It’s Mark’s 75th birthday today so last weekend we had a Daniel family party at home catered by Rotiwala, Southall. They fed us five years ago for Mark’s 70th at Ealing Town Hall where we had a much bigger gathering. That time we had a bar service and crockery and cutlery so we didn’t have to worry about washing up. This time, the birthday boy had to wash up all the serving dishes and crocks the morning after. We had so much food left over that the guests took lots home in tupperware I asked them to bring just in case, and even the neighbours were drafted to mop up the never-ending supply of kebabs, paneer, and salad. We were still eating leftover dhal by the middle of the next week!
For 15 adults and 3 children I ordered:
Hara Bhara Kebabs
Chicken Haka Noodles
Tomato and Cucumber Raita
Fresh cut fruit
The process of ordering was good fun thinking about what would be a nice spread and enjoyable for carnivores, veggies, vegans, gluten intolerants and those with nut allergies! Indian food is perfect for everyone. I asked for the noodles to be mild (but they ended up being a bit too spicy for the kids). Nevertheless, there was lashings of naan, rice, salad, kebabs etc so no-one went hungry. Mark’s favourite curry is Chicken Tikka Masala but I thought the Butter Chicken would be fancier for a party. I prefer spicy lamb curries and garlicky dhals but wasn’t sure if the non-Asians in the group would cope with anything too spicy or bold. Because it would have been difficult to keep cold and fresh, I had to go without my preferred starter: Papri or Aloo Tikki Chaat. I hope someone’s taking notes for my ‘surprise’ 50th in 7 years time!
Planning drinks was a bit of a stab in the dark – we wanted to have lunch early so that Mark and his son could go to Chelsea for the big afternoon game so I knew we didn’t need much wine or hard stuff. In the morning of the party, I filled one of those big rubber buckets with ice and cooled about 30 lagers, 10 ciders and a few ales, and I put some Prosecco in the fridge. I also had a few bottles of red wine in case I didn’t fancy beer on the day (I did as it happens). I also got some nice flavoured tonic waters to go with a bottle of gin, had Pimms and other spirits on hand with a few bottles of fizzy pop, soda water and plain slimline tonic. Mark likes sparkling elderflower and Pip wanted me to get some pink lemonade and mint for the kids so they didn’t miss out on the fancy cocktails. I probably didn’t need anything more but chucked in a few boxes of different San Pellegrino flavours to balance the alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Guests arrived from 11am and we ate at around 1pm. The delivery was very professional: all it took was one guy to set up the chafing dishes on the dining table (serving dishes resting inside shallow dishes of water heated from beneath), light the fuel canisters to keep the food hot, lay out the serving spoons, food labels, salads, and chutneys (another table would have been great for this) before bringing in the hot food from his special delivery van. He arrived at about 12.15pm and we waited for the food to be piping hot before we all tucked in. Jeff’s friend Robin – the only other Indian in the room – joked that he looked like he was one of the cooks! (A dodgy waiter at best…)
I was concerned that there wouldn’t be much space to sit and eat a full meal but the dining chairs around the room and the living room sofas and armchairs were ample for the size of the group. The sun came out just after we’d eaten so we dashed out for a group photo, realising too late that some of the tallies in the back were hidden from view!
If I would do it again, I would have insisted people ate more or I should have ordered less food. I remember from my first jobs as a silver-service waitress and then a cook at a health club that catering is a process of simple economics. Whatever the sum of people, you cater for about a quarter of them, not for each individual person. It’s not an exact science but it definitely works! Why didn’t I do this last weekend? I literally ordered for 15 people so therefore I was feeding approximately 60! Definitely at least 30 anyway.
There was fresh fruit but Pip, baker extraordinaire, supplied the toadstool cupcakes.
Mark’s sister brought dozens of daffodil bulbs and decorated the house while we were setting up. Throughout the week they have been blooming and filling the house with joy.
I have also remembered too late that I was planning a speech to remember our parents, none of whom are alive to be with us for these special occasions. I had the group picture printed and framed so it now hangs on the wall next to other gang photos, memories of our separate and combined families together again in one collection of misfits and weirdos, old and young. Mark says we could have dusted them off and brought them down from the kitchen cupboards so they could join the party…
Today, Sunday, the three of us have enjoyed a German style breakfast, presents, Pip’s homemade fruitcake, calls with family and friends and now the possibility of a late afternoon stroll. Mark has requested bangers and mash for dinner (although there’s actually some curry still left in the fridge!)
Happy birthday Mark!