I love new beginnings. A new week or a new season, but especially each New Year. I've had memorable New Year's Eves, and some in my teenage years I would rather forget. Friends and/or family often stay with me at the beach. If we're lucky, an impromptu dance floor in a lounge will emerge, and the evening will feature the belting out of power ballads.
New Year's Eve, whether you're having a raging party or a quiet one at home, is an excellent excuse for delicious food and a few drinks. It's a time of year where I like to eschew normal eating and graze for hours.
Long, lazy brunch feasts, multi-course casual lunches and "snacks-for-dinner" are my take on a simple way to feed a few. I'm on a lifelong mission to create a perfect platter. It's a work-in-progress, but I'm getting there. Snacks-for-dinner works for a larger group or just a few.
It doesn't take much to make a party. Reflect on the year, make some resolutions for the one ahead, and most of all, have fun.
Keep things simple and stick to what you know. If you have a signature dish, make that. Don't over-extend yourself, but then I can't talk " I always over-extend myself. I do, however, ensure I take five minutes to put on a dress and lipstick before guests arrive. Bonus points if you have a wine in your hand. Make sure there is lots of food (barbecues are a great way to feed a crowd, as are substantial snacks) and non-alcoholic drinks on offer. Things like sunblock if you're having a daytime affair and insect repellent if you're outside are incredibly helpful. Make sure friends get home safely in taxis or just have a big New Year's sleepover and pitch a tent in your backyard.
I'm a big fan of keeping things simple but I love colour. The best way to add colour is with fresh flowers. Pick your favourites from your local flower shop, fill empty vases and jars and put them all over the place.
Lanterns are great to string up, too, and are available at two-dollar stores. Christmas fairy lights also look great around a garden. Citronella candles dotted about an outdoor space are practical and perfect for creating a bit of ambience.
Photo / Michael Craig
- Serves 4 for meal; 6-8 as a snack
Creating a perfect platter is a matter of balance. You want a mixture of different textures, flavours, temperatures, and condiments. I love putting some seasonal berries on for a fresh, sweet burst of flavour and colour. Don't overcomplicate things, do remove things from plastic containers. Don't stress, but do think about what goes with what and platter accordingly. For example, wood-smoked salmon with creme fraiche and lemon wedges, falafel balls with hummus, sourdough with olive oil, plus lots of little things to nibble on: nuts, pickled onions, grapes, olives. You want a mixture of: meats, cheeses, fruit and vegetables, dips, nuts, crackers/bread.
Wood-smoked salmon fillet
1 chorizo, sliced (but not to the bottom) and warmed for 5 minutes in a hot oven
Small wedge blue cheese
Half an avocado, sprinkled with sea salt
Lavosh flatbread crackers
Cheese Board, With Honey Thyme Walnuts
Photo / Michael Craig
- Serves 6
For a cheese board, it's good to have a variety of textures and flavours of cheese and some great accompaniments. You want something sweet as well. Classic matches include a fruit paste like quince or fig and chunks of honeycomb. For the cracker, I've used Bonnie Oat Crackers available at La Cigale Market in Parnell and in supermarkets. They're perfect on a cheese plate. I've added fresh raspberries, and if I was serving this instead of dessert, I'd add some dark chocolate chunks.
Bonnie oat crackers
Cumin seed gouda
Honey thyme walnuts (see below)
Honey thyme walnuts
1 cup fresh NZ walnuts
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
Generous pinch flaky sea salt
1 large tbsp good-quality honey
1. Preheat oven to 180C. Scatter walnuts on a baking tray.
2. Sprinkle over thyme sprigs and sea salt.
3. Bake for about 10-15 minutes.
4. Remove from oven, and drizzle over the honey. Stir through and serve warm or cold.
Gin Fizz Pitcher With Berries
Photo / Michael Craig
Having a pitcher of a fruity punch or cocktail is a party essential. It is simple to prepare and impressive to look at. It tastes good, and is a great way to use cheap bubbles, which may not taste the best on their own.
A large pitcher or jug
1 punnet fresh (or frozen) raspberries
1 punnet fresh (or frozen) blueberries
1 cup ice
1 bottle sparkling wine
2 x 330ml bottles Lemmy Lemonade (made by All Good Organics) (or another old fashioned lemonade)
1. Place Chambord, gin, and berries in a large pitcher or jug. Leave aside until ready to serve.
2. Add ice, bubbles, and lemonade. Stir and serve.