Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spanish Birthday Feast

I'm lucky enough to have such amazing friends, family, and friends who are like family.  On Friday I hosted a shared birthday dinner celebration for three mates plus one husband and a small child.  Us girls have known each other since going to school together in a small country town; all very different in personality, looks and tastes.  We sat on the fringes of high school's usual mix of bitchy popular types, the geeks, dorks, athletes, artits, outcasts, suck-ups and so on.  We were initially drawn together because we didn't fit in anywhere else.  Then we realised we had branded our own "crowd" - smart but not top of the class, shy but not reclusive, straight but also prone to the occasional sneaky drink and pash.  We left school and followed different paths (although three all became nurses); we all chose different areas to live - one close to where she grew up, another close to the city, one in the hills, another near the ocean, and one interstate (who sadly was not able to make Friday's dinner).  To have all of us in the same room together more than once a year is impossible.  But, as with many things in life, when we do manage to catch up as a group, it's done over good food, wine, and conversation.


I decided to make it a Spanish theme for the evening, and wrote up a "simple" tapas menu, which I printed out and used as disposable placemats.  This was obviously taken towards the end of the evening, which explains the stains!

When you read over the list of tapas, it seems very simple and easy to prepare.  But there were two complicating factors: I made most of it from scratch (right down to things like pastry, marinades, and fillings), and it was a Friday night, so it was a workday for me.  I was lucky enough to be able to work from home for most of it, which enabled me to get in a horrendously early trip to the city to visit Vic Market and Casa Iberica in Fitzroy (I left at 6.30 and was home by 8.45am - not bad considering it takes around a 45min drive each way from my place).  I was able to do a little preparing in between emails, phone calls and my usual workday tasks, but by and large I didn't start seriously preparing until about 6pm.  So, little surprise that I found myself frantically rushing around the house late Friday afternoon with an hour to spare before guests were due to arrive: cooking, vacuuming, tidying, setting the table, doing my hair/makeup, getting changed, feeding the cat, throwing logs on the fire, making up beds in spare rooms, child-proofing the house, lighting candles and wiping down surfaces.  To top things off, D arrived over half an hour early but I took advantage of this and put her on Sangria duty.  The whole thing miraculously came together at the absolute last minute and I was able to sit down and enjoy the food and company without being chained to the kitchen all night.

I did realise one thing - I take my husband's party assistance skills for granted.  He was away interstate that night and I had grossly under-estimated how long and tiring the process of preparing the house + food + looking after five guests would be without him.  That said, the night was a huge success, the food was amazing (if I do say so myself!), and most importantly of all, the looks on people's faces as they ate, talked and laughed around my kitchen table was enough to make me want to do it all over again. 

A nice bonus was that I was able to whip up a quick 'n' tasty pasta dish the next night, using leftover tapas ingredients and my friend E's home made pesto, which she kindly left in my fridge.  A few wine fairies also kindly left an assortment of my favourite wines and champagnes in the laundry drinks fridge, which I only discovered after everyone had left the next day.

Here's a nice Sangria recipe, which was practically inhaled by the girls and went very well with all that salty food: 

In a punch bowl, combine two bottles of red wine (cleanskin shiraz or similar will do), a litre of lemonade and about two cups of orange juice.  Add chopped fruits - I just used a can of mixed fruit in juice - slices of lemon/orange would be good too. 


Rach said...

I'm sorry I couldn't make it. It sounds amazing. Hopefully we can do it again in August when I'm over.


Anonymous said...

It was a wonderful, magical night of love, laughter and beautiful food. My friends never cease to amaze me :)

ninevah said...

I love the look of that cake - please send me the recipe!

K_Bom said...

Tell you what Claire, I'll post up the Torta Di Santiago recipe tomorrow!

ninevah said...