Summertime and the cooking is easy it's more a matter of mixing the freshest seasonal treats for a meal that is cool and inviting.
Parties held on summer evenings have a magic all of their own. It's something to do with the gradually fading light stars appear. Even on chillier nights it often stays warm long enough at least to enjoy a drink outside before retreating indoors.
Candlelight homes into its own in summer. A romantic dinner for two wouldn't have anything like the summer impact without the flattering light of candles. The pink cloth and china are suitably pretty and the Victorian wrought iron. chairs add a secondary decorative element.
For a day when it's a bit too cold to venture outside, the setting shown on finds a way to bring the garden to the table. The delightful flower painted folding doors lend a summery atmosphere to a plain setting, whatever the time of year. Of course not every household can run to such exotica butt ideas like this can act as a trigger for more easily achieved effects. Flower patterned china or tablecloth individual bowls of tiny blossoms at each place setting an array of greenery on a nearby side table any of these would have the effect of bringing summer inside.
Fair Weather Food
The suggestions could all come into their own for a summer supper party. At this time of year, most fresh food can rely on its own natural good looks to cause a sensation. There is no harm in giving nature a helping hand once in a while though and the Avocado Starters look almost too perfect to be real. A platter of these decorated with orange or lemon slices, would make a show stopping centerpiece to a buffet table.
Another idea for a help yourself supper would be an intriguing selection of seafood starters like those. Elegant and enticing, you could either make them up in individual small portions as shown or increase the quantities and serve one or more of them as a light main course.
Salmon steaks or chicken breasts are hot alternatives that would give hungry guests a bit more to get their teeth into. Add salads and hot herb-buttered bread to round out the meal.
When it comes to puddings look no further than those shown here. Cool pale delicately decorated they make a luscious ending to a meal that uses the best the season has to offer.
Drinks With Everything
It's a nice idea, although unfortunately a rather expensive one to offer guests a drink before dinner. However there is really no need to lay on a vast choice and you can if you prefer simply offer the wine that you plan to drink with the first course. Other possible aperitifs include sherry, one of the many types of vermouth or a spirit-based mixture such as gin and tonic or whisky and soda.
If you are in the happy position of having a good selection of drinks on hand you could try mixing a few cocktails. Don't be too generous when measuring out the ingredients though especially if you are planning to move on to wine later, otherwise guests could find your party memorable for all the wrong reasons.
There is lots of information on buying and storing wines. When you are faced with choosing wines to go with a particular meal the rule is forget the old rules. While dry white wines certainly do go well with many starters and fish, there is no reason why you could not drink a young light red wine instead. And a more full-bodied white wine could equally well be drunk with a sturdy beef casserole as the more usual red. Be guided by your taste and don't forget that some foods are better without wine at all curries dishes with a high acid content or very sweet puddings unless you want to serve a sweet dessert wine or a Madeira with the latter.
In most cases it is preferable to serve white and rose wines chilled and red wine at room temperature although some young red wines like Beaujolais Nouveau are better chilled. To chill a wine, refrigerate the bottle for an hour or two before serving or immerse in an ice bucket for at least half an hour. Uncork red wines half an hour or more before serving to let them breathe and place them in a warm room to come up to room temperature. If you forget to do this in time, you can get away with warming a decanter thoroughly and pouring the wine into it.
If all this sounds as if it could put an unbearable strain on your budget, cheer yourself up with the thought that an informal supper for friends is not the place for a huge selection of smart drinks. If you can't afford to go the whole hog, opt instead for one white wine-still or sparkling to go right through the meal. Look for the words Appellation Controller on the liable and you shouldn't go far wrong. Straightforward still wines that are dry, French and suitable for the whole meal include Sauvignon and Muscadet.
After dinner if resources run to it, you may want to serve a liqueur. Brandy or whisky, on their own or with water, ice or soda are suitable, and you could also provide one or more of the flavoured liqueurs widely available. Among some of the most interesting are kummel, a caraway derivative said to be good for the digestion, calvados a fire less acid alternative to brandy and good, old fashioned port. Coffer is the other essential .
Individual starters always please and if they are done in aspic look as if you have taken a great deal of trouble. The subtle flavour of Seafood Aspics come from the white wine herbs and onion in the jelly.
Small pasta shapes they don't have to be shells make Tuna Pasta Hors D'Oeuvre a slightly more filling starter and by adding a side of sliced tomato this would provide a main course.
Smoked Mackerel Pate is interesting and tasty at the start of a meal or is excellent as light meal. It is a very straightforward pate to make. Simply beat together the flesh of 225g (8 oz) smoked mackerel, 10ml (2 tsp) lemon juice, 1 crushed garlic clove, 225g (8 oz) sieved cottage cheese 125g (4 oz) softened butter and seasonings. Turn into a serving dish or interval pots, pour 50g (2 oz) butter over the top and chill before serving.
Another salad starter which easy to assemble and is cool and refreshing is Melon Seafood Salad. It's mixture of crabmeat and flaked skate in a lemon cream dressing site on a green island of lightly perfumed melon and makes for a lovely marriage of taste and texture.
A more unusual and quite delicious cold starter is Marinated Kipper and Avocado. The kippers are left to marinate, in a well seasoned dressing, overnight. The avocado is sliced in the next day then it's ready to serve.
3 medium ripe avocados
30ml (2 tbsp) lemon juice
100g (4 oz) full fat soft cheese
60ml (4 tbsp) mayonnaise
salt and pepper
half a 411g (14 1/2 oz) can consommé
orange slices and watercress sprigs to garnish
Cut the avocados in half and remove the stone. Cut a thin slice off 3 of the avocado halves, cut the slices in half and remove peel. Toss these in half the lemon juice and reserve to garnish. Scoop out the flesh of the avocados and place in a blender or food processor. Add the remaining lemon juice, cheese mayonnaise and seasonings and blend until smooth. Spoon back into the avocado shells and top with the reserved avocado slices. Spoon back into the avocado shells and top with the reserved avocado slices. Spoon over the consommé and place in the refrigerator for about 1 hour until se. Garnish with range slices and watercress sprigs and serve with French bread or hot buttered toast.
CRUSHED RASPBERRY CREAMS
450g (1 lb) raspberries
60ml (4 tbsp) icing sugar
60ml (4 tbsp) orange flavoured liqueur
3 eggs separated
75g (3oz) caster sugar
300ml (10 fl oz) whipping cream
10ml (2 level tsp) gelatine.
Place the raspberries in a flat dish, reserving six berries for decoration. Sprinkle with the icing sugar and spoon over the liqueur. Leave to stand for 1 hour. Puree in a blender or food processor then rub through a sieve to remove pips.
Whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar until really thick. Gradually whisk in the raspberry puree. Lightly whip the cream and fold a quarter into the raspberry mixture. Wipe the remainder to a piping consistency, spoon into a piping bag fitted with a small star vegetable nozzle and refrigerate.
Soak the gelatine in 30ml (2 tbsp) water in a small bowl. Dissolve by standing the bowl in a pan of gently simmering water. Leave to cool then stir quickly into the raspberry mixture.
When the raspberry mixture begins to set whisk the egg whites until stiff then fold into the mixture. Pour into glasses and refrigerate to set.
Decorate with the remaining whipped cream and whole raspberries.
RASPBERRY SUMMER SALAD
75g (3oz) granulated sugar
pared rind and juice of 1 medium orange
225g (8 oz) raspberies
225g (8oz) green grapes, washed
1 large green eating apple washed
In a pan slowly dissolve the sugar with the pared orange rind and juice in 300ml (1/2 pint) water. Bring to the boil then bubble till syrupy. Strain and cool. Wash and pick over the raspberries. Halve and seed the grapes.
Just before serving quarter core and finely chop the apple. Layer the prepared fruit in four deep glasses. Pour over the cooled syrup. Chill and serve.
PASPBERRY HIGHLAND CREAM
50g (2oz) medium oatmeal
300ml (10 fl oz) double cream
60ml (4 tbsp) clear honey
45ml (3 tbsp) whisky
350g (12 oz) fresh raspberries
Place the oatmeal in a grill pan and toast until golden, turning occasionally. Cool.
Lightly whip the cream then stir in the honey, whisky and cool oatmeal. Pick over the raspberries and reserve a few for decoration. Layer up the raspberries and cream mixture in four glasses cover and refrigerate.
Allow to come to at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Decorate with reserved raspberries.