Cooking for Special Occasions
There are many events throughout the year that lend themselves to gathering a few mates round for some food and a drink or two and it's nice to really get into the sprit of things by preparing food that has been specially created for the occasion.
Valentine's DayThis is a great excuse to get a bit slushy but who says you can't mark the occasion even if you're single? Simply gather all your singleton friends together and have a bit of a party anyway.
- Start the evening off with a glass of bubbly. Decent Cava is a lot cheaper than Champagne but can taste just as good and will help to break the ice on a romantic night in.
- Oysters and chocolate are well-known aphrodisiacs but your date is bound to be impressed with whatever you serve.
- Stick to recipes you've prepared before and go for something relatively quick and easy so you don't spend all evening by the oven.
HalloweenThe nights are drawing in; the weather is getting lousy so Halloween is the perfect opportunity to cheer everyone up with a party. Buy some cheap decorations and insist on fancy dress to really mark the occasion.
Homemade soup simmering away on the hob and a load of crusty bread warmed in the oven are really all that's required to feed your friends on Halloween. If you want something more substantial then go for a Shepherd's pie or spaghetti Bolognese - anything that can be prepared in advance and heated up when needed.
Bonfire NightWherever you live, there's bound to be a fireworks display nearby so why not arrange to meet up with your mates and then head back to yours for some warming fare? If you're lucky and avoid the rain, it's still likely to be a tad chilly outside so piping hot food is the order of the day.
- Baked potatoes or a hot chilli make perfect bonfire night food. They can be quickly assembled and served when you get home. There's no need for anything fancy when it comes to table settings - simply put the food in the middle and let everyone help themselves.
- Mulled wine isn't just for Christmas; it will warm you up when you get back from the fireworks display.
ChristmasMost people will return home for the Christmas break so it's a nice idea to have a bit of a gathering to celebrate beforehand. You could either opt for the traditional Christmas dinner or, if there are a lot of people coming round, serve some festive snacks.
- Instead of roasting a whole turkey, you can buy a turkey crown. This is quicker to cook, easier to serve and there's no wastage.
- If you're going for snacks you could incorporate some traditional ingredients and try turkey kebabs, mini roast potatoes, baby Christmas puddings and mini mince pies.
- Create a real festive atmosphere with Christmas CDs, party hats and crackers.
New Year's EveIf you decide to avoid the crowds and the cold by hosting your own New Year's Eve bash then you should make the occasion a bit more special by creating some posh nibbles. Splash out on Champagne to see in the New Year - you could ask everyone to chip in a few pounds, or bring a bottle.
- Choose food that is easy to eat - people will be standing up and will probably be holding a drink in one hand!
- If you have a selection of snacks that can be heated in the oven, just cook one or two varieties at a time. That way, you won't run out of food too early on and people arriving later will still be able to have something to eat.