I LOVE HOSTING
– I enjoy feeding people good food! The kitchen is my space and I enjoy spending time there. It’s never a small group, but I’m not intimidated because I come from a big family and I was always the resident cook at home when I was growing up. These are my top survival tips for entertaining in the December holidays.
1. Plan ahead, Fred!
I’ve hosted children’s birthday parties, my in-laws, friends, church gatherings, even my husband Brian’s friends who arrive unannounced – so I know that planning is key (though I can wing it for lastminute gatherings). I usually plan the menu at least a week or two in advance, especially around Christmas. I’ve been stung by that before! I once decided not to entertain and then, at the last minute, pulled all my friends together. But it was tricky to find produce, so buy or order your turkey or gammon in advance and keep it in your freezer.
2. Make friends with your butcher
I save time by asking the butcher or fishmonger to clean and prep the cuts for me. I’m kind to myself – I know my strengths and limitations and, as a mom, TV show host and businesswoman, my time is very much in demand. But I’ve built a group of suppliers who know me and can help at short notice. Get to know your community of suppliers, including the butcher or fishmonger in your local Woolies store.
3. Ask for help
I’m not afraid to ask when I need extra hands. If I can have someone chop all the onions for me, that’s amazing. To make things easier, you can even pre-chop everything into different tubs and arrange all the ingredients for each dish on its own prep tray on a shelf in the fridge. Then you’ll be free to focus on the cooking on the day.
4. Give your fridge a hand
I like an uncluttered fridge but when we’re catering for so many people, my fridge and freezer are always packed.
But then the air circulation is not as good and the fridge isn’t as cold, so I make my ice-cream cake (see page 91) a couple of days in advance to make sure it sets. There’s no serving melted ice cream – or a fridge cheesecake that hasn’t set.
5. Over cater like you mean it
It takes effort to cook something special, so if I’m making the burgers (opposite), I double the recipe so that I can turn into meatballs or a lasagne the next day. Plus, they’re a back-up if anything goes wrong. One year I did a beautiful roast in a casserole dish and as I was taking it out the oven, it broke. It was a complete disaster! The casserole had to go into the bin. Fortunately I had planned a red meat and a fish main – so I only served the fish. And no-one even noticed!
6. Make food that kids will eat
Dealing with children at parties can be a nightmare, so I make sure that they’re well-catered for. I either do a menu with finger food – like the asparagus tarts on, which they can easily pick up and munch on, or I cut adult dishes – like the salmon on page 88 – into bite-size
portions. Also, I don’t know about other people’s kids, but when there are lots of people at my house, my little ones are not in the mood to eat! There’s too much excitement. So I also supplement the menu with things that I know are their favourites – like fish or chicken goujons. That way, I know they’re taken care of while I look after my adult guests.
7. Keep them entertained
Our families are big! Brian and I have four children, my sister has two boys, and my brother has three kids – and that’s just my immediate family in Cape Town alone! If there are going to be lots of children, I hire a nanny for the day and I organise a jumping castle, baby! I’ve also found that putting out colouring books and asking everyone to bring a toy so that there’s no fighting over who plays with what works – just make sure that each child goes home with the right one! We limit our children’s TV time on school days, so when we’re entertaining, I hire games and let them play on the PlayStation.
8. Don’t worry about making
Flowers really elevate a table, but right now I love eucalyptus, which is on trend and also so affordable. I love making a table runner with that, and adding vases of proteas. I’m also gaga over cutlery and crockery! My plates are wonky and they’re all different colours. Gold is back – I love gold spoons with white handles. I buy those and then mix them up with other cutlery for big tables. I don’t want uniformity: that’s what makes it me.