I try and make this time of year as stress free as possible so my summer entertaining usually involves a lot of BBQs, really easy salads, fresh fruit and cheese platters. I’d rather be spending time with my nearest and dearest than hanging out in the kitchen so as much as possible I do lots of my prep beforehand or just pick really simple things to make. Here’s what I do when it comes to managing festive gatherings….
Stock the fridge
As I said I am a very casual entertainer so I always make sure to have the fridge stocked up with fresh ingredients. I always do a big online shop to get my supplies in order. I usually go on the Harris Farm website and order all my fruit and veg, cheeses and everything I need before the weekend so it’s always on hand in case I unexpectedly have people pop in. I think great produce is always key so you can make really simple, easy things that will still be a hit with guests.
I’m all about a great platter as I think it’s a great shortcut when you’re busy or low on time. Whether it’s pastries or fruit platters in the morning or it’s prosciutto and cheeses or ham for lunch they’re great for being able to lay on a spread quickly.
Whenever I have people over I always have a selection of cheeses, various types of dips and crackers ready to go as I like to make sure people are fed as soon as they walk through the door. And you never know when people are just going to pop in. We live close to the beach so we get lots of people dropping by all the time and platters are something you can put together really quickly if you have everything in the fridge (this is why the first step is so important!).
Take advantage of Christmas hampers
One of my little tricks is to use the contents of Christmas hampers whenever I’m entertaining. They’re stocked with such a variety of different condiments or nibblies that it’s great for putting together an interesting platter of goodies that are just slightly more special in nature.
Have drinks on hand
As it’s so hot I like having drinks that are really refreshing. I’ll stock up on bottles of champagne, beer for the boys or have the ingredients for a quick cocktail or mocktail ready to go such as peach juice in case I want to make a peach bellini. Aperol spritzes and mojitos are also a favourite during summer as they’re so refreshing. I always make sure to have some sparkling water in the fridge to serve to guests. I think overall the most crucial thing to remember is to keep everything as simple as possible so you can get onto more important things, and that’s spending time with friends and family.
What are some of your favourite Christmas entertaining tips?
Christmas is weeks away so I’m already thinking about what I’m going to be cooking over the festive season. This year, I’m teaming up with Sydney’s Macquarie Centre to share my favourite entertaining recipes for Christmas. I have a few up my sleeve which are fan favourites whenever I make them, but they’re also really easy to make because I would definitely rather spend time with my nearest and dearest than spend ages in the kitchen cooking.
One dish I make which is a guaranteed winner with my family is honey glazed ham. It’s absolutely delicious and it’s so simple to cook! We’re kicking things off with this beauty because who can resist the sweet and savoury taste sensation of a baked ham at Christmas time. Plus it has a slightly retro vibe which makes it so very Insta-worthy too!
Total Cooking Time
Prep: 20 minutes
Cooking: 1.5 hours
1 FULL leg ham
2 cups brown sugar
½ cup Dijon
1. Preheat oven at 180c.
2. To prepare the ham, strip the skin off but leave the fat. Score the skin into diamond shapes.
2. Cut onions into thick rings and place in large roasting pan. Place ham on top
3. Smear Dijon mustard over the entire surface of the ham.
4. Pack brown sugar over the top firmly. Make sure all the fat is covered. (You may find that you need a little extra sugar to over the top depending on the size of your ham).
5. Drizzle all over with honey.
6. Pour water in the baking tray to cover the bottom of the pan.
7. Put the ham in the oven and bake for 30 minutes then baste with the juices. Keep basting every 30 minutes until golden brown and the top is starting to caramelise. This will take approximately 1.5 hours.
8. Once the ham is cooked transfer to a serving platter.
9. You can serve the ham as is or for a more decorative, and slightly retro feel decorate it with baked pineapple rings and maraschino cherries. To do this, brush the pineapple rings with ham glaze and bake in the oven on baking paper until golden brown.
10. Once pineapple is nice and golden, spread out on the surface of the ham, and put cherries in the centre of each ring. Secure with toothpicks.
11. Serve honey glazed ham at room temperature. Carve and enjoy!
Be generous with the honey!
Prepping to get the skin toasty and caramelised.
The finished product! This is a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
This post was produced in collaboration with Macquarie Centre
Mother’s Day is always such a special occasion in our household, and I always like to get together with my family to honour my mum and celebrate the wonderful mother she is. One way we like to do that is to enjoy a delicious breakfast together. Our preferred menu? Pancakes and waffles and lots of it.
I always like to dress the table for the occasion and add some simple design flourishes that will turn Sunday breakfast into something befitting Mother’s Day. I usually choose to do something pared back yet impactful, because I don’t really want to spend the entire morning fussing around with setting the table. That said, I’ve found there are some easy, but striking decorations that will really set the mood.
Just add flowers
I don’t think a table is ever really set without some gorgeous blooms to add a splash of colour. And the thing with flowers is, you can go in so many different directions, from bright and vibrant, to understated and classic. I personally like to embrace a lot of striking hues as I think it really lifts the scene, and turns a table at home into something special.
Add a delicious scent
Whenever I’m entertaining I always have candles burning as I find it’s such an effective way to create a great atmosphere, and makes any space so warming and inviting. Scent is such a powerful thing and for events, it’s always great to add a scented candle as it will instantly transport you to that time and place whenever you smell it again. This year, I’m embracing this beautiful limited edition Glasshouse Candle aptly titled, An Ode to Women, as Mother’s Day is a lovely reminder of the beautiful women in my life, from my mum, to my gorgeous daughters.
Keep it simple
Any good design is about keeping things simple, with a tight edit of beautiful things, and that includes setting a table. I went for simple tableware as I didn’t want it to overwhelm. I don’t think you can really ever go wrong with crisp white plates, linen napkins and placemats and interesting design details, like wooden napkin rings. It all works together to create a mood that’s sophisticated and elegant, yet is still comfortable enough that people feel welcomed and at home.
Generously portion serving plates
Don’t neglect your plating! Part of setting a nice table is to ensure that the food is celebrated. I usually like to keep platters or plates piled high as I think it looks more inviting. Creating that abundant effect is always a critical part of setting a table that has people wanting to sit and enjoy themselves.
Layer your table
I think it’s all about working with different layers when it comes to setting a photogenic table. Consider the base, which includes things like placemats, cutlery, tableware and glassware. Then consider what goes on top, from napkins to serving platters, then look to the decorative touches. This includes things like a delicious scented candle, to assorted florals in a range of different colours.
This post was produced in collaboration with Glasshouse Candles
Mother’s Day is always such an important occasion in our household, and I can’t think of someone I want to toast the day with more than my wonderful mum. Mum is without a doubt my hero, and someone I’ve always looked up to— she always has been and always will be. It’s always great to be able to celebrate her on the day, and that includes sharing a delicious aperitif. We both love a gin-based drink so it was so much fun to be able to team up with Tasmania’s Forty Spotted this Mother’s Day, to try their new Pinot Noir Gin. In a word, it’s gin with hints of grapes, and is such a unique take on a spirit. It’s bold and refreshing and is just the right balance between sweetness and tang. It’s made for cocktails!
Forty Spotted’s Pinot Noir Gin makes for a great Mother’s Day gift with it’s gorgeous bottle (the design, inspired by its distillery location in Tasmania can be flipped on its head, making for a really cool addition to any home bar) and is the perfect addition to any celebration. It’s available from here, Costco and other premium bottle shops. Cheers!
Forty Spotted Team Fave
45ml Forty Spotted Pinot Noir
15ml crème de cacao blanc
10 ml 7K Tasmanian raspberry aperitif
Stir over ice and strain into a coupette glass
Garnish with a twist of orange
Elegant and sophisticated, reminiscent of a Manhattan.
Classic Gin works best in classic cocktails
30ml Forty Spotted Classic
30ml Sweet Vermouth
Stir over ice, then strain over fresh ice.
Garnish with a twist of orange
45ml Forty Spotted Classic
20ml triple sec liqueur
20ml fresh pressed lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup (1:1)
Shake and double strain into a coupette glass.
Garnish with a twist of lemon
45ml Forty Spotted Classic
15ml dry vermouth
20ml lemon juice
1.5 teaspoons of raspberry jam
Shake and double strain into a coupette
Garnish with a raspberry or two
This post was produced in collaboration with Forty Spotted
When it comes to Mother’s Day I find that sometime it’s often nice to bypass the busy restaurants and cafes and host a great brunch or lunch at home. My mum and sister-in-law both live close by (my parents actually live in the same apartment building!) so it’s really great to get everyone together at home and put on a lovely spread. Whilst I love entertaining, I don’t like having a stressful time prepping for it so I’ve learned how to make the process a whole lot easier. Here are some of my tips.
I don’t like having to make a mad dash to the shops on the day of any event I’m hosting so I like to do things in advance. I’ll often buy all my groceries ahead of time so the fridge is stocked with everything I need so all I have to do is assemble everything on the day.
Go for a simple menu
I favour a simple menu whenever I’m entertaining. I’ve found that if I’m hosting a brunch or lunch that putting together platters of food is far easier than having to whip up an entire meal. I’ll often do a sweet and savoury platter, so lots of fresh fruit and a cheese platter. It’s also easy to serve up things like pastries or delicious gourmet sandwiches. I find you can still have a really abundant looking table this way but you’re not having to slave away in a kitchen for hours.
Ensure drinks are pre-chilled
It’s easy to forget to put drinks in the fridge on the day so I make a point of just popping everything in there the day before. I like to have both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks so I’ll always have juices and water and some beverages chilling. For any Mother’s Day event I always make a point of having something like rose, wine or champagne. I’ve worked with Sterling Vineyards in the past to throw a party and find their range to have some good options.
Dress the table
Part of any event is a really inviting table so I make sure that I put in the extra effort to dress it up. I’ll always have bunches of fresh flowers scattered on the table and also throughout the house. I also like to work with different types of flatware, dinnerware and glassware, mixing and matching pieces to work to a particular colour scheme or theme. I find having different platters of various shapes and sizes add an element of interest to the table. I think the aim is to always make the table look abundant so it’s inviting and pleasing to the eye.
Create a relaxing ambience
It’s always good to have a welcoming environment whenever you are entertaining and I’ve found a great way to do this is to have a beautiful scented candle burning. There’s just something about an inviting scent throughout the home that makes it a place people want to be. Also I like to have some relaxing music playing softly in the background to help lift the mood and add a fun vibe to the occasion. They’re easy and simple things to do but they can make all the difference.
I’ll often go for a gin-based cocktail, especially during the warmer months so I couldn’t be more thrilled to announce that I’ve been named an ambassador for Gordon’s Pink Gin. There’s something quite fun and stylish about sipping a drink that’s also such an on trend hue of pink (it’s definitely made for Instagram!). A classic spirit yet with a modern of-the-moment touch, this is one staple that I’m going to have on hand when I’m entertaining over the coming months. Here I chat to Krystal Hart, National Gin Ambassador to discuss how best to serve this drink at your next event including a recipe for what will no doubt become a fave beverage over summer.
What should people look out for when choosing a great gin?
Price doesn’t always mean quality. Think about what attracted you to gin in the first place and choose a gin that suits that occasion. If you like the aroma of citrus for example, there are options which uses whole citrus in the botanicals recipe. Or if you love the vast array of botanicals try something a little more exotic and rare.
What are some mistakes people should avoid when serving gin?
Not enough ice! You can never have too much ice. Ice keeps your drinks cold for longer, keeps your cocktails in balance and helps preserve carbonation of your at-home Gin & Tonics.
What’s the best way to serve gin? Do you have any tips for people who are planning to serve it at their next event?
Don’t underestimate the power of a simple, classic gin & tonic. Add some fresh herbs and citrus and you have the perfect way to start any event. For a splash of colour on a Sunday afternoon with the girls try Gordon’s Pink Gin as a Spritz, with prosecco, soda and some fresh strawberries!
Apart from a classic gin & tonic, what are some other great ways to hero gin in a drink?
The Spritz is such a popular cocktail and perfect throughout summer; just grab a bottle of prosecco, some soda water and your favourite gin.
For people who haven’t really considered gin a go-to drink, why do you think they should add it to their list?
As a category, gin is booming. It’s such an exciting time to be drinking gin with so many varieties and an incredible array of botanicals sourced right here in Australia you’re bound to find something that screams, “THIS is what I’m talking about!”
What do you think is the appeal in drinking gin?
Without a doubt, its versatility. Gin is one of the few spirits that speaks to people who love experimenting with flavour, or those of us who have decided to taste and stick to what we know and love. It’s also very welcoming to newcomers who haven’t quite embraced a love affair with gin; and pink is the perfect place to start!
What’s your favourite gin-based drink?
I’m a martini girl through and through. I travel quite a bit, so when I get a chance I get the girls together and we catch up over a great martini and even better conversation!
Gordon’s Premium Pink GinSpritz
Want to impress during your next soireé? This Pink Gin Spritz* is a delicious cocktail that will have you coming back time and time again
*Contains 1.8 standard drinks per serve
Fill a large wine glass with ice and add 45ml Gordon’s Premium Pink Gin
Add 45ml Prosecco
Add 90ml lemonade
Garnish with strawberries
This post was produced in collaboration with Gordon’s Gin
I still remember sharing Sophia’s first birthday on the blog with you all so it’s so hard for me to believe that she’s now turning four! I’m sure most parents would agree that time really does fly and each birthday comes around quicker than the next. This year we decided to hold Sophia’s party at our family property in the Southern Highlands. Given we were going for a fairy picnic theme it seemed the perfect setting.
We decided on a picnic as it made a lot simpler to style and we just wanted guests to feel relaxed throughout the day. We stuck to a simple colour palette of soft pink and white with little touches of gold which we carried through to everything from the lollies to the cake and the decorations. Sophia was able to have a little more input in her party this year and she actually chose her tutu (from Tutu Du Monde) and the cake that she wanted. We found the cake on Instagram (from @sweetmamacakes) and it worked well with the theme as it was a fairy with a mushroom house.
In terms of decorations we opted for a few balloons and some bunting to give the party area a festive atmosphere. We put down a few pink and white blankets on the grass and scattered a few pillows for the kids to sit on and dotted the place with flowers and gold confetti. It dressed the area up quite easily and it didn’t require us to spend hours decorating.
We didn’t really want to be stressing about catering on the day so we stuck to a simple menu. We had finger foods such as sandwiches, fairy bread (of course!), sultanas, popcorn and cupcakes and fruit platters for the little ones. For the adults we had a few cheese platters and fruit platters and had a good ol’ fashioned sausage sizzle, which worked out great as it was quick and easy.
We always like to have some entertainment on hand to keep the kids occupied so we hired a birthday fairy and she did everything from dancing with the kids to games like pass the parcel and activities like colouring in. As a special treat we also had pony rides with our family ponies Harley and Jack, and we dressed them up with unicorn horns in keeping with the magical theme.
It was a great day with a few close family and friends and Sophia had the time of her life. I’m sure the next birthday celebration will sneak up on us just as quickly!
Photography: Sophia Athas
Party for the kids
The birthday girl
The picnic set up
Sophia with her friends
Sophia with the birthday fairy
It was a great day for the four of us
The kids having a ball
Grace and I with our friend Emma Watkins aka the Yellow Wiggle!
Mistelle is a French-inspired wine bar and restaurant located in Sydney’s Double Bay and without a doubt one of its highlights would have to be the unique and extensive wine list and that’s all courtesy of its owner and sommelier Alicia Wadsworth. Wadsworth is a member of the Commanderie du Bordeaux, a graduate of the Gastronomicom Wine School in Languedox, South of France as well as holding her Wine Spirit Education Trust (WSET) levels 2 and 3 and a Diploma from the Sydney Wine Academy so she knows how to identify a seriously good drop. Here, she shares her top tips on choosing wine like an expert.
What inspired your interest in wine?
I grew up in the hospitality industry with a father who loved great wine, particularly red. We would always chat about it and he would teach me to appreciate it. As I got older and into the industry myself, I started trying different wines and found myself challenging my friends to try with me, a lot very reluctantly. The love just kept growing until I decided that rather than try learn myself I would start doing my WSET levels and once I started I loved it so much I continued.
What’s your favourite type of wine?
I love so many different wines for different reasons, I am always trying new producers and different regions making new favourites. At the moment I am loving a good crisp Gruner Veltliner from Austria or a lovely Vouvray from the Loire, Marc Bredif is an easy go-to.
I love my reds too. Red Burgundy and Bordeaux have a special place. I recently tried Chateau de Tertre from Margaux in Bordeaux and was impressed with a lot of their wines. I also love good old classic Aussie reds. Big, bold and punchy such as Torbreck.
Sitting in the sun on my day off a lovely glass of cold rosé is always a winner. Lately I have been drinking Château Vannières from Bandol.
What should people consider when choosing wine?
Be adventurous! If you like a certain grape variety, try it from a different region.
Also what is the occasion? If you are going to sit in the sun and eat oysters and prawns you probably don’t want a big juicy McLaren Vale Shiraz, so you need to pick a style and grape that suits your purpose.
Even if you are not totally into food pairing, you still want something that will heighten the occasion.
If someone wants to bring a bottle of wine to a friend’s house what are some of your tips for choosing one that will please without breaking the budget?
My friends struggle with this all the time as they are worried I won’t like what they bring…. When in doubt bring Champagne. And it is so much more affordable and accessible these days! Otherwise call the host and ask what would suit what they are cooking.
If you were going to buy a wine for a special occasion what type would you choose?
A good red Bordeaux or Burgundy if it’s a dinner, to celebrate I love vintage Champagne like Krug.
What are some of your tips for choosing wine on a restaurant menu?
Ask for the sommelier or someone who knows a little about the list. Know your price range and what style you like. That way it is easy for someone to point you in the right direction. Or if they serve it by the glass ask for a little taste.
Which regions are producing great wines at the moment?
That’s tough. I am a big fan of Margaret River wines, beautiful consistency in vintages. I love the Bordeaux style. I am loving cool climate Shiraz and Cabernet from the Yarra valley, Yarra Yering and Warramate have been doing some great examples. Exciting new wines from the Adelaide Hills region are playing around with Italian varieties which is always entertaining like Nebbiolo and Vermentino. South Africa is doing some fabulous stuff, particularly the Swartland region. Eben Sadie and Mullineux to name but a few. They are producing some fabulous white and red Rhone style wines.
Mistelle’s owner and sommelier, Alicia Wadsworth
What’s a little known type of wine you wish more people would try?
Mistelle which is a grape juice or slightly fermented wine, which has been fortified by various types of spirit, depending on the region in which it’s made. It can be a lovely and refreshing style, served chilled or on ice as an aperitif, or a heavier, more complex expression, accompanied with a selection of cheeses and desserts.
What are some trends you’re seeing when it comes to wine?
Provenance Rose is trumping everything. Pinot Gris and Grigio also extremely popular. Riesling seems to be getting more and more accepted. All the pushing for all those years is starting to pay off.
What is the best way to store wine?
In a Vintec cabinet or similar brand.
What’s the key to selecting good wine glasses?
Zalto glasses are amazing! I pretty much drink most things from these at the moment. You really only need a really good quality red and white standard glass.
What type of wine should every person always have on hand at home?
Champagne, Chablis and a good cool climate Shiraz.
What are some common mistakes people make when it comes to wine?
Serve it too warm or too cold, put ice in it.
If you were to compile the ideal selection of foods to graze on whilst enjoying a glass of wine what would it entail?
I am loving gorgonzola with a lovely glass of Chenin Blanc or steak tartare and Blanc de Blanc Champagne.
What are some of your tips when it comes to serving wine at home during a gathering?
I like to have a bit of a theme to my food and wine. Whether it be Italian food matched with Italian varietals, Old world vs New World like Australia vs France. I also like to open things that people may not have had before to try and test [guests’] boundaries. It gets the conversation going.
Complete this sentence. A good wine is…. to be drunk and enjoyed with your nearest and dearest.
During Derby Day and Melbourne Cup I spend most of my time at the Lexus Design Pavilion and each year it’s so beautifully styled and the interiors are so incredible that I always walk away with lots of design inspiration. This year’s Lexus Design Pavilion is based on a ‘Journey of the Senses.’ The theme was inspired by the theme of Lexus’ presentation at Milan Design Week 2015. Lexus collaborated with a stable of world-class creatives including Joost Bakker, Mim Design Studio, Ben Shewry, Dan Hong and Georgie Seccull. Guests of Lexus enjoyed the luxury experience through custom created sound scapes, scents, striking visual aspects and of course, taste. These pics give you a bit of an idea of how stunning the space was and these are some of the tips I took away from this year’s space.
1. Don’t be afraid of colour
The gorgeous mint and forest green tones used on the dining chairs and banquette seating in the pavilion provided a great contrast to the white tones throughout. Sometimes it pays to be a little bit adventurous in your colour selections to give a room some personality.
2. Use flowers unexpectedly
The tulip flower installation throughout the space was amazing. Suspending tulips from the ceiling all throughout was definitely striking and a great way to decorate a room in an unconventional way.
3. Mix textures
The different textures throughout the room, including the stunning marble gave the room a luxe feel. Using multiple bowls was also a great way to decorate and is easily achieved at home.
4. White on white
Much like white on white is a fail-safe option when it comes to fashion, white is is also a great way to keep a room fresh and inviting and gives the illusion of space. The touches of colour with the flooring and flowers gave it just the right amount of personality.
5. Find a statement piece
The amazing butterfly wall art was a talking point for many guests. While you might not be able to recreate something quite so intricate at home, it’s a good lesson in the fact that you can dress up a wall by simply finding one stand out piece and letting it do the talking.
Sophia turned 1 recently which is a really exciting milestone. I really wanted to host a low key celebration (she is only 1!) that was casual and kid-friendly so we opted to have it at a park near our house. We invited our family and a few of my friends who are also mums brought their kids along too. Here are a few details from the day (I’ve received questions about everything from the cake topper to the decorations so I’ve popped all the supplier details at the end of the post):
I was away the week before Sophia’s birthday so I wanted to keep things simple so we got the food catered for the adults and just had nice finger food and for the kids we had carrot sticks, cheese sandwiches in the shape of stars and lots of fruit. Oh and cupcakes and cake of course! I highly recommend just keeping the menu simple and just having a few key things – it helps cut down on prep time and also you want to be able to hang out with your guests and just enjoy the day as opposed to worrying about the food.
We knew we had to keep the kids entertained so we set up in the park a mini pool filled with balls and we gave Sophia a little tee pee for her birthday so we brought that to the park too.
I decorated the table with some flowers from my local fruit store and just popped them in some vases from home and we added a nice oversized balloon for a festive touch. It was all very casual and nothing too over the top.
I wanted a special birthday outfit for Sophia so I decided to have her wear a really sweet tutu from Tutu Du Monde.
And as for the tee pee? I’d been searching high and low for a neutral tee pee made of plain canvas but everything was either too girly or had too many patterns and prints. I eventually found a company overseas that made exactly what I was looking for thanks to Pinterest. I liked this particular tee pee because you can do it up how you want it to look. Sophia absolutely loves her present and has spent copious amounts of time hanging out in there as you can see from the pic above.
Sophia’s first birthday outfit. Can’t go wrong with a pink tutu!
Our starry cheese sandwiches
The birthday girl cuts her cake
It was pink all round!
The birthday spread
A personalised cake topper
Sophia playing with one of her friends
Gorgeous flowers helped add the finishing touch to the table