It is so easy to be far from what is happening to other people in the rest of the world, simply because it is very far away from us. We live in a place where everything comes in abundance, so for once, we can use the abundance we have, turn it around and play our part in the huge scheme of things, to help others and generate awareness. Every little does help – like they say, each flap of the butterfly wing changes the course of things around the world.
Action Against Hunger which is a long running non-governmental, non-profit, non-religious organisation, committed to humanitarian action that help communities in many countries, including that of those in Africa, build and sustain skills such as farming so that the communities can have a kick start in supporting themselves. They are also there in emergency situations such as natural disasters.
The campaign is about eating in, cooking for friends and in return, your friends can donate some money towards the charity for the meal. What a great idea! As its Autumn/ Winter, the days are shorter and our teeth are chattering and our warm breath steams the air – its indoors time and this is when we all feel like inviting friends around for a cosy dinner: be it your best Heston show-stopper or Jamie’s 30 Minute mac ‘n’cheese, we can all take part, have fun and help others who can only dream about living the way we do.
Simon (Fernandez) was very excited about designing the menu and trying out many things we hadn’t served before at the supper club such as the flamenquines and churros: themeing the menu Spanish. The baked rice was a favourite and it was really wonderful how he bought down the whole baking tray and served it up at the dinner table. Everybody went a little crazy for those Vanilla Pears poached in Champagne (recipe to follow) and loves how he manages to compliment Unearth’s Serrano Ham and is just wonderful at making food.
I met Simon nearly two years ago in my kitchen. It was Boxing Day and I usually do a get together for some close friends and me. On this occasion, it was for Fatima, Aggie and William – I wasn’t going to do much – just three courses, but Fatima called me up at the last minute informing me that she would like to bring her boyfriend (Christian) and his brother (Simon) too – if that is OK- erh, … yes but no! I didn’t have enough food.
Last minute dash to the shops and admittedly to the corner Vietnamese takeaway and grabbed bits, presented it all in lovely little plates, a few candles, wine glasses and wine! And voila – you have your little dinner party. Don’t forget to put on some nice music that everyone can appreciate. It took me 45 minutes to arrange, dinner parties can be as easy or complicated as you wish.
From that point, Simon and I were destined to do many dinner parties together. We get such a massive buzz out of cooking for friends – it’s obviously an addiction.
Hosting a dinner party can come very naturally to some people but it is a logistical nightmare to others. If it takes all the fun out of your day then let encourage someone else do it – or just take it easy. Don’t do things you can’t do or have never tried before – make a fun night for your guests and experiment in your own time (is what I think).
I’ve been to some dinners where the host is frantically in the kitchen, throwing pots and pans; others where – the host has no idea we’ve all been waiting for 5 hours – hadn’t she better roast the potatoes – we’re starving here!
The key is to cook things that can be made well in advance, if anything needs doing, its heating up or touching up at the end and ‘service please’. Ideally and essentially, the tables should be set before hand with clean glasses and cutlery and the dinning area should always be tidy, inviting, clean and candle lit. The music should be on – too, something happy, not Martha Wainwright on about some man (no matter how great her music is). Don’t forget about you – and what you need to be, to be comfortable – like throwing on some high heels or if you are a boy – a nice shirt.
You want to join the party too and you want everyone fed, watered and happy – it should all be enjoyable for everyone. Impress with flavours, and home cooking rather than fannying around with a pair of tweezers – unless you are really good at it. Get people to help you out too – if anything – you get to spend time with your friend as they are peeling the potatoes and setting up a plate of antipasti from Unearthed (FYI Unearthed donate every penny from their products to Action Against Hunger)
I love having people help out, I have no problem with delegating – see it as bonding. If you are a relaxed host, then your guests will be relaxed. Good food, good music, big smiles, Campo Viejo Cava, fairy lights and a candle lit atmosphere does so well to carry across comfort and happiness – and all for a good cause too.
After the meal, don’t be shy about asking for a donation – its what its about (get it out of the way) have a little box ready or have Action Against Hunger’s Donation Page ready on your computer screen and make everyone get out their cards if they didn’t bring cash. It’ll take 5 minutes and you can get back to enjoying the rest of the evening/ day.
You can create prizes, or even play poker for the charity. Improvise and enjoy. Then go give the money to Action Against Hunger.
Thank you to Simon Day, Founder of Unearthed for providing us with great products for our dinner parties last week – it was a delight to have him come round and host a dinner party. Thank you to Sophie from Action Against Hunger for bringing awareness to all our guests. Thank you to Campo Viejo for the wonderful Cava, Rioja and Rose. Thank you to all our guests who attended and for their donations and for raising awareness to such a worthy cause. Thank you for the fantastic help in the kitchen from One Million Gold Stars, Trail of Our Bread, Libbielush and Stuffyaface. Thanks guys and gals! Thank you to Wild Card for making it all happen.