Catherine Fulvio of Ballyknocken House & Cookery School shares her culinary tips.
My top tip for clever entertaining is ?with a twist? - dishes and drinks that we're all familiar with, but with an edge - be it a smart use of a new key ingredient or a glitzy garnish, or both. Simply put, I look at traditional seasonal ingredients and see how I can use them to make unique dishes that appeal to the eye too.
So for an amazingly simple but impressive dessert, well, everyone adores meringue - but how about adding chopped toasted nuts and 4 to 5 tbsp of Christmas fruit mince in your meringue base? And to give it a seasonal twist, why not change the shape? A star, a wreath or even a large snowman will make your guests smile. For a special cream topping, fold in dried cranberries, orange zest and some juice, icing sugar and crystalised ginger to the cream, then top the lot with rosemary and honey roasted plums.
A very classic way to dress up drinks, whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic, is with cordials. We're not talking your standard kids? stuff - no, I mean the sophisticated versions, such as rose petal or elderberry. There's still time to make them - you just need water, sugar and rose petals or elderberries; simmer and let reduce, then place in the fridge for a few days before straining and keeping in a sterilised bottle. I keep it refrigerated and it's delicious in sparking water, tonic water and with wine and bubbles. Float some edible flowers in it for a final flourish.
For the wow factor, get your manicured mitts on some edible gold dust - yes, it is possible to purchase, and it's amazing to use. You can mix with a little alcohol and brush onto pastry bases before filling with chocolate, or simply brush over fruit and garnishes such as mint leaves.
This article originally appeared in the December issue of IMAGE magazine.