The Party Emporium
6Dec

DIY Plaster Flower Tealight Holder

DIY Plaster Flower Tealight Holder

Stuck for a stylish but super cheap table decorating idea this Christmas? Look no further than the fake flower aisle at your local $2 dollar shop. Say what, you say? Fake flowers are usually on our no-go zone, but if you happen to have a bunch to hand, or want to create a gorgeous romantic inspired table setting on the cheap, then this is the DIY for you. We can imagine one per person scattered down the table with tendrils of ivy or greenery intertwined for an enchanting evening setting. This DIY is so inexpensive and highly effective, but also very messy! You are best to work over some plastic or newspapers and on the benchtop near the sink. Be warned, but it’s totally worth it!

You’ll need:

–       Fake flower head, preferably a light colour – we used a peach rose

–       Pottery Plaster

–       Tealights – you’ll need 2 per flower tealight

–       Cup or bowl you can mix your plaster in. We used a disposable cup for the first layer and a plastic takeout container for the second as it needs to be wider that the first. You’ll see!

–       Washi tape

–       Peg

–       Disposable spoon or ice cream stick for mixing

–       Water

–       Optional, peg and paintbrush

Method:

DIY Plaster tealight

Prep your flower by removing the green stem flower base and taking out the plastic inserts that might be in there to prop the petals up in place. Pop the plastic green base back on, but you might find your flower might be a little floppy now.

Pop one of the tealights out of the silver base and remove the wick, but pop the tealight back into it’s silver casing.

Mix some pottery plaster up in a cup, a thicker consistency than usual is required for the first layer. Per flower we used ¼ cup water to ½ cup plaster.

Pop your flower into the plaster mixture, completely submerging it in the plaster until it’s covered.

Take it out so it can set. At this point, you can pop a peg around the base to support it, or push it into the wax tealight where the wick was. Some of the petals may clump together, so have a play with them and unfurl them out, making sure there is space at the top for the tealight to sit in comfortably. This is the messy bit and it can start to get a little claggy, so move fast, but don’t stress – you’ll be applying another layer of plaster, just make sure you’re happy with the shape of the flower.

Leave to set. When dry, mix another batch of plaster, this time a bit runnier, similar to clay slip. Try ¼ plaster to ¼ water per flower. Again, dip the tealight flower back in – this is why you’ll need a bigger container as the flower is generally bigger and now solid and stiff!

Alternatively, you can try painting additional plaster over each petal, smoothing it out and covering any exposed petal or colour coming through.

Leave to set again using the peg or pushing into the tealight as before.

Once dry, as an additional touch, wrap the tealight in washi tape to it looks more like a base and less like a tealight.

Pop the second tealight in the top and set the table – you’re ready to go!

21Dec

The night before Christmas: a fuss-free make ahead menu

The night before Christmas: a fuss-free make ahead menu

Christmas with my family has always been a largely fun-loving, free-spirited affair. Not bound by any particular traditions, my half European half Asian background means the Christmas table is a UN convention of flavours and dishes, and we love it that way – the only thing that’s a sure bet is kilo’s of fresh, fat prawns, cooked on the BBQ. Heaven!

One thing I’ve learned over the years is to plan your menu and then halve it! I’ve made so many canapés and starters before that barely any mains were touched, leaving me disappointed at the hours labouring over the menu and cooking everything – right down to the condiments, from scratch.

So here are a few recipes I thought I’d share with you – tried & tested over the years so they’re pretty much foolproof, or can be made the night before which means more time for you kicking back with a glass of bubbles instead of sweating the small stuff in the kitchen.

I discovered Nigella’s Eton Mess quite by accident when I had a Pavlova that completely flopped, and no amount of cream and fruit could cement it back together and cover the cracks. This can literally be pulled together 10 minutes before serving – and feel free to use store bought meringue nests – it really won’t matter at all!

Delia’s Vanilla Terrine and the River Café’s Boca Negra are both perfect dinner party desserts – made the night before, all you’re required to do is slice and serve. They look seriously impressive and are also easy to transport if you’re ever asked to bring a dessert. The vanilla terrine is one of my all-time favourite recipes – it’s like a healthier version of a pannacotta as it’s made with greek yoghurt and you can almost kid yourself that it’s good for you!

The Quinoa with Brussel Sprouts and Almonds is a genius way of getting some traditional vegetables in the mix, but in a lighter way more suited to an Australian Christmas. If you’ve got any pomegranate left over from the Eton Mess, add some of those ruby jewels and it takes it to another level.

Alongside these dishes, I would have a few kilos of prawns (obviously!) and another meat dish: a ham or some butterflied lamb, also cooked on the BBQ, keeping all the heat outside where it belongs.

Adjust quantities according to your guest list and enjoy!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours! x  

 

Quinoa with Brussels Sprouts & Almonds

Serves 4-6. Can be made the night before.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 tblsps olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 500g brussel sprouts, thinly sliced
  • 8 green spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 115g slivered almonds, (1 cup) toasted
  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint

 Method

Cook quinoa in a large saucepan of boiling water about 15 to 17 minutes, or until tender and grains split. Drain well. Spread out onto a large tray. Referigerate until cold.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and sprouts. Cook, stirring for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until garlic is fragrant and sprouts are still crunchy.

Transfer to bowl. Add quinoa, onions, almonds, parsley & mint. Season with pepper to taste.

 

Fennel, Pear & Parmesan Salad

Serves 4. Best made close to serving, but with so few ingredients, this one’s a cinch!

  • 2 baby fennel, trimmed, fronds reserved
  • 2 firm but ripe green skinned pears
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 70g  piece parmesan or pecorino
  • 2 tbs walnuts, toasted, roughly chopped

Method

Thinly slice the fennel across the bulb with a sharp with a sharp knife or mandoline. To slice the pears, hold upright on the bench and thinly slice down each cheek to keep the natural shape. Place the fennel and the pear in a bowl.

Whisk oil and lemon juice in a bowl, season, then lighten with a dash of water. Toss with fennel and pear, divide among plates then scatter with chunks of parmesan, walnuts and fennel fronds.

 

Maggie Beer’s Cured Salmon with Horseradish Crème

Serves 10. Prepare the night before.

  • 1 lemon
  • To taste freshly ground white pepper
  • ½ tspn lemon juice
  • 2 ½ tbspn horseradish minced
  • 1 cup crème fraiche
  • 1 cup dill chopped
  • 150g castor sugar
  • 150g salt flakes
  • 1.2kg fresh skinless salmon fillets

Method 

Using tweezers, remove the line of bones visible in the salmon.

Combine the sea salt, sugar and dill in a mixing bowl and stir together.

Choose two large non-reactive trays the length of the salmon (I use plastic butcher’s trays), then spread half of the salt mixture over the base of one of the trays, put the salmon on top and then cover with the remaining amount of salt mixture.

Cover tightly with cling film, then place the second tray on top of the fish and place weights into the tray. Transfer the salmon to the refrigerator and allow to cure for 8 hours. *How long you decide to cure the fish for will depend on how moist you want to serve it. I cure mine for about 8 hours on average, but once I forgot and left it for 20 hours! At this stage it is much drier but the positive was that it was less challenging for people unsure about the rawness of salmon cured for a shorter time.

Meanwhile, place the crème fraiche, horseradish and lemon juice into a mixing bowl and stir together well – the volume of horseradish you add will depend on how strong you like it and the quality that you buy. Season with a pinch of freshly ground white pepper. Place into a serving dish, cover with cling film and place into fridge until ready to serve.

Wipe the salt mixture from the salmon with a wet clean cloth, some of the dill will remain adhered to the salmon. Carve the salmon into thin slices, across the grain and serve with slices of fresh lemon and the horseradish crème.

 

Matt Moran’s Roast Duck with Lentils, Pumpkin and Orange

Serves 4-6. Prepare ahead except for the duck breasts. On the day, just cook these and assemble.

  • 200g (1 cup) French-style green lentils (I have cheated and used tinned lentils before – do this if short on time!)
  • 400 g (approx 1/4 ) butternut pumpkin, peeled, seeded, cut into 1cm pieces
  • 1 orange, zested, juiced
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 duck breasts
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 cloves gloves, finely chopped
  • 250g Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tbs sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 125ml red wine
  • 125 chicken consomme (or stock!)
  • 1 tbs wholegrain mustard

Method

Preheat oven to 200C. Line 2 oven trays with foil. Place 1 tray on bottom shelf to preheat. Cook lentils in a large saucepan until al dente and then drain.

Meanwhile, place pumpkin, orange zest and oil in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spread pumpkin in a single layer over remaining tray. Roast, stirring halfway through for 20 minutes or until tender and golden.

Score the skin of the duck breasts with a knife, 1 cm apart on the diagonal. Place them skin-side down in a cold fry pan, and cook over medium heat for about 8 mins, until the skin is golden and crisp, and the fat is rendered. Place the duck breasts on the pre-heated oven tray into the oven for about 5 – 6 mins (cooked to medium). Rest, covered in foil until ready to slice and serve.

Leave about 60mL (1/4 cup) of the duck fat in the fry pan and add the thinly sliced red onion and the garlic cloves. Cook over low heat for 10 mins, until lightly caramelised. Trim bases of the brussels sprouts and place in colander in sink. Pour over boiling water to lightly wilt, then refresh in cold water, and drain well. They will then be bright green and looking like mini lettuce cups! Add the juice of the orange you zested earlier and the red wine vinegar to the onions, simmer and cook for 2 mins until nearly evaporated. Add the red wine, chicken consommé (or stock, don’t tell Matt Moran!) and the mustard to the onions. Simmer and cook for 8 mins or until syrupy and reduced. Add lentils, pumpkin and Brussels sprout leaves, simmer for 1 minute to warm through. Slice duck on the diagonal and serve on top of the lentil mixture.

 

Nigella’s Eton Mess

Serves 4. Best made close to serving, bit it will only take you 10 minutes! 

  • 500 grams strawberries
  • 2 teaspoons caster sugar
  •  teaspoons pomegranate juice (or 1 pomegranate if you can)
  • 500ml whipping cream
  • 4 meringue nests

Method

Hull and chop the strawberries and put into a bowl. Add the sugar and pomegranate juice and leave to macerate while you whip the cream. If using a real pomegranate, simply cut in half and bash the back of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon until the seeds fall out along with the natural juice.

Whip the cream in a large bowl until thick but still soft.

Roughly crumble in 4 meringues nests – you will need chunks for texture, as well as a little fine dust.

Take out a ladleful, or about 100g / ½ cup, of the chopped strawberries, and fold the meringued cream and rest of the fruit mixture together.

Arrange on four serving plates or glasses, or in a mound, and top each one with some of the remaining macerated strawberries.

 

Boca Negra (flourless chocolate cake)

Serves up to 10. Make the night before and use a hot knife to slice – don’t cut too thickly – this is richer than Bill Gates.

  • 340g dark choclate (70% cocoa), chopped
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 5 organic eggs
  • 210g caster sugar
  • Crème fraiche, to serve

Method

Preheat the oven to 120C. Grease and line a 25cm cake pan (not springform).

Melt the chocolate and putter in a pan over simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water).

Beat the eggs with 70g of the sugar for 8 minutes in an electric mixer  until the volume triples. In a pan, stir in the remaining 140g sugar with 100ml of water on medium heat until dissolved. Add to melted chocolate and cool slightly.

Add chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat slowly to combine. Pout into cake pan.

Put a folded tea towel in a large roasting pan. Place cake on top and add enough hot water to come three-quarters up the side of the cake pan. Bake for 50 minutes or until set. Cool completely in the water before serving with cream or leave overnight in the fridge.

 

Delia’s Vanilla Cream Terrine with Raspberries and Blackcurrant Coulis

Serves 6. This is one of my favourites and is made the night before. 

  •  425ml double cream
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 7g leaf gelatine
  • 425g greek yoghurt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (use the real-deal, not the imitation essence here!)

For the coulis: (I’ve made this just with raspberries if you can’t get a hold of blackcurrants)

  • 225g blackcurrants
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 175g raspberries
  • fresh mint leaves

Method

Begin by placing the gelatine leaves in cold water and leave them to soften for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place the cream in a saucepan with the sugar and heat gently till the sugar has dissolved (it’s important not to overheat the cream). Next, remove the gelatine from the water and squeeze out the excess liquid. Then add the gelatine to the warm cream and whisk everything over the heat for a few seconds.

Now remove the cream mixture from the heat. In a mixing-bowl, stir the yogurt and vanilla together, then pour in the gelatine cream mixture. Whisk very thoroughly and pour the whole lot into the plastic box, allow to cool, then cover and chill in the fridge for at least 4–6 hours or preferably overnight until it’s set.

Meanwhile, make the blackcurrant coulis by first de-stalking the blackcurrants and then sprinkling them with the sugar in a bowl. Leave to soak for 30 minutes, and then you can either sieve them directly back into the bowl or, to make the sieving easier, process them first, then sieve into the bowl. Taste to check that you have 
added enough sugar, then pour into a jug and chill until you’re ready to serve the terrine.

To serve, turn the terrine out on to a board, first sliding a palette knife around the edges to loosen it, then give it a hefty shake to turn it out and cut into six slices. Arrange each slice on a serving plate, spoon a little blackcurrant coulis over the top right-hand corner and the bottom left-hand corner of each one and decorate with the fresh raspberries and mint leaves.

 

15Dec

Cheat Sheet: Christmas entertaining tips

Cheat Sheet: Christmas entertaining tips

Quick Tips for a Fuss-Free & Stylish Christmas

  • Careful menu planning makes for a much more relaxed Christmas lunch or dinner. As many pre-prepared platters, dishes and desserts that can be made in the lead up means more time for you out of the kitchen and enjoying time with friends and family.
  • Start buying extras like batteries, wrapping paper and gas for the BBQ now, so you’re not frantically trying to do this on top of everything else the day before.
  • Say ‘yes’ to offers of help and don’t be afraid to delegate. Let the family know what’s expected of them – whether it’s making sure there’s enough ice and chilled beverages throughout the day or who’s on cleaning-up duty means everything will run smoothly throughout the day.
  • You don’t need to spend a fortune on masses of plastic trinkets and ornaments – branches sprayed gold for the table and bunches of rosemary from the garden tied with twine and a label make for a gorgeous and fragrant place setting. Save your tin cans and wrap them in washi tape for simple and effective vases or as cute serviette and cutlery holders.
  • Presents don’t need to be extravagant – but well-chosen and beautifully wrapped gifts go a long way to show you care. A roll of brown paper from the supermarket looks divine when paired with bakers twine, washi tape or doilies.
  • Clean the house, room by room during the week, so it’s more manageable on the day. Make sure you’ve retrieved the mandolin from the back of the bottom draw if the recipe calls for wafer thin slices of kipfler potato. No one likes a frazzled host – it will impede everyone’s ability to relax and enjoy the meal if you are running around shoving homework into the washing machine to make room on the dinner table. Especially you.
  • Place-cards are perfect for ensuring everyone sits where you want them to sit – including yourself with easiest access to the kitchen. This also means It doesn’t need to be expensive either! Our parcel tags or our library cards are a perfect way of making it look like you’ve made a whole lot of effort when in essence, it’s actually helping you ensure the day goes off without a hitch.
  • Think about creating a Christmas playlist – and include non-Christmas tracks to break up the festive chorus.
  • Plan a mini-bar so guests can help themselves giving you one less thing to do – think pretty paper straws, coasters and a jug-based cocktail and plenty of non-alcoholic beverages.
26Nov

DIY easy-peasy advent calendar

DIY easy-peasy advent calendar

So it’s official – the countdown to Christmas is really on, and what better way to get into the spirit with an easy peasy DIY advent calendar. The simplest way to get your household into the festive mood and get you in the spirit of planning that all-important Christmas lunch. We love all manner of creative advent calendars – think outside the box and you can come up with something super-creative that fits in with your Christmas theming. For a no-fuss option, this year we’ve gone with a simple pegged bag countdown, using our glassine bags with a candy cane tucked in for each date. To create this, all you need is some glue and the following from the Miss Bunting shop – easy as 1,2, 3!

– Medium Glassine Bags

– Alphabet Stamp Kit

– Twine (we used our gold glitter twine)

– Mini Pegs

– Red Love Heart Doilies (or the silver or gold metallic medallion doilies, depending on your theme!)