So I’ve got into themes for my birthday parties. Last year it was New York as I’d just got back from my hols there (think bagels, pizzas and key lime pies) and this year given our recent trip to Madrid we decided to go Spanish. The only thing is, it’s not as easy as with New York to theme the food. What are Spanish cakes?! How do I cater Spanishly for vegetarians? Realistically can I be bothered with the faff of cooking and serving complicated courses of tapas when I just want to be getting drunk and talking to my friends? So, after much deliberation I came up with a plan – it wasn’t wildly original and it was admittedly a little cheaty – but whateves!
- Paella served in a slow cooker (thanks for the recipe Tesco!)
- Espinacas con Garbanzos (spinach and chickpeas), also served in a slow cooker
- A shed load of spanish cold meats and spanish cheeses, olives and baguettes
- A massive Jamie Oliver mothership tomato salad
- Five M&S pizzas that had nothing to do with Spain but would be easy
- Nigella’s chocolate olive oil cake
- A double batch of Spanish chocolate jaffa brownies
- Savarin with cream and strawberries (a big rum ba ba). Nothing to do with Spain, but I saved it in the freezer after my John Whaite cookery class. It was so lovely I wanted to share it regardless of the nationality clash.
We chose food we could prep before and wouldn’t require us to do anything once the party had started – people could just help themselves – nice and low maintenance. I’m not going to lie though – the food preparation itself got tense! Jamie and I slaved away the day before the party – making up the Espinacas con Garbanzos and all the cakes. At the time it felt like we’d gone completely crazy and done WAY too much. I multiplied the spinach and chickpea recipe by three and as we stood in the kitchen surrounded by bubbling woks and a huge carrier bag full of spinach I felt very doubtful as to how popular this dish would be.
However by the evening we had a vat of chickpea stew, 32 brownies and an olive oil cake. We were starting to feel a bit more in control. Saturday morning (‘party day’) saw more stressing in the kitchen as Jamie realised the enormity of preparing a triple quantity of paella: chopping three onions, twelves tomatoes, nine chicken breasts didn’t look like fun – Jamie tersely requested that we reduce the ridiculous and unnecessary quantities. I refused – which was very easy for me to do as he was making it and I wasn’t!
Miraculously by 2pm (guest arrival time), we had all the food and sangria prepared and an immaculate house. Unnervingly though, we had no guests. Vast quantities of food and booze and not a single guest. For an entire hour. Thankfully this changed in a dramatic whirlwind between 3-4pm when literally about 30 people arrived. Unfortunately no-one seemed to notice the food. The poor food table sat ignored for a good couple of hours. And then one or two people tucked in and then it was mayhem. ALL the chickpea strew and paella went in about an hour. I could not believe it – every single crumb of food literally got demolished and more importantly everyone was raving about the food. Very happy me and Jamie.
It was stressful prepping for the party, but worth every ounce of sweat. It gave me great pleasure to have so many lovely friends in our house enjoying our specially crafted Spanish menu. But I just want to go to other people’s parties for the next few years – Jamie we’re going to the pub for your 40th!
And here are the recipes if you are interested (we found the brownie recipe link only worked on our laptop, not our mobiles)