Picture this. In a wave of enthusiasm, (perhaps of the wine-plyed variety), you have invited a swarm of friends for dinner. Of course it will be absolutely beautiful and you spend every spare moment planning it to perfection.

The day arrives and the wheels fall off in every way, leaving you with a single afternoon to prepare for said chic dinner party.

The horror.

I asked new mother Shelagh Ryan, founder of London’s Lantana Café, what she would do. “With so little time, I’d choose something the guests make themselves.”

Brilliant.

STEP 1 – HAVE A DRINK

The minute they walk through the door, I’d relax them with Gin Mojitos with lots of fresh mint (see recipe below).

STEP 2 – THE FOOD

As I live near China Town, I’d go Asian and dash out to buy some ingredients for guests to make their own rice paper rolls with roast duck and BBQ pork (already cooked), with loads of fresh herbs and vegetables like cucumber, spring onions and carrots.

I’d prep all the items and put them in bowls in the middle of the table with a bowl of hot water to soften the rice paper rolls.

STEP 3 – THE ACCOMPANIMENTS

I’d make a couple of dipping sauces – a hoisin and a classic sweet and sour with lime juice, sugar, chilli and fish sauce (recipe below).

STEP 4 – SOMETHING SWEET

For dessert, I’d want to stay with the Asian theme so I’d serve up caramelised bananas with condensed milk (recipe below).

STEP 5 – AMBIENCE

While in China Town, I’d grab some lanterns and candles for the table and put some David Bowie tunes (Little China Girl) on the stereo.

Clever – thank you Shelagh!

Throw on your cheongsam girls and let me know how you go! 

shelaghryan

Shelagh Ryan with sister Caitlin (pic via visitmelbourneblog.com)

GIN MOJITO (recipe via thenibble.com)

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 8-10 mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • Splash simple syrup
  • Apple juice

Method

  • Muddle mint and sugar in glass.
  • Add everything, except else the apple juice, and fill with crushed ice.
  • Add the apple juice and garnish with mint sprigs
  • Inhale

DONNA HAY’S SWEET & SOUR SAUCE

  •  ¼ cup (60ml) lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce

Method

  •   Place the lime juice, sugar and fish sauce in a non-metallic bowl and stir to combine.

CARAMELISED BANANAS WITH CONDENSED MILK  (adapted from recipe by mochachocolatarita.blogspot.com.au)

Ingredients

  • Over ripe bananas (enough for guests)
  • butter (as much as you dare)
  • 1 tin of condensed milk

Method

  • Preheat oven to 200C
  • Peel bananas and halve length-wise
  • Place flat side down on a lightly greased pan and on top of each one, add a tiny dollop of butter
  • Put the pan on the top rack of the oven and grill until golden
  • Remove from oven, drizzle with condensed milk
  • Devour greedily
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