Make that birthday really special

2010-09-25 00:00

BIRTHDAYS are traditionally a special occasion and, in the Cameron household, making the birthday person feel exceptional is the most important calling of the day. Most birthdays begin and end around a dining room or kitchen table, and fine-tuned preparation is crucial when organising a relaxed, hassle-free dinner party. Every second of groundwork is worth the effort and ensures that you can sit down, unwind and have a glass of celebratory bubbly with your guests.

For my dad’s recent birthday, I started the feast with a tasting of hot pumpkin seeds and salted nuts. This kick-starts the salivary juices and entices the palate for what is to come. Dad enjoys tomatoes in any form or fashion, so I felt it fitting to serve a tasting of sundried tomatoes, balsamic-seared cherry tomatoes and a dipping sauce of grated tomatoes with hot, crispy, white olive bread. This went down as a treat. Breaking bread together somehow binds a gathering in an intimate embrace.

Fresh fish is always a winner, so pan-seared Norwegian salmon with a Rich Man’s Potato Salad, fresh green beans and a lemon wedge is a good choice. A classic beurre blanc sauce rounds off this main dish and allows the fishy flavours to come through.

I am in pavlova mode — to the point that I’ve included traditional pavlova on the Hartford House lunch menu. I have, however, added a modern touch to make my recipe a unique variation on a theme. On this occasion I cut up a selection of fresh fruit, whipped the cream and presented the individual mini pavlovas for each guest to fill as they chose. This is home-cooked elegance at its best.

We rounded off the evening with espresso coffee and a few slices of oozing camembert with orange segments, candied walnuts and fresh herbs. Crisp Parma ham on the side puts the sizzle into this dish.

The result was a stress-free meal fit for a king — for our king. Happy birthday, Dad.

I hope these dishes inspire you to serve up a feast when you next have a birthday to celebrate.

• Send comments and food-related questions to jackie@hartford. I always look forward to hearing from you. Jackie Cameron (head chef: Hartford House — 033 263 2713).

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