DIP IN: You just can't beat the old-fashioned favourites when it comes to party food.
DIP IN: You just can't beat the old-fashioned favourites when it comes to party food. carotur

When simple food is the life of the party

A BIRTHDAY party is a good idea. But the tyranny of competitive cooking shows has changed the way we look at food, expectations of quality and expertise, and how we 'plate things up'.

I had a look at a few recipe books and web pages and discovered there is a host of people who love nothing better than to make quinoa salad then artfully arrange this on special little circles of precooked organic sweet potato.

'Who are these people?' I thought as I looked at pictures of goat's cheese- stuffed apricots, raspberry brie tartlets, garlic and parmesan crostini, crab cakes with pomegranate salsa or Caesar salad wonton cups served with handmade artisan chive and lime mayonnaise.

Was I prepared to put aside the time to tenderly make 40 individually wrapped mini chilli con carne rolls or that most mystifying of dishes the spinach cob dip (that's a hollowed-out round bead loaf filled with spinach - I have never understood why anyone would make it, let alone eat it).

In my view, for a party to work, you need simple, tasty, easy-to-eat food. Have you tried picking up a quinoa salad and not spilling any?

I turned away from the high-faluting, nancy-pancy food and reverted to good old-fashioned favourites.

I went to my childhood. I made sure there was lashings of food, including fairy bread, sausage rolls and tomato sauce, chocolate crackles, meatballs and chipolatas (aka little boys).

I put out big bowls of chips, dips, potato salad, chicken sandwiches and lurid green and red jelly.

I may have put out nuts (I know ... daring). I even put out carrot sticks to appease the vegetable people, secure in the knowledge they would be ignored. You can't have a party without a few curling carrot or cucumber sticks. It's the rule.

As a final flourish there was a butter cake covered in delicious icing and set off with sparklers.

'How childish!' I hear you say, and so it was.

But when my friends arrived they fell on the food with cries of delight. We drank, talked and danced long into the night. It was a fantastic party. Everything to the last skerrick was polished off, except the carrot sticks.