The GWG catches up with acclaimed chef Annabel Karmel as she gives us her top tips for that all important Jubilee Street Party...
The bunting’s going up! The streets are being closed off! With our dear Queen’s Jubilee less than a week away it’s time to start the preparations for that all important street party! Yes there’s no better way to meet and greet the neighbours than with a little communal hospitality… According to research commissioned by Fairy more than a third of people who attended a street party last year feel closer to their community and know their neighbours better as a result. Acclaimed chef Annabel Karmel is a dab hand at hosting and she’s kindly here to give us her very top tips for making the most out of that Jubilee weekend…
Annabel, what are your thoughts on the benefits of creating a street party?
Well I think we are a nation who have a slight stiff upper lip, so this is a wonderful opportunity to knock on people’s doors and say ‘Hey! Let’s organize a street party, would you like to be involved?’ It’s great way of getting to know people who live in your neighbourhood and you never know what might come of that! You can carpool, share the driving, taking your kids to school, you can find someone to do baby sitting for you, and make new friends. Getting people involved and helping - that whole team spirit; it’s really nice to be able to do something like that.
How can we create a fabulous spread on a budget?
You can do great things without spending much money; I do this fabulous Couscous salad which is really cheap. I soak it in stock, then I add caramelized pecans and dried cranberries, some sweet pepper and spring onion. I mix that into the Couscous and then I have this dressing of balsamic vinegar, sugar, white wine vinegar and some olive oil. You can make a massive bowl of this and everyone will love it; it’s so delicious, not expensive to make and very quick…
What about drinks to accompany the couscous?
Pimms definitely! Scoop it out with a soup ladle into paper cups; everyone likes that! It’s a really English summer drink isn’t it?
Buying food online is very big at the moment – what are the pros and cons of sourcing your food this way?
Well one of my tips is ‘never shop when you’re hungry!’ – you always buy too much! Certain things I like to buy online and certain things I’m not so crazy about. I will buy groceries but fruit and vegetables, I prefer to see them; especially fruit - I can tell if something’s good!
Also you never know whether it’s ripe or unripe, but I think buying online is great, especially for big items. I’ve got three dogs and they eat so much dog food! I order that in bulk and I can’t believe that in three weeks it’s all gone. It looks when it arrives as if it’s going to last the entire year. I think dogs should have a party as well - a dog crèche! With special dog food and they can all go for a run together!
With lots of kids around mothers will want to create healthy treats… How can they achieve this on a budget?
Very often you pay more for fast food… Something you make yourself can be cheaper. For treats, fruit in season can be inexpensive, like fruit skewers, with a scepter (a strawberry at the top) and pineapple and kiwi and mango, that’s a great way to eat something really healthy; most kids do not get their five a day!
Kids like cut up vegetables like carrots and cucumber sticks and tasty dips - that’s not expensive either. I also do something called a cucumber crocodile... I cut the mouth out and I put serrated cheese in for the teeth and then on cocktail sticks I put cheese and cucumber to make the spikes and I add cherry tomatoes for the eyes. It’s amazing and it’s all healthy food!
What are your favourite recipes for street style buffet fare?
The Diamond Vegetable Tart; you can buy ready made pastry, which you just roll out and cut into the shape of a diamond, spread it with a mixture of crème fraiche, pesto and grated cheese, then roast some vegetables (red pepper, red onion, aubergine, courgettes, etc. - you can even get these cut up roasted vegetables in supermarkets) roast the onions in the oven with some garlic and herbs, spread those on top of the tart and roast in the oven, but before you put it in you cut out the shape of a crown in pastry and the letters E II R in the middle of your pastry so it looks amazing!
For my centerpiece I’d probably have something like my Crown Pavlova. I’ve had peaks of the crown made out of meringue and each one has a raspberry on top. In the middle there’s a mixture of cream with sugar and vanilla and then some strawberries and blueberries on top.
As a nation we waste a lot of food; do you have any tips for leftovers?
I never throw away bread because I remember when I was a child that we lived near the Serpentine and if we ever had a birthday party, we’d put it into a big bag and then we’d go down and feed the ducks and it was just so lovely. So don’t ever throw bread away! If you’ve got pasta, you can make amazing pasta salads or rice salads (with leftover rice).
If you’ve left over chocolate then I like to make a Chocolate Fridge Cake with broken digestive biscuits, you melt the chocolate with golden syrup and butter, digestive biscuits, raisins and glace cherries. Then you just whack it in the fridge, I can’t walk past without taking a piece when I have it! It’s one of my favourite desserts and one of the easiest things to make. You can put lots of things in there! Cold chicken you can make into wraps the next day. Mix together mayonnaise and pesto, then have cold chicken, cherry tomatoes, lettuce and roll it up – very nice!
What about decorating the food? We’d love to get the jubilee theme onto cakes and biscuits…
I’m getting all the kids in my neighbourhood to make cupcakes so we’re going to have maybe 200 cupcakes and then they’re going to have a big table where they’re going to have red, white and blue icing and then I’ve got a grid which is in the shape of a Union Jack and I’m going to put red on the red parts, blue on the blue and eventually it will form one giant Union Jack entirely made of cupcakes. It will look amazing and get the children really involved…
Now for a more personal question! Do you know your neighbours and get on with them?
I’m quite lucky because I live opposite James Khan (the ex Dragon). He and his wife are really good friends of mine so we do quite a lot together. He’s a really interesting guy. I often talk to him about my business and he often talks about what he’s doing. She’s an artist, I go with her to art galleries, so I’m really lucky that I’ve got some good friend who are my neighbours! So here’s your opportunity to meet some of yours! We all live in streets where it would be lovely to talk to people but we’re all inherently quite shy. That’s the great thing about a party; you don’t just invite people you know… Knock on people’s doors and invite some strangers!
What’s the best way of making friends with your new neighbours? A tasty hamper perhaps?
Anything you’ve made yourself is great for breaking the ice. Of course Desperate Housewives like Bree; she’s always bringing things over isn’t she!? But why don’t we do it? I would love that! So maybe this could be the start of welcoming new neighbours to your street… I think that’s a really good idea and baking something would be excellent. Even if you don’t bake something just go and ring the bell and say ‘Hi I live opposite…’ Friendships are very important, what’s life without friends?
What will you be doing for the Jubilee?
The downside of my profession is that now that I write cooking books, no one invites me to dinner parties and whenever there’s something with food I’m given the task of making the majority of it; that’s my lot but I do like cooking! I’m also going to be having about eight children in my kitchen making cupcakes with me, which will be a lot of fun. I’m organizing games for the children and a mystery bakeoff where all the neighbours are bringing their favourite cakes or biscuits and we’re going to number them and judge them as to which one is the best and they’re going to win a prize…
And no one will know whose they’re tasting…
No, not until the end…
The winner will be crowned!
With my Pavlova Crown! – not… (Annabel laughs)
With kids is it easy to get them to be well behaved round the dinner table?
You’ve got to find things for them to do or they get easily bored; so you could have a dressing up area, face painting area, balloons, a treasure hunt, think of ideas to keep them occupied. Decorating cupcakes is another one, animal cupcakes. A bit of planning will make your party go with a swing!
What do you think of the endless amount of sugar and additives in children’s food?
I think they can make healthy food delicious but I also think that banning treats will make children want them even more – it’s always the way. Because my healthy food tastes good, my kids don’t really crave those sorts of sugary things full of additives.
There is a bit more responsibility; manufacturers are taking out artificial colourings... I’d rather my child had a sugary drink than a low calorie drink with aspartame in it that could possibly be carcinogenic – I’d rather have sugar than that! I think it’s what children eat in their day-to-day life that matters - I’ve never been a purist; I think food is to be enjoyed; as long as you keep the main menu healthy they can have their treats.
23rd May 2012.