I’m more of a birthday week than a birthday kinda gal; genuinely not because it’s supposed to be about celebrating me, but because I find it a great excuse to make lots of plans filled with all of my favourite people and things. I feel the exact same way about other people’s birthdays, and always make a fuss (don’t even get me started on Christmas…)! To be honest, if I could celebrate somebody or something every day, I would.
So when it came to deciding what I wanted to do for my birthday, it naturally had to involve my friends & family, a LOT of food and bubbles. I could think of no better venue in the world for such a gathering than my family home; guaranteed ambience & good food (courtesy of the ‘hostess with the mostest’ and private chefs, AKA my parents); no time pressure; no horrendous surprise bill; a LOT more food & alcohol; and the opportunity to catch up with absolutely everyone, properly.
I invited twelve of my nearest & dearest and we kicked off the evening in the garden…shame you can’t guarantee good weather too, but we do live in England after all, and at least it wasn’t raining or too nippy to be outside.
I wore my new playsuit for the first time, the back of which I am slightly obsessed with!
Having been at it all day non-stop with my minions in the kitchen, it was a bloody great relief to finally get a glass of champers in hand and a lovingly crafted canapé in my gob. Homemade, high-piled blinis have become a staple feature of my dinner parties, with the usual selection being crayfish & dill; smoked salmon, crème fraiche & chive; and chicken liver pate with redcurrant jelly.
I still don’t know which is my favourite; every time I make them I always have to have another, in the spirit of choosing, of course, but I never can – they’re all so delicious! For me, the beauty of having a party at home (or if you rent a venue, I suppose, but even then it’s still more sterile) is that you have the space and time to truly mingle.
And, of course, to see your personal chef hard at work.
With the table laid and starters ‘artfully’ (rushed) plated and waiting to be tucked into, we took our seats. (Yes, I had made a table plan. What can I say, I have OCD.)
Michael and I had gone through a labour of love (1.5kg of tuna steak requires a rather hefty amount of dicing) to share our favourite healthy dish, my tuna tartare, which I have raved about to everyone I know.
After a cheeky pic and a quick cheers, we got stuck in.
Thankfully, I got the reaction that I was hoping for, and everyone seemed to love my tuna tartare just as much as me; it was clean plates all round! For mains, my darling stepfather had been hard at work manning the barbie all afternoon to produce a seeeeriously tasty & juicy butterflied shoulder of lamb. Mum and I had been on ‘sides’ duty. We served up Moroccan couscous (a mixture of normal & giant for amazing texture) filled with bits of blanched almonds, dried apricots & sultanas – the use of cinnamon and chicken stock instead of water really transformed this common combination into the best damn couscous that I’ve personally ever eaten. For veg, there was BBQ’ed giant asparagus, peppers & baked aubergine, all of which were bang on the money and demolished in a flash. And let’s not be forgetting the all-important sauces – homemade raita & harissa yoghurt. Voila:
^ Apologies for the sauce ratio. I really must try to remember to take photos before I give my food a bath; I did the exact same thing at Portland wine tasting dinner last week! But, seriously, despite the inadequate photo, it was a freaking delicious plate of food, and if it hadn’t been for the canapés, starter, and 3 desserts to come, I could (and would) have eaten the entire shoulder of lamb and bulging bowl of couscous all on my own.
After the plates had been cleared and we were taking a food pause, I had one of those moments where you’re suddenly snapped back to the present, and I couldn’t help but appreciate the sight before me; darkness had fallen all around us, letting the candles work their magic (I love candles.), and I was in a room filled with all of my favourite people, some of whom had never met before, who were all chatting & laughing so loudly that the music was barely a whisper in the background. It was a very happy & gratifying moment.
But nothing makes me happier than chocolate, of which there was (thankfully) plenty, since it was time for dessert. Homemade chocolate brownies, as well as my mum’s SENSATIONAL meringues (famous amongst friends), of both a chocolate & hazelnut and pistachio & rosewater variety, served with a mountain of fresh berries and selection of ice-creams.
^ I think you could quite easily buy me with this offering alone (you haven’t tried my mum’s meringues) but, thankfully, that didn’t have to be put to the test, as it was all free! And on that note, I’d like to highlight how MUCH amazing food we had, for an absolute fraction of what a restaurant would charge, and how much more satisfying it is to watch people you love eat & appreciate food that you made – seriously, I just want to be a dinner party host. #dreamjob
Michael was incredibly sweet and came out with some spontaneous kind words, which impossibly piqued the whole evening even further for me.
And as if we weren’t all already on a high danger alert of exploding, my mother presented me with a traditional Danish birthday cake, flags & all.
Cake was put on hold whilst we played a multitude of games. There was everything from ‘what would you rather?’ to ‘Cardinal Puff’ (a family favourite that will get you sloshed in no time) and, my personal favourite, as you will know if you read my Sicily posts, the ‘name game’.
It’s fair to say that tensions mounted & harsh words were flung, much to everyone else that’s not on your team’s intense amusement; I honestly haven’t laughed as hard in years!
The hours that followed involved much more chatter, interesting dancing (performed by yours truly), picking on leftovers & consuming more alcohol than one is surely recommended to drink in an entire year. Judging by the bottle count the following morning, we’d averaged a bottle of prosecco & two bottles of wine per person, spirit-laden nightcaps (x10) aside! We eventually rolled into bed around 4am; another advantage to hosting at home – SLEEPOVER! Although, I can’t say that I was feeling quite so positive about the whole idea when I had to wake up just a few hours later to make everyone breakfast; thankfully most of my friends know their way around my kitchen, and throwing high (deserved) praise at one particular person for their culinary skills (excellent strategy) meant that I got to sit back & watch, for the most part.
I had the most wonderful birthday party. I honestly wouldn’t have changed a single thing, and how often can one genuinely say that? So much love for my gorgeous parents, boyfriend & friends. It was a night to remember.