Monday, 6 July 2009

It takes a village …

Patriot jellies
Our friend Stuart could be the sweetest person I know. He has a supernatural ability to divine whether an occasion merits a cup of tea or a stiff gin, he remembers birthdays, charms small children, sends puppies and kittens into paroxysms of joy just by his gentle presence. He’s also gloriously handsome, a quality he wears as carelessly as an old overcoat. Stuart’s always taking care of everyone else so we couldn’t let his 30th birthday pass by without, for once, taking care of him, fêting his fortuitous presence in our lives in a fittingly exuberant manner.
Lady de B and I decided a few weeks ago that we would host a party for him in her garden. He’s Australian, so we thought a posh surf and turf barbecue would be appropriate, a late lunch starting at three o’clock. Simple.
Lady de B and I spent days connected by the umbilical cord of telephone, email and Blackberry discussing the merits of raspberries over passion fruit, marinades or rubs, platters or bowls. We knew we couldn’t do it alone, so we called in the troops. Helder and Steve wired the garden for lights and sound; Kim sent over a restaurant’s worth of white china; Séan got up at 5am to collect flowers and fruit from New Covent Garden market; James spent Saturday morning blowing up inflatable kangaroos and hanging them from the trees along with enough flags and bunting to do an ocean liner proud; Paul ran around town collecting loaves, meringues and prawns; Sarah graciously served up lychee martinis and elastoplasts into the early hours; Alex and the beautiful seňoritas washed a mountain of dishes. We ate and drank and danced until three in the morning.
P1160281Sunny startTime to stop taking pictures!
And then, on Sunday, we did it all again. Ten of us assembled to tidy up and rehash the scandals of the night before. It was a beautiful day so we laid the table in the garden and served up a banquet of leftovers and gossip. By seven o’clock, as we sipped reviving glasses of Sauternes and spooned soft Valençay cheese onto slices of walnut bread, I think we all felt very lucky indeed, blessed in the friendships that have steered us through heartbreak and triumph to find us all together, sitting in the dappled sunshine on a Sunday afternoon in July.
Feet up the next day…All relaxed

Stuart’s birthday menu
Stuart’s birthday spread ~
Bellinis and Kir Royale
Muhamarra ~
Bagna Cauda
Radishes with butter & sea salt
Marinated olives
Roasted Chickpeas
~Rib of beef with mustard & horseradish crust ~
Rib of beef with mustard & horseradish crust
Roasted Carliston chillies
Hard core prawns
Director & Lincolnshire sausages
Sweet potato gratin
Roasted aubergine & tahini salad
Roasted beetroot & feta salad
Mange tout, green bean, hazelnut & orange salad
Minted new potatoes
Green salad
Pavlova with summer fruits
Patriot jellies
Chocolate dipped strawberries
Lychee martinis
Colston Bassett Stilton
English & Irish goat cheeses
Homemade de Beauvoir pear chutney
Figs and sultana grapes
Saturday’s pavlova becomes Sunday’s Eton Mess, eaten from one big plate in the middle of the table, with ten spoons.
Eton messEton Mess going.......gone


  1.! Now that's a mighty fine spread!

  2. Oh you and your friends sound pretty sweet yourselves. How lovely of you to do that for your Aussie friend. I'll bet he appreciated it. I know I would!! A party in an English garden - gosh that sounds nice. I think you hit some key ingredients for an Aussie; prawns, passionfruit, beef, pavlova. Spot on. Together with blown up kangas and flags you almost covered everything. One thing tho. Who forgot the vegemite? Hehehe.

  3. Alright then - where was the eleventh spoon, at the eleventh hour, as planned? I mean, in spirit, you know that I was there for the ole 30 handsome one' birthday bash
    I mean, it is wonderful that you had the Lady de B (I already like her mulitudes - the name says it ALL for me)
    oh my
    why must I live so far out of that zipcode of yours?

  4. Okay - I am WAY too late - but I have to tell you that I gave you an award/tagged you in a MEME game/all of the above, by this point, fill in the blank for me - will ya!? You can claim it, leave it, play or just bask in the knowledge that you rock my world and I adore you for it!

  5. Good friends breed good friends and celebrations like this are am image of a web of friendship. This time it was the lovely Stuart at the centre, but it could be any one of you. That's the magic.
    My favourite photo is the party at night. Looks gorgeous

  6. I love it - what a fabulous birthday feast, and of course I am a HUGE fan of leftovers.

    Good friends, good food and fine weather - what else do we need in life?!


  7. Thank you so much Deborah - delicious and ready for the masterclass whenever you are! xxx

  8. Stuart is one lucky guy! What a feast! In my book, one of the best thing about a fantastic meal is the leftovers--sometimes they're even better than the first go-round.

  9. Looks fab - parties in the garden are absolutely the best! A x

  10. What a wonderful menu. Yum yum! The party looked fabulous.

  11. Epicurean's Market, Peachkins, Darina - Thank you!
    Mariana - Rats, Vegemite and Gruyere Gougeres would have been a wonderful hors d'oeuvre! I'll have to remember that for next time.Delighted to get your Aussie seal of approval for the rest of the menu though.
    Lady P - You know you I always have a spare spoon at my table for you, dear. Thanks for the Meme challenge and as for the adoring thing, it's absolutely mutual.
    Mum - As usual, you are so right!
    Scarlett - Absolutely, especially when two of those friends sharing the sunshine feast are D&B.
    Liz - You are so welcome, lovely one, and can I just say you rocked those pearls! Think of a few things you'd like to make and I'll be over quicker than you can say 'spoon'. Hope your ankle feels better.
    Catherine - He deserves all of this and more. He's our Aussie Angel. Agreed on leftovers, such a delicious treat.
    Avril - Aren't they though?
    Love and licked spoons to all,

  12. Mariana - obviously, I didn't mean rats, vegemite and gruyere gougeres... There should have been a ! after the rats bit. I'm not some pioneer of rodent cuisine, just so you know!

  13. WOW - what a fabulous party for such a great friend! Sounds like a perfect celebration. And the food sounds amazing!

  14. Sounds like a wonderful party. Isn't it great when everyone cares enough to chip in and all adds to the fun in the long run. I had to read the menu twice. Once to find out what you served and the second time to savour the flavours in my imagination.Yum ;-)

  15. Okay, not to press too fine a point, but since my birthday is July 14 (I'll pass for the de rigeur singing of The M. song), I will imagine that I am sitting in your garden, my size 12 feet dangling off some impossibly short park chair, and eating Eaton Mess. How do I love thee? Let me count the forks...

    Karen, the White-Armed One (too much Iliad maketh the heart sick)

  16. I need to go back in time (to age 30), change my nationality to Australian, meet you and then hope you throw a birthday bash for me! What a generous celebration. All is gorgeous.

  17. One word: Lush.

  18. Cookiepie - Thanks so much - it was all great fun.
    Linda - You are so right. It was tremendous fun to create a lovely party for someone we love - he loved it, and we took enormous pleasure in putting it all together for him, with everyone doing their bit.
    Karen - Bless your heart. Now, put down the books for a sec and get out into the sunshine!
    Claudia - Thank you, you made me smile!
    Miss Z - It was gorgeous to see you, oh queen of lushness.


  19. What a wonderful party! Everything planned to a T! ;O) It looks and sounds like y'all had so much fun from the planning all the way to the clean-up.

    Happy Birthday Stuart!

  20. Wow! What I've missed. Computer problems. Will be back.

  21. Simply Me - Thanks, it was a tremendous day - even the clear up was fun, and it's not often I say that!
    Penny - Lovely to see you back!


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