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Ideas for a nice birthday buffet lunch for about 20

(30 Posts)
LadyMacbethWasMisunderstood Wed 08-Jan-14 11:26:34

In 3 weeks I'm catering mother in law's 70th birthday lunch. At her house but I'm cooking.

I'm a fairly competent cook but often come on here for additional ideas. There will be around 20 guests. Maybe a few more. The only children are likely to be my 3. Probably traditional tastes. Mostly DMil's friends who I have met but don't know well. I shall be doing the cooking single handed though DH will help with the setting up.

Arrival of guests might be a bit staggered and I'd like a mixture of hot and cold dishes. Some nice but easy canapés and a few impressive desserts. I shall make a cake but have that sorted.

Any ideas would be really welcome. DMil is very dear to us and I'd like to make it special.

Thanks in advance.

BikeRunSki Sun 12-Jan-14 07:16:38

Please do a lovely fruit salad for people who don't like rich puddings. May find a few of these with an older guest list.

ravenAK Sun 12-Jan-14 06:37:04

Feta-stuffed peppers - just halve them, blanche for a couple of minutes, then drain & arrange in a baking tray, filling with a teaspoon of pesto (red or green), a cube of feta, & either an olive/half a cherry tomato/an anchovy fillet.

Trickle some EVOO over the whole tray & stick in the oven for about 30 mins.

I always do a couple of trays of these, because a) they're colourful & sizzle nicely when you take them out of the oven & b) if they don't all get eaten, you can just chop them up & stir through pasta or couscous next day - they also freeze well.

zipzap Sun 12-Jan-14 06:24:46

If you want a really easy canapé, pizza pin wheels are really easy and tasty - roll out ready made puff pastry into a rectangle, then spread with tomato. (a tin of chopped tomatoes boiled down to a thick smushed with lots of garlic and a pinch of sugar is nicest tbut tomato purée, sun dried tomato purée, or even ketchup can all work if you're in a hurry). Then roll it up like a Swiss roll. With a sharp knife, cut into slices about a cm thick and lay on a baking tray, then sprinkle with grated Parmesan and some oregano and cook according to the time your puff pastry needs as per its packet. Yummy served hot or cold.

You can also fill with other things - eg pesto and then sprinkle with Parmesan and pine nuts, or ricotta mixed with garlic or horse radish and sprinkled with paralysis after cooking etc. And roll them up into a long sausage of different shapes - like palmiers or heart.

Little sausages as said go down well. I did a sit down meal for 20 at Christmas and did them as an extra to lasagne. They were late coming to the table (oven playing up) and even then, when people were complaining that they were full, they still managed to demolish about 80 of them. People always seem to eat lots more of them than you think. I've tried loads of different mini sausages over the years but keep coming back to the Waitrose essential ones. They taste great, don't exude loads of water or grease during cooking and at Christmas cost £4 for 2 packs of 30 so they're comparable in price to the other main supermarkets.

A savoury cheesecake can be nice and a bit different on a buffet - use a mixture of plain digestives and a few nice crackers with a bit of finely grated Parmesan and/or choppedtoasted nuts and seeds for the base, make up as you would for a normal cheesecake. Then things like Roquefort, Parma ham and pear; feta, cucumber and mint; Stilton and onion marmalade; google savoury cheesecake and loads of different ideas will come up.

A layered galette also looks nice - use pancakes or tortillas as the layers and then fill with whatever you fancy as if a lasagne. Sprinkle with cheese and bake - use a springform cake tin for ease of getting it out - and then you have another hot or cold savoury dish that can be cut like a cake that looks and tastes good.

Have a look at a Spanish tapas book - they are the masters of serving up hot food For east eating. Thus instead of lots of sloppy mince/chilli/ragu etc they do meatballs in a piquant tomato sauce. And patas bravas a potatoes - bite sized sautéed cubes of potato with separate spicy tomato sauce and aioli to spoon on as you wish. So no awkward cutting if eating from your lap and you can make the potatoes as spicy or garlicy as you want. Likewise lots of stuff is served on sticks as mini pinchos (sp?) so easy to eat away from the table.

It's also worth picking up the entertaining food ordering booklets from waitrose and m&s - just for ideas (may well be online too) for nice ideas or ways to tweak or present ordinary stuff to make it special for the buffet. So things like adding capers and fominely chopped mini gerkins to a potato salad. Or having some pomegranate seeds to hand to go through a salad to glam it up.

If for pudding you do dipping fruit or ice cream or anything that needs hot chocolate sauce, this is the worlds easiest and tastiest recipe - melt 1 large bar of bournville or other nice dark chocolate (approx 200g), broken into pieces, along with a walnut sized knob of butter, a pinch of salt and about a tablespoon of honey together. Wait for it to cool down a little then gradually stir in a small pot of double cream. And thats it. Warm it up again when needed - it keeps for a week or more in the fridge (assuming you don't take a fingerful each time you are in the fridge to check it is still ok grin. You can also tart it up by adding stuff to it - make it a Jaffa sauce by adding some marmalade (without rinds) and orange zest. Or a little bit of a nice liqueur or spirit to complement what it is being served with - add slowly to taste as you can always add more but can't take any excess out.

crabwoman Sun 12-Jan-14 03:15:19

I helped cater for my grandmothers 70'th last year.
We did a huge macaroni cheese and a joint of beef which everyone loved. The beef can be served hot or cold and goes well with the salads and buffet food.
We also did a massive fruit platter - melon, grapes, mango, pineapple and strawberries. Served with a caramel dipping sauce. Really popular with everyone and looks stunning!

LadyMacbethWasMisunderstood Sat 11-Jan-14 20:09:49

Thankyou you. Kir Royale sounds good. I've seen it ready made in M and S. Do you know if its any good?

Allalonenow Thu 09-Jan-14 22:06:09

If you are thinking of a whole salmon, and they do make a stunning centrepiece, have a look at the M&S website, they've got a few versions there, you order on line about a week before and collect locally on the day. The salmon gets rave reviews.
They also do some nice nibbles too, to save you a bit of work, again on the website.

Those drinks sound fab, you could maybe add a bottle of Crème de Cassis (about £7) for Kir Royal with the fizz as an alternative.

It sounds as though it will be a lovely event, your MIL is lucky to have you.

LadyMacbethWasMisunderstood Thu 09-Jan-14 06:59:56

Oh. What fantastic help overnight!


Those sausage rolls really are a must.

It's also helpful seeing things crop up that I had considered. I had thought of salmon and a lasagne but wanted to get as many ideas as possible. The fact that others are suggesting these is encouraging. The filo topped pie looks good. But I'm not sure I can make it big enough!

Tagine is inspired. Hadn't thought of that at all. I've made it before but can't remember what recipe. I'll look into it.

Like the idea of Waldorf salad. And of jacket potatoes. Small ones I think would work as suggested. Very nice.

I'm serving Winter Pimms, champagne and/or bottle green cordials. They are not a big drinking crowd so can afford 'nice' drinks.

Glad you like the name! I always wanted to play Lady Macbeth when I was at school.

I've lots of planning to do and probably a bit of 'culling' from the menu thanks to all the great suggestions.

SaltySeaBird Wed 08-Jan-14 23:13:41

Jacket potato cottage pie.

Do some small jacket potatoes, scoop out the filling and mash it, pop in some cottage pie filling and then add the mash on top. If you use smallish potatoes and cut them so you just use the ends they can be canapés.

Home made cheese straws and breadsticks are nice too with a few dips.

Mini pizzas are good if you have little guests!

Mrswellyboot Wed 08-Jan-14 23:03:59

Roast beef and a gammon sliced would go down well with more traditional guests.

Everything suggested sounds so lovely. You could still have mulled wine.

I like Waldorf salad.

Allalonenow Wed 08-Jan-14 22:48:14

If you would like some hot food, how about a beef bourguignon (for the more traditional) and a lamb tagine, fruity and spicy for the more adventurous? Both can be cooked in advance and reheated on the day, and if carefully packed in lock clip boxes will transport well. Also timing is not a problem for them as it would be with say a beef joint.
I've not got a slow cooker, but possibly they can be used to keep things warm to free up oven space? There are lots of slow cooker fans on here who could give advice.
I'd serve them with rice, use Tilda microwaveable for speed and ease, cook a series of a couple of packs at a time and transfer into a hot covered dish, and pasta, twists or bows for easy serving and eating, or prepared ahead polenta, again easy to serve and eat.

What are you having for drinks ladymacbeth?

ps Great name!

DumSpiroSperHoHoHo Wed 08-Jan-14 22:47:10

Would any of these be any good for your hot dish?

Could probably make them yourself for less, especially if you have a slow cooker (and could maybe borrow an extra one), and bung some small - medium jacket spuds in the oven.

It probably falls more into the hearty category, but my ILs are in their late 60s and love lasagne.

SilasGreenback Wed 08-Jan-14 22:46:44

This chicken and tarragon pie looks nice - the filo top maybe makes it a bit smarter than average?

You could also maybe try a whole baked salmon -whole fish always look impressive.

Tagine is also nice and a bit different to the usual casserole.

DumSpiroSperHoHoHo Wed 08-Jan-14 22:34:50

I use a packet of puff pastry, 6-8 pork sausage, 1-2 apples chopped into half cm dice, raw) a an 'average' size pack of Stilton, crumbled.

Just mix the filling ingredients together well and use to make the sausage rolls.

I did something similar to this for Christmas rather than traditional sausage rolls and that worked pretty well too if you wanted something a bit different.

LadyMacbethWasMisunderstood Wed 08-Jan-14 22:04:04

I agree there should be some hot food.

There will be 20 - 25 people and just not enough room to seat everyone at a table - though plenty of places to sit down. Mil is a young 70 and her friends are fairly young at heart and physically robust so I'm not catering for an 'elderly' group IYSWIM.

I'm thinking maybe a hot chicken dish instead of the coronation chicken then. It's not so much that they won't eat curry or chilli. More that I'm aiming for something elegant and a 'treat' rather than hearty. But a few people will be travelling over an hour and I take the point about needing hot food. I'm open to all suggestions!

SilasGreenback Wed 08-Jan-14 21:50:40

I think you need some hot food - the menu sounds lovely but very summery.

Since I assume the friends a similar age to your MIL I'm struggling a bit with hot buffet type foods, since I assume the staples of chilli or curry wouldn't be popular?

I guess roast chickens are fairly simple, in that you bung them in the oven and then ignore and maybe some roast potatoes? Or a large fish pie with potato top or a chicken and leek pie with a puff pastry lid?

I know you have previously said no to soup, but that's another simple way for hot food - is it because you don't have bowls or are expecting people to eat not at a table? Whenever I have done buffets the older generation always want to sit and eat at a table.

LadyMacbethWasMisunderstood Wed 08-Jan-14 21:48:38

Oh. Getting very excited about doing it now.

Great idea re the supermarket delivery.

Will look at halloumi tarts. And want to eat pâté and fig right now. A great combination I should think.

Those apple and Stilton sausage rolls sound luscious. Do you make them with puff or shortcrust? And is the apple diced or cooked first?

Thanks everyone.

DumSpiroSperHoHoHo Wed 08-Jan-14 21:28:24

I make sausage rolls with a mixture of pork sausage meat, finely chopped apple and Stilton - I invariably get asked by someone to make them their own personal batch every time I wheel them out!

Crusty bread and a decent selection of cheese/pate etc is nice and simple and would appeal to the more traditional guests.

Allalonenow Wed 08-Jan-14 21:18:00

Blinis are great for buffets, try with a sliver of smoked salmon a blob of sour cream or dip and lumpfish caviar, or a smooth pate (bought) with a sliver of fig or onion marmalade or gerkin on top, or egg mayonaise with a blob of caviar, or crab pate topped with a shrimp.
Most supermarkets sell packs of plastic shot glasses which you could fill with cold spicy tomato soup or borsch or watercress soup, add a drizzle of vodka or sherry or top with cream, for something a bit different.
For pudding, what about absolutely no effort mini icecream cones or choc ices, or tiny tubs, take a platter round and don't forget to give out a napkin with each one.
As you are doing the prep at your MIL's house, consider having a supermarket delivery to her house early that morning for things like ice cubes, and perishables. Also check with her about fridge and freezer space well before the date.

missmoffatt2705 Wed 08-Jan-14 20:49:11

Just saw this on another post - mimi halloumi tarts

LadyMacbethWasMisunderstood Wed 08-Jan-14 19:18:34

Thankyou all.

Definitely mini quiche as a canapé - they sound great
And smoked salmon on crackers
Lumpfish roe caviar on blinis

Coronation chicken
Potato salad
Green salad
The watermelon and feta salad.
Tomato salad
Nice bread
The sticky sausages - these sound great.

Pavlova (I've made this before loads but never thought to do it layered - that's a great idea).
Chocolate brownies.

That's my list for now. Really grateful for all the help. If you think of anything else let me know!

Bohemond Wed 08-Jan-14 18:44:31

Blinis topped with horseradish crème fraiche, smoked salmon and caviar (small black fish eggs - may not be proper Caviar: buy from Sainsburys, the Lidl one is rank!)

Cheese and a nice chutney plus biscuits is always a winner

lilolilmanchester Wed 08-Jan-14 18:40:12

I love these threads too! Here are some of my favourite buffet dishes:

Delia's Tarragon Chicken if you fancy something different to Coronation Chicken (which I love too!)

ham and potato salad with or without the asparagus

oven baked frittata - you can use peas instead of the courgettes and if you chop up into little cubes can serve on cocktail sticks as a canape

some kind of "sticky sausage" e.g.

watermelon, feta, black olive salad

Some older people prefer quite plain food so would perhaps do a plate of meats... assuming not everyone will be able to sit at a table, you can cut slices of ham into strips, roll and secure with cocktail sticks to make them easier to eat. You can also fold thin slices of eg salami into quarters and secure with sticks.

Cheese platter, fruit salad - or even just a bowl of e.g. satsumas

Will have a think about some more

missmoffatt2705 Wed 08-Jan-14 18:39:26

For dessert, a pavlova, which can be made the day before and just filled when you are ready with whipped cream and fruit. You can make it like a sandwich cake ie 2 or 3 layers of meringue to look really stunning. Brownies are better when made the day before as well - they look good piled up, in a pyramid-shaped pile. You could buy an apple/filo pastry dessert for the traditionalists.

missmoffatt2705 Wed 08-Jan-14 18:34:09

How about mini quiches made in bun tins? You cut out pastry rounds and put into tin. Leave somewhere cool, overnight if necessary. When you are ready to bake, you can make up quiche mix - eggs, cream, S&P whatever your preferred recipe. Place a 1/4 tsp of chutney in base and pour on egg mix but do not go over top of pastry. Top with some grated Parmesan. Or leave out chutney and top with slice of cherry tomato/spring onions. Or, as per Rachel Allen's 'Entertaining' book, do smoked salmon strips and dill in the egg mix. They are really quick to cook - about 15 mins - and lovely served warm.

HoneyandRum Wed 08-Jan-14 17:41:06

I always find smoked salmon goes down a treat and is super easy to prepare quickly, you can have it with horseradish on crackers or similar for canapés

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