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Posts tagged ‘Party’

Christmas Comes Home: Party time!

I’m not ashamed to spend many an hour making my home wonderful for Christmas just for myself and my partner to enjoy. Who else really matters? After all, it is us who get the ultimate pleasure of waking and sleeping to lights twinkling like an enchanted forest all around us. Nevertheless, there is something of the Nigella in me, and I can’t help but revel in the opportunity to share my winter wonderland with friends. So in this last post extolling the virtues of my home at Christmastime, why not take a glimpse of the flat all trussed up for a small soiree we held last weekend.

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Central to the event was the table. A vase at its centre hosted a flurry of discarded Clapham Common tree branches. What the wind had cast asunder, I recycled, creating the perfect skeleton for a cornucopia of lights and dazzling gold and glass decorations. On those branches, our glass treasures from Venice have never looked so beautiful, hanging freely, suspended in mid air, rather than getting caught up in the denser gathering of Christmas tree branches. Beneath this composition, a plethora of festive food gathered: a cheese board bedecked with berries and nuts, freshly cut meats from Italy and, best of all, the “Merookies” (a cross between meringues and cookies) recently featured on the newest Christmas episode of Nigella Lawson’s At My Table series. With an exquisite salty pistachio balance to the sweetness of the meringue and the rich depth of chocolate chips, I was completely sold on these Nigella creations. So was everyone else – they disappeared in seconds.

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I love Christmas parties. I love sharing with friends. And I love seeing my home so pristine in its presentation for a night out on the town. But even more, I love the clearing up at the end of the evening – when empty champagne flutes tell of hours of merriment enjoyed, and the crumbs of cookies and Christmas biscuits intermingle with fallen shards of glitter flickering in the dying candlelight. Home sweet home.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Friends, food and fancy: The Sensational Season of Christmas

Christmas is a time of joy, for every little girl and every boy… so go the words (or variations thereof) which pepper the variety of children’s stories written around the theme of Christmas; stories like Snug and Serena at the Rose and Crown and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, where a child’s eyes are widened in anticipation of the pure excitement of the season, and of course a visit from Santa, while at the centre of those stories, families gather in social spirit, to make joy and be merry at Christmas time. Happily for most, the warming conviviality of the Christmas season is not just something confined to the pages of a children’s story, and just as soon as the festive season comes upon us, so too do the party invites begin flying out to all and sundry.

This year has been a particularly manic one for me, with some 8 parties attended over the last 7 days alone, many of which left me wanting in the sleep stakes, but very much over-indulged in food and wine. But the one thing that struck me across all of the parties, weddings, dinners and lunches I attended was the overwhelming capacity of the season to bring people together in happiness and appreciation, the opportunity for guilt-free indulgence, and the occasion to reconnect with friends and colleagues who the busyness of the year has kept apart.

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This post, and these photos pay homage to the delightful jovialities of the season, the latter manifesting as often blurred shots taken in the low lights of winter, but all the more atmospheric, at least to my mind, as a result. Here are my photos of the flickering candles which so effectively create the intimate setting for a chilled party or dinner; the pecan pie which the delectable Cassandra made from caramelising crème fraiche; the purple lit ice rink of Somerset House buzzing with whizzing skaters; the Christmas tree silhouetted against a rosy morning sky. Here too are the jellies and desserts which make us happy and fat; the gingerbread man sat upon a burst of fresh Christmas foliage; the fairy lights, the cheese board, the gifts under the tree; the red leaves, the boxed panettone, the friends who make me happy.

This is Christmas…and I love it!

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2013 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Daily Norm’s 2nd Anniversary/ 30th Birthday/ new website/ exhibition preview spectacular!

Christmas may be merely 5 weeks away, but its been all about a mighty great November for me. Not only have I been celebrating the relaunch of my official art website this month, but I have also been busy organising the first solo gallery showing of my artwork in 6 years, which will make its debut in London in the Spring of next year – more details will follow soon. Not only that, but I am still reeling from the shock of turning 30 earlier this year, but nevertheless still determined to celebrate it for as long as the year goes on. And finally, this month (and in fact the 14th November last week) marks the two year birthday of The Daily Norm!

From its very humble beginnings, this blog has now been freshly pressed 3 times, gained 2,332 followers, had 301,364 total views and even received 2,527 comments. And statistics aside, it has just been a joy from beginning to end – an outlet for my creativity; a mirror on my soul, and a magnificent far-reaching channel through which my thoughts and experiences can be shared with the world. So a huge thank you just has to go to everyone who has supported my blog all of this time. I feel incredibly honoured that you take the time to share just a little of my life with me.

My paintings on show at the Benugo Drawing Room private cocktail bar, last Friday

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So how best to celebrate all of these marked feats of November jubilation? Why, to throw a private party of course! Yep, last Friday night, the best and beautiful of my inner circle – both friends and colleagues alike – gathered in their glad rags to belatedly celebrate my birthday, mark the relaunch of my website, reflect on the success of The Daily Norm, and look forward, in equal measure, to the prospect of my solo art exhibition next Spring. And in celebrating the latter aspect, what better way to anticipate what I hope will be the art show of the 2014 Spring season than to kick things off with a warm up preview of some of my latest works!

So for all those friends of mine rocking up at the British Film Institute’s secret cocktail bar within its main Benugo bar last friday evening, they were treated to an impromptu display of some 20 of my works, including a selection of my latest Compositions series, a few of my Norm originals including my Norm take on Manet’s Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe and Flamenco Norm, and also a few examples of my more contemplative works, such as Pink Bf, Return Journey and Pupillage.

The evening was a fantastic success, a wonderful opportunity for some of my latest colourful paintings and more subdued, delicate etchings to benefit from an outing to London’s cultural South Bank centre, and a fine way to touch base with my ever faithful friends, many of whom I have not seen for months, if not years. And I sold 3 more paintings to boot – which can’t be bad!

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Sadly, as far as recording this magnificent event goes, I can only show you photos taken as the paintings went out, but before the people came in. No sooner had the first friend arrived than I was occupied talking to my guests all evening – and my well intentioned desire to record the evening through photos got quite lost in the revelry. But that is surely a sign of a good party.

Stay tuned, as ever, into The Daily Norm for exclusive details of my May 2014 art exhibition – coming soon!

And in the meantime another huge thanks to all those who have supported me and my blog for the two years of its happy existence. Here’s to the next!

 

Summertime Sussex (Part 2) – Pre-birthday Garden Party

For me, the highlights of my childhood were the times spent outside in the spring and summer; my sister and I playing endless games such as flower fairies and thundercats in the daffodils, or picnicking under our lilac tree on a Sunday evening; sleeping in my tent on a damp dewy midsummer’s night; the smell of Avon suntan cream and the texture of my mother’s toweling dress; dragon flies hoping over the surface of our still reflective pond water, and the sound of their wings getting stuck underneath the netting which kept cats away from the fish. More recently, I’ve loved to indulge amongst privilege few in the elegant gardens of Glyndebourne opera, dressed up to the nines, a picnic basket in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other; and to this day my favourite thing in all the world is to dine al fresco.

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So being that it is approaching my birthday, and that this build up has fallen, fortuitously, within a period of unseasonably fine weather, I decided that when a visit to my family home in Sussex fell due, there could be no better way to celebrate my birthday that with an elegant garden party for all the family. This had parallels to a lavish do that I put on for my 12th birthday, when I transformed the garden into an Alice’s wonderland, painting a Cheshire cat to sit up in the tree, and bedecking the garden with playing card garlands. 18 years later, I got out that same, slightly tatty Cheshire cat that I painted as a boy, and sitting him in the very same, now slightly more slumped iris tree he sat in all those years ago, I went about decorating the rest of the garden for the occasion.

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The result was a slightly more elegant affair than the wonderland spectacular I conjured up all those years ago, and perhaps more suitable for the grand old 30 years I will reach on my birthday in two days time. Pearlescent balloons and large oversized paper chains that I made in the car journeying down from London (I wasn’t driving, I should note) were an easy but effective decorative option. But the real heart of the party of course was the table, where I wanted to build a focus while making the table cosy and intimate – something not easily achievable when dining out in the open air. This I did through the use of a large umbrella, from which I dangled single flower stems of every conceivable kind gathered from around the garden (much to my father’s horror). The result was an impromptu chandelier of flowers, forming an elegant canopy over the table and later reflecting the candlelight from the tealights set out in odd glasses on the table below.

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As for the dinner, well a barbeque made posh with all manner of Mediterranean salads and salsas and marinades delighted all family members present, but not nearly as much as the cake – something of a last minute gathering of a Marks and Spencer Percy Pig cake, surrounded by a mud bath of chocolate additions. Most importantly of all were every one of the required 30 candles, the heat from which made for our very own outside patio heater, at least for the short duration before my birthday wish extinguished them forever.

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So the moral of the post, apart from to show off my photos of course, is that with a  few single flower stems, an umbrella and a bit of ribbon or string, you can make a table centrepiece that will wow your guests before the food even hits the table.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2013 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Halloween Party Continued…

Further to yesterday’s post, I’ve been preparing further for Halloween. Lying around yesterday, feeling appropriately close to death with bronchitis coursing through my chest, I decided enough was enough. I forced myself full of paracetamol, took out some cake basics from the fridge, and set about baking. Illness will not stop me, and with regular breaks, perching upon a stool to save my energy, with my Partner as chief taster (I can’t taste anything!) and in fully sanitised conditions (naturally!) I have made some chocolate orange cup cakes for a chic Halloween gathering.

My cakes follow the same simple chocolate sponge as described on yesterday’s post with a delicious white chocolate-orange frosting. This is simple to make. Simply take 300g of icing sugar and whisk up with 100g unsalted butter and 40ml of milk. The longer you whisk this icing mixture, the fluffier and lighter it will become. Then in a metal bowl over a pan of water (making sure the water never touches the bowl) I melted approximately 150ml of orange flavoured (and coloured) white chocolate beads, before adding to the whisked icing mixture and folding in well. I then transferred the icing into a piping bag and placed in the fridge for a good 30 minutes or so while the cakes cooled down.

The wonderful orange icing was easy to pipe (I had to warm the bag up a bit with my hands since the chocolate and butter in the icing sets pretty quickly) and once done, I sprinkled with some dark chocolate drops to achieve the halloween contrast of orange and black.

So there you have it. Hopefully, unlike me, you will actually be able to taste the wonderful fusion of chocolate and orange – my Partner tells me it’s good! I leave you with some photos of my halloween party all set up and ready to go. Ok, so I’m way too ill to have any guests round, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make the effort right? Happy Halloween everybody!

Halloween Party!

I won’t be having a halloween party this year. Sadly after daily encounters with people sneezing in my face on the tube, I have come down with something which progressed from a cold to flu to bronchitis. Fortuitously however, I won’t be needing a halloween costume – my face looks green enough on its own!

In times past however I have indulged in halloween to the full, and even this year I have managed to stem the tide of my all-encompassing malaise to carve a pumpkin or so. For this time of year, when the days are short and the dark evenings long, it’s all about candles and lanterns, baking and the homely smell of sweet cinnamon and warming winter broths. So in this short exploration of all things halloween, I thought I’d share with you some ideas for a halloween shindig, for baking, and for your requisite seasonal pumpkin.

First up the cakes – no Halloween is complete without them, and when I bake for Halloween, it’s more about the decoration than the sponge. I could go gingery and spiced (I’ll save those for another day), but for these little spooky treats, I stuck with the age-old chocolate sponge recipe my grandmother taught me when I was young. 200g of caster sugar, self-raising flower and butter respectively, two eggs, a dash of milk, a heaped tablespoon of cocoa powder and a heaped teaspoon of baking powder – the ingredients are foolproof. I start by creaming the sugar and egg yolks, and tend to whip up the egg whites for extra air in the sponge. To the egg/sugar mixture I add the sifted dry ingredients, mixing well before folding in the egg whites. Then – and this is my mother’s baking tip – I add a little milk. Enough to make the mixture run off the spoon. This guarantees the lightest of sponges. I pour into fairy cake cases and bake for around 15-20 minutes at 180 degrees, and ice with a butter cream and some shop bought icing tubes. Easy.

For something more adventurous, check out these marzipan and gingerbread beauties sold in Betty’s tearooms in York.

For decorations, I tend to go with candles aplenty, like this ghoulish ghost-shaped floating candles scattered with pumpkin-shaped confetti and other ghosty shapes. I also have a few sparkly skeletons dotted around to bring some Damien Hirst bling to the event. Nats.

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Quick canapés to impress your colleagues

Apologies in advance for the rather fuzzy quality of my photos. As with the food featured, the photos were created in something of a rush. And this is the nature of my feature today – for in making up some canapés which don’t look half bad on a plate (they certainly look better than a packet of crisps and some sausage rolls) when you have neither the time nor skill to cook up a storm, party food doesn’t come much easier or quicker than this.

When my team at work decided that we should have a little drinks gathering to wave goodbye to a colleague of ours, I decided that some canapés were in order. But with only a few hours to spare the evening before, and with the prospect of travelling with said canapés on the London underground the following morning I had to think simple.

I came up with the following canapés which were a resounding success, are deceptively simple to make and which despite the ease of their creation, have the ability to seduce both in appearance and flavour.

My canapés

Slightly less glam – the canapés set out on paper plates and tupperware at work

Anchovy and parmesan palmiers

These are a simple savoury variation on my previously posted sweet palmiers recipe. Simply replace the sugar with a handful of freshly grated parmesan and four rows of anchovies laid out parallel to the long sides of the puff pastry (which you roll inwards). Then freeze for 10 minutes before cutting into slices and cooking in an oven at around 200 degrees centigrade for around 20 minutes. These treats are salty but mega moorish.

Proscuitto-wrapped grissini with a home-made pesto dip

Such an easy treat, but this one went down the best. Simply wrap one end of some Italian grissini (bread sticks) with proscuitto or parma ham. For the dip make some pesto – I wizzed up half a clove of garlic, four large handfuls of fresh basil with a handful of lightly toasted pine nuts and the same amount of freshly grated parmesan, a good dose of salt and enough olive oil to loosen up the mixture once blitzed in a mini food processor – there’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly made pesto to evoke the pleasant green lands of Roma, picnicking outside the Coliseum – and that was my pesto. I only used about 2 heaped tablespoons of this, adding those to 300g of soft cheese and there was my dip – creamy, with the exquisite flavour of the mediterranean.

White gazpacho

This is one of my favourite Rick Stein recipes and works great as a starter (in larger portions) or as a canapé in small shot glasses or flutes with a few white grapes scattered into the mix. It’s a creamier more indulgent version of the typical Andalus tomato gazpacho and is so easy to make. Simply soak 200g of stale white crustless bread in 400ml of cold water for around 30 minutes. Place this soggy bread mixture into a liquidizer with 100g of blanched almonds and 1-6 cloves of garlic depending on how strong you like your garlic (I only use one, and I think that’s strong enough) and whizz this up into a smooth paste. With the motor still running, gradually add 150m of good quality olive oil and 4 tablespoons of sherry vinegar. Then add around 400m of more water – more if the soup is too thick. Check the seasoning and add salt if necessary. Then the key is to get the soup nice and cold, so refrigerate for at least 4 hours – overnight preferably. Serve with white grapes and a drizzle more of oil.

White gazpacho as a starter

Smoked trout dip

This one is slightly more controversial as it’s meant to be a mousse, but for some reason mine wouldn’t set. However, it turned out very well as a dip for the variety of crackers we had at the party, so why not add it in here. All I did was to whizz up 165g of smoked trout in a food processor with 225 g of creamed cheese, a squeeze of lemon juice, a sprinkle of dill (to taste) and 2 tablespoons of cream (it could be the cream which prevents it from setting – perhaps try without – I didn’t have time). If you have the time to chill the mixture and get it into a neat piping bag, you will probably succeed where I failed in piping little individual canapes of the mousse onto a blini or even a slice of cucumber. This looks great with some caviar on top. But failing that, serve it up as a simple dip – it’s delicious, especially when eat with the anchovy palmiers.

Figs stuffed with dolcelatte

Finally, and for the easiest of them all, a load of plump dried figs, slit them open as though you are performing a delicate surgical operation, get messy by breaking off some creamy dolcelatte and lovingly stuff each fig with your own fair hands – it’s sticky work, but strangely satisfying. You can seal the deal with some proscuitto wrapped around the fig, or leave it off for veggies (I do however find that a strand of ham makes these canapés looks lightly less poo-like). They’re not the most attractive canapés in the world admittedly, but for ease of method, and for richness of flavour, they don’t come better than this.

Tis soon the season to be jolly, so canapé season is just around the corner – these recipes are perfect for the kitchen shy host with the most – and these will enhance any bash with minimum skill or time required. Enjoy!