A dummy's guide to throwing the perfect New Year bash

To give 2015 a fitting end, and begin the year 2016 with a bang, Phorum Dalal speaks to food experts to find out how to throw the perfect year-ender bash without breaking a sweat

A house party is an intimate gathering with family and friends, unlike parties at commercial places where you have to push and shove to have a gala time. But if you thought it’s easy to throw one, then you are wrong. In a bid to ensure that your close ones have a memorable night, you often end up running around tying loose ends and when you can finally unwind, it’s time to clean up.

Serve cold cuts and finger foods at your New Year party

Let this New Year party be different. All of you have to do is some pre-planning and opt for smart choices. Shipra Khanna, chef and food writer, suggests you chart out a fivepoint strategy. “Ensure that you make the guest list well in advance and send out invitations on time. Be cautious that the food menu isn’t overambitious and you pair the right beverage with the food. Also, the music should be soft and peppy so that your guests can actually listen to each other. Light some candles that will set the perfect, festive mood,” says the television anchor.

The guest list
Before arranging any event, you need to know the golden rule. It’s unlikely that all your invitees will turn up. If you invite 100 people, expect only 80 to turn up. The other 20 might ditch your party for some prior commitments or unforeseen  rcumstances.

Start on the right note
Shipra advices to prepare cold cuts such as meats, cheese or Lebanese platter and bruschetta rather than preparing hot starters, so you don’t have to rush around heating them. “You just have to place them on trays and people will help themselves.

If you want to have an Indian non-veg starter, then opt for a boneless Chicken Tikka rather than Chicken Wings. Your guests will fidget for a tissue, drop crumbs and may also ruin your upholstery while eating. So, your finger foods should be simple and easy to eat,” she adds . She also adds that in India, men and women have the tendency to sit separately. Keeping this in mind, the starters should be placed strategically.

“Usually men huddle at the bar while women make themselves comfortable on couches. So always make it a point to divide and place all your starters equally,” she elaborates. A major question that perplexes hosts is how much food should they prepare. To be on the safe side, hosts often end up making too much food that leads to wastage. Khanna, however, says there is an easy solution to tackle this problem.

“It is scientifically proved that a person cannot consume more than 250 gm of food per meal. So if someone eats more than that, there will be others who will eat less than that,” she explains. Also, a salad and a variety of dips such as salsa, guacamole,  hummus and harissa should always be on the menu so that they complement the finger foods perfectly. “Try to include a blend of flavours while deciding the menu.

Also, your food should be medium spicy. If you have children at the party, it’s better to prepare mildly spiced dishes. The toppings can be spicier for those who like it hot,” she adds. 

The remains of the day
When your guests are making  merry, and drinking the night away, the last thing on their minds will be the main course. Thus, at a New Year bash, the main course often takes a back seat. Radhika Khanna, who runs Lotus Blossom, a Thai-catering service, says, “Your party will usually start post 9.30 pm. Once the drinks are served, maximum hands will reach out for finger foods.This becomes the main element in your menu. By the time your guests will sit down for the main course, they will be happy, high, or drunk,” says Radhika, who suggests a Thai Curry with Rice or Biryani and Raita as the main dish. “Even a non-veg preparation of (egg) bhurji pav is a great idea,” she adds.

Some like it sweet
After starters, guests are likely to push main course to the last round, and meanwhile munch on something sweet. Owner of Le 15 Patisserie, Pooja Dhingra opines, “Your dessert shouldn’t be too elaborate as it can get messy. It should be bite-sized portions that can be passed around. I would suggest chocolate-dipped strawberries. It’s easy to make, a popular favourite and strawberries are the flavour of the season too,” says Dhingra.

Khanna suggests that it’s  always a good idea to store your dessert in an airtight  container or in cling wrap. She, however, warns, “Never store your dessert alongside food items as it will easily absorb the pungent flavour of the spicy items. Also, if
you plan to bake a cake, do it on the previous day to save time.”

Pretty on a plate
A complex dish is not likely to win your guests’ heart, but thoughtful plating will. A simple rule: Use the raw ingredient of your dish to garnish it - be it olives on your hummus, bell peppers on your salsa or a slice of avocado on your guacamole dip. There are funky toothpicks, serviettes and disposable cutlery available in the market, too. Serve salads and desserts in shot glasses, and bite-sized foods on fancy trays.

Measured drinks
You probably plan to mix the drinks yourself, or put that one ‘expert’ friend in charge of the bar. But, executive chef Anand Morwani of Brewbot at Andheri thinks it is a bad idea. “After a few drinks, you wouldn’t have sense of how much you are mixing, and this usually leads to potent drinks that will end your party soon. Yes, drinking is fun, but it’s sad if your guests are going to be too high to remember anything. An easier option to ensure everyone has fun and stays right till the end is to hire a bartender,” says Anand. “If you don’t prefer hard drinks, and want to cut the continuous process of mixing drinks, prepare some cocktails such as red or white wine sangrias with fermented fruits or a party punch, which are popular as well as a safer bet,” Anand signs off.

Jalapeño Hummus
>> 400 gm chickpeas
>> 30 ml Tahini paste
>> 15 ml lemon juice
>> 2 garlic cloves
>> 20 gm jalapeño
>> Salt to taste

Serve Jalapeno Hummus with pita bread and lavash

>> Soak chickpeas in salted water overnight
>> Cook tthem the next day and reserve
>> Grind them to a paste in a blender, add some ice cubes to maintain a low grind temp
>> Chop and add garlic to the mixture
>> Next add the tahini and chopped jalapeños
>> Add olive oil in a steady stream while combining the mixture.
>> Season with salt and adjust spice by adding jalapeños
>> Serve with lavash or pita bread

Recipe by Chef Anand Morwani

Rainbow Cake
>> Vegetable shortening
>> 3 cups flour
>> 3 tsp baking powder
>> 1 cup butter, room temperature
>> 2 cups sugar
>> ½ cup condensed milk
>> 500 gm curd
>> 2 tsp vanilla essense
>> 1½ cups milk, room temperature
>> Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple gel/liquid food colouring

Rainbow Cake

Butter Cream
>> 3 cups castor sugar
>> 1 cup butter
>> 1 tsp vanilla extract
>> 1-2 tablespoons whipping cream

Fondant Ingredients
>> 1 cup light corn syrup
>> 1 cup shortening
>> 3 ½ cups icing sugar
>> Preheat oven to 180°C degrees C. Grease six 8-inch round cake pans with butter
>> In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder. Keep aside
>> In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Slowly add curd and vanilla mix until fully blended
>> Add flour mixture and milk alternatively. Mix well
>> Divide batter evenly between six medium bowls. Add enough of each food colouring to each bowl. Whisk
>> Transfer each colour to an individual cake pan. Transfer to oven and bake until a cake tester inserted into the centre
of the cake comes out clean
>> For butter cream, in a bowl, whisk together sugar and butter for about 3-5 minutes. Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat for 1 minute
>> Using a knife, trim tops of cakes to make level. Place four strips of parchment paper around perimetre of a serving
plate. Place the purple layer on the cake plate
>> Spread 1 cup buttercream filling over the first layer with a spatula evenly
>> Repeat process with blue, green, yellow, and orange layers
>> Place the remaining red layer on top, bottom-side up
>> Using a spatula, cover the top and sides with a thin layer of frosting
>> Refrigerate until set. Using a spatula, cover cake again with remaining frosting in between the layers and on top generously
>> For the fondant on the sides, mix corn syrup and shortening together and once wel-lended, add icing sugar and knead
the dough
>> Roll the dough on a clean surface dusted with icing sugar and add the same 6 colours as the cake and cut thin strips of the
colour and paste it accordingly around the cake.
>> Make fondant cubes with the left over fondant and spread it on the top of the cake

Recipe by Shipra Khanna

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