Masterchef Steven Saunders shares his 12 Top Tips for a perfect New Year’s Eve party at home!

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Gin & Tonic marinated Salmon blinis

By Steven Saunders FMCGB, The Little Geranium

LET’S be honest New Year’s Eve is usually a bit of an anti-climax and that’s because of so much expectation.

The best New Year’s that I can recall have been spent at home and we close The Little Geranium here in La Cala de Mijas and Marbella because we feel that NYE is generally over-priced and overrated.

Guests shouldn’t have to pay a fortune for a good night out but as we are small we would have to charge a premium for so few tables (no one will sit on the terrace outside!) so we close.

To make NYE really work we need you out of the kitchen and mingling with guests and family so keep it simple. Nothing wrong with a cold buffet of beautiful foods with warm breads and let everyone just help themselves and eat as little or as much as they want!

Here are my Top 12 Tips for helping to make NYE a great success!

1. Do a BYO party and ask each guest to bring something for the buffet table that they would love to eat but know what they are bringing so that you can fill in any gaps.
2. It’s ok to buy in some ready-made nibbly things (like mini spring rolls, fried mozzarella sticks, nuts and crisps) for NYE but keep the core buffet as fresh as possible.
3. We are lucky to have excellent fish here on the Costa del Sol so I always put a focus of fresh fish as the grand centrepiece like cooked lobsters, king prawns (Mercadona have two kilos of frozen giant prawns at €21.90.)
Poached salmon or cured salmon blinis ( recipe below) maybe a seafood salad with cold mussels, crab, smoked salmon, and lots of dips like marie rose, garlic mayo, some mustards sweet chilli sauce etc. (You can buy whole frozen cooked lobsters for about €10 in most supermarkets)
4. I always have a simple cold meat section on the buffet with rolled horseradish and garlic spiced and roasted whole fillet of beef or you can use ribeye and some pates and terrines. Keep away from Turkey!
5. Guests should bring some wine too but specify what you need. There is no point of everyone bringing champagne and then you don’t have any red wine for example. Nothing nicer than some mulled wine on a cold night when guests arrive or a glass of pomegranate cava. Have plenty of Champagne or Cava cold ready to pop at midnight.
6. Have some veggie things on the buffet, like a simple feta and asparagus salad, good cheeses and a vegan salad like Christmas Quinoa salad is really delicious.
7. A masked or fancy dress party with masks and wigs always adds fun and is traditional in Madrid in the Plaza.
8. Organise a New Year’s Eve playlist that includes some of everyone’s oldie favourites and Auld Lang Syne at midnight. “Auld Lang Syne” is a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song.
It is well known in many countries, especially in the English-speaking world, its traditional use being to bid farewell to the old year at the stroke of midnight.
Remember to organize to be able to hear the clock chimes at 12 through the TV or radio but Spanish chimes NOT UK as they are one hour behind us! Spanish tradition is to play Latin-inspired music after the clocks chime.
9. Eating 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve is both a tradition and a superstition in Spain. Rare is the Spaniard who will risk poisoning their fate for the coming year by skipping the grapes, one for each stroke of midnight. Keep the tradition going by buying lots of grapes!
10. Organise some party games. Good ones are always Who am I? Using post-it stickies Mr and Mrs game always gets giggles and I love a Karaoke!
11. Use up some of the Christmas leftovers like mince pies, Xmas cake and Xmas pudding on the buffet. A homemade trifle alongside that lot would be more than enough to wow the guests.
12. In Spain the tradition is to eat sweets like Turron made from egg white sugar and almonds, you can see at piled high at every supermarket inspired by the Moors.
Also Rosca de Reyes (King Cake) is the Three Kings bread cake made from cinnamon dough and candied fruits which is traditionally eaten on January 6 to celebrate the arrival of the three kings.
An old tradition is to bury a figurine of the Christ child in the cake and whoever gets it is blessed! I think it would be nice to include this cake onto your buffet and you see examples in supermarkets.

Gin & Tonic marinated Salmon blinis

You will need to organize to cure the salmon as you are reading this! It ideally needs two days in the cure, it is absolutely delicious and once cured easy to serve which is key to NYE food.

Recipe for one whole Salmon (two sides)

Buy a whole salmon from any fishmonger and ask for it to be filleted into two fillets. It should cost around €22 and no more than about €25 so it’s reasonable as we are getting a lot of portions from it.

Once you have the salmon sides trim down the sides and remove some of the obvious fatty pieces and you will need to pin bone the fish with tweezers ensuring there are no bones. Leave the skin on.

Now measure out one tea cup of white sugar and two thirds of a cup of cooking salt. Top the space in the salt cup up with more sugar and then mix the two cups thoroughly together in a bowl so that effectively you have a cure with approx. 60 per cent sugar and 40per cent salt which will mean that the salmon will not be too salty when cured.
Place the two prepared sides of salmon on cling film skin down so that you see the flesh. Now pack the salt/sugar mix onto the flesh neatly covering every little piece of pink flesh. You will have noticed that the fresh salmon was rather wet and watery, the cure will dehydrate the salmon removing that water and adding flavour. The end result will be a smaller side of salmon (it shrinks) tighter flesh and a deep dark colour. This will take 48 hours or two days in the fridge.

After this time wash off all the salt and sugar and put the two sides of Salmon this time skin side upwards in a deep tray and pour in gin and follow with tonic and some slices of lemon. Leave the fish in this marinade for at least four hours. You can do this on NYE afternoon. Now remove salmon and coat with herby breadcrumbs (optional) it’s now ready to slice and serve!

To make the Blinis
There are loads of different blini recipes but the truth is that the dish tastes better with a simple blini rather than one made with buckwheat flour or spelt flour, so I use plain flour.

200g Plain Flour
2 eggs
300 ml milk
50g butter
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of slat
Sunflower oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Small bunch chives chopped

Make the blinis as if you were making pancakes but separate the yolks and whites and beat the whites in a separate bowl. Whisking the egg yolks with a little salt in one bowl and then add the milk and the sifted flour bit by bit and sift in the baking powder. Finally fold in the whisked whites. Add a squeeze of lemon and the finely chopped chives.
Always taste the raw mix for seasoning and flavor
In a hot non stick frying pan add a little sunflower oil and now add a small ladle of blini mix about ½ cm thick and allow it to colour and rise a little. Flip over and colour other side. Repeat. When you have made all the pancakes cut small rounds approx. 4 cm with a metal cutter.
Warm the blinis to serve.
Pre-slice the salmon and serve with a stack of the warm blinis and some shots of good gin flavoured with fresh lime juice to get the party swinging! Also nice is some soured cream and Avruga caviar served separately.

Happy New Year everyone!

Love and best wishes
Steven Saunders FMCGB
www.thelittlegeranium.com
steven@thelittlegeranium.com

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