat fish strips with flour, then dip in egg making sure they’re completely coated, next dip in breadcrumbs, again making sure the fish is well covered. Repeat till you’ve coated all the fish strips.
Pour oil in to a large frying pan (the oil should come up to about 1.5cms) and heat. When it’s quite hot place your breaded fish strips in the oil and shallow fry till golden brown. Drain on some kitchen towel and your mini breaded fish is ready. As mentioned, these can be made a few hours in advance and heated in the oven just before serving. Make some fries or chips to serve with the fish.
I serve the fish & chips with ketchup and mayo for the kids and tartar sauce and lemon for the adults. One of the ways I love serving this fish and chips is as pictured here – individual portions in mini paper party bags. This is an easy party food recipe for kids and adults that goes down a treat for any kind of gathering.
Ebabee Likes is a style guide for babies, young kids and their mamas. It’s all about inspiration, ideas and indulging yourself and your brood. It’s written by me ~ Nomita ~ a style loving girl from Mumbai who now live’s in London. Read More...