Friday, 22 January 2016

Friends Chinese Supper Club

 January, eh. That dull, cold, post-festivities lull, that trying-to-be-good month. The worst time of year to have a birthday. (Except this year!)
How to beat those blues? Here's how I did it:
Take a trip to see your mates from Uni. Cook Chinese food. Drink cocktails and lots of red wine. Book a trip to New York!
We try and meet up at least once a year, and it's always like we're still housemates. Even with all the marriages, children, divorces, illnesses, career changes, we still chat and laugh as if we were students. Okay so maybe we don't drink so much (ahem, well some of us), but at heart we're all still the same. What better way to celebrate our twentieth year of friendship, and our respective fortieth birthdays, than by heading off on a once in a lifetime trip to the Big Apple?
In order to plan, it was completely necessary to meet, eat and book our seats.
On the inspiring menu, we had our hostess's delicious Thai Salmon fishcakes with sweet chilli sauce and an Asian salad dressing.
Thai Salmon Fishcakes with sweet chilli sauce and Asian dressing
For mains, I took my trusty Chinese Unchopped by Jeremy Pang across the Irish Sea, and between us we rustled up Sweet and Sour Pork (except it was chicken), Steamed (except they were roasted) Aubergine with Garlic and Spring Onion dressing, and Stir-fried Green Beans with Chilli Hoisin sauce.
All dishes needed to be gluten-free, so one portion of fishcakes was coated in gram flour rather than breadcrumbs, the chilli Hoisin sauce was kept aside, and all other sauces made using a gluten-free soy sauce.
Sweet and Sour Chicken
Roasted Aubergine with Garlic and Spring Onion
Stir-fried Green Beans with Chilli Hoisin sauce
Dessert provided by our guest of honour (one of the aforementioned children) was a delicious Key Lime Pie, a nod to our upcoming Stateside visit. The only issue with this was whipping the cream after one or two French 75 cocktails. Some of it may have ended up on the walls (the cream, not the cocktail). Oops!
Love those girls. NYC here we come!
'Dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships never go out of style' - Carrie Bradshaw

Saturday, 9 January 2016

The One Where Annie Turns 40...

It's the big one! My 40th... Yikes!

It was with some trepidation I faced up to the fact that I was reaching the big Four-Oh. Only a number, a far-off time, it-will-never-happen-to-me milestone. But happen to me it did, and although I still feel... maybe... 26, and just out of university, the truth is I am now grown up and it gets me wondering what, if anything, I have achieved so far.

I have a husband of 14 years, two children, a mortgage, two tenants, a job (which will potentially save a lot of lives) and a bunch of fabulous friends. So what else could a girl possibly want? I have a pretty hectic social life, a love of food and writing (which may or may not lead to something more, depending on whether I get this 40-year-old ass in gear), and a healthy new year plan to cut back on the alcohol (and subsequently the pot belly). So it's all good, yes? Worth celebrating? OF COURSE!

It's not perfect, whose life is? But I am luckier than most. And the mind is a powerful thing. If I can be better, I will be. If I can focus on changing one little thing at a time, then I'm sure I too can make this world a better place. So with all that advice to myself, I will be happier this year, and I will try to spread the joy to my loved ones.

So let's party, people!

I LOVE planning parties, so there was no way I was going to hand this one over. With around 80 guests, there were a few last-minute nerves, but in the end it was, for me anyway, a brilliant night.

It was a New York themed party with a Friends dress code. Twinkling fairy lights (just like Ross&Emily's wedding), and a snow machine (New York Winter/Phoebe's wedding). I was hoping for a few Holiday Armadillos, but sadly none showed up...

I wore a Monica chef's hat with 'Hey! How You Doin'?' written on it. I wanted to be a bit glamorous so didn't go for the whole chef's outfit. Himself dressed as Gary Oldman (and/or Joey) in his WWI outfit from The One With Monica and Chandler's Wedding. The best costume was my friend Kim in her Monica waitress costume, with massive fake boobs and blonde wig. Also, Princess Leia and the gold bikini showed up looking wonderful - she was also in charge of the playlist - thanks Emma (and Rhona)!

I wanted to have Central Perk coffee cup shaped cupcakes, so I ordered some vintage wrappers. They never arrived (who was in charge of cups? 'She's gonna rue the day she put me in charge of cups...'), so I made do with some polka dotted cases in various colours. The cupcakes were lemon, with a white chocolate and lemon ganache and an Italian meringue topping (recipe here). Just like a cup of coffee then! The handles were piped by my sister in the shape of, er, handles.

'I can handle this. "Handle" is my middle name. Actually, "handle" is the middle of my first name.' - Chandler Bing.

Central Perk Coffee Cupcakes

New York

Big thanks to Himself, my sisters, and all my friends and family who made it a night to remember, and for all the wonderful gifts. As I now have to accept the fact that I've reached an age where I'm officially old, it's actually become kind of cool. I'm not 40, I'm 22 with 18 years of experience.

Life begins...

Lighting and Snow Machine Hire: Powerhouse Hire, Barnet