Whether planning an elegant dinner party or a hippie-chic picnic, choose food, flavours and an environment to create an adventure of delight.
Although traditional dishes may get you feeling all warm and fuzzy, customary holiday feasts are heavy on the digestion and can leave you with post menu exhaustion. Rather than labouring for ages in the kitchen, choose to spend more time with your loved ones, laughing, eating and loving by designing meals high in flavour and low in preparation.
MAKE IT FRESH
Alluring fresh and organic produce is easy to come by and packed to the brim with health-enhancing nutrients, antioxidants and flavour. The delightful colours of fresh fruit will enliven any table setting, and the intense, crisp taste of herbs and spices bring mouth-watering aromas to heighten the senses and stimulate appetite.
Invest in medium sized serving platters so you can spread your spread out, allowing your guests to create their own combinations of the ingredients placed before them. Instead of making a salad, place perfectly ripe avocados, sun-ripened tomatoes, gorgeously crisp baby leaf spinach, rocket, watercress, alfalfa sprouts and sliced cucumber in individual servers. Add bowls of chopped bell peppers, olives, feta, dry roasted sunflower seeds, and a few unusual ingredients like peanut brittle, falafel balls, kimchi and goji berries and you already have the beginnings of a feast that can be nibbled on over an extended meal period. You can also add plain hummus, beetroot hummus, tzatziki and interesting dressings.
LAYER YOUR TASTES
Buy at least one interesting new delicacy per family member that none of you have tasted before – pure vanilla, sun dried olives, pomegranate ice-cream, goat milk cheese, nut butter – to experiment with and share taste sensations with each other. A delicious new combination could become a favourite gift item.
GO GOURMET GALLIVANTING
Explore the world by scouring the internet or cookbooks for interesting and exotic menu ideas, and theme your meals around different countries and cultures. Delve into geographical grub and get thoroughly in the mood by adding in a dash of music from your country or city of choice. Think Middle East with hummus, Tzaziki and falafels, go Japanese and make your own sushi, or master some Indian and bring on some spices.
Make colour your theme. Matching your food with your décor can be delicious and aesthetic. A red and white table setting could offset matching food – beetroot and sweet potato with grilled Ostrich steaks and a berry sauce complemented by roasted tomatoes, feta and pepperdews and finished off with an old favourite – strawberries and home made ice-cream with a dash of chilli chocolate for added zing.
Challenge guests to come up with the most impressive taste combination of the day, by layering flavours, textures and colours into one bite. Encourage adventurous fusions that enhance flavours and set your taste buds dancing. Parma ham, strawberry, rocket and black pepper with Balsamic reduction is one example. The combinations created could become family favourites, setting the foundation for new festive traditions. The average person has 10,000 taste buds, so getting them all to zing is a delicious and fun challenge.
ADD HERBS & SPICES
Fresh herbs are easy to grow, and most have brilliant health benefits:
PARSLEY: Parsley is not just for decoration or as a foil for garlicky breath, but helps in preventing plaque build-up in arteries and impedes hearing loss.
OREGANO: Oregano contains thymol and carvacol, antibacterial agents that help fight infections and is also a major source of antioxidants.
GARLIC: Garlic is excellent for heart health, as well as having antiviral and antibacterial effects; it also thwarts the creation of trans fats in oils that are created when used for frying.
TURMERIC: Beautiful turmeric reduces inflammation (internal inflammation is the cause of many illnesses) and may even halt the formation of some cancers.
BLACK PEPPER: Black pepper helps the body absorb turmeric and also stimulates the metabolism. CINNAMON: The nurturing smell of cinnamon brings a smile to anyone’s face but it also keeps your arteries healthy, lowers cholesterol and helps manage blood sugar levels.
CHILLI PEPPERS: The intense colours of chilli peppers brighten up the table and their capsaicin based immune boosting benefits are well-known. Chillies also help fight prostate cancer, stop ulcers and assist in pain relief. If you’re a little nervous about the intensity of these incredible plants, go for milder jalapeños, cherry peppers or pimentos. For the brave, Scotch bonnet or habaneros should get your juices going.
A shot of espresso after a meal is surprisingly good for you. Forget what the literature says about the vagaries of caffeine. Filled with antioxidants, good quality coffee prepared fast and furiously may just be the boost your body needs for heart health and to ward off type 2 diabetes, not to mention the possibility of slowing the onset of Parkinson’s disease. If you’re caffeine averse go for turmeric tea, chai tea or a digestive tea like ginger or green tea, especially good if you’ve eaten too much.
DID YOU KNOW? you can make yummy jam from watermelon rind. Add a dash of coconut sugar, a cup of water and the zest of a lemon to diced watermelon rind, simmer for a few hours and there you have it.
Tip: For more healthy menu suggestions, consult a creative nutritionist in Cape Town.