Catering for a Celtic Birthday Party

I was tempted to call this post,”Let the Winds Blow High”, as most of the ‘lads’ were keen to get kilted up for the Celtic birthday party.  Prior to the event, there was much talk about free- balling it, always a wonderful tease for the ladies. Sadly these were vain threats, tales “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. There were no Bravehearts on the day.

Getting kilted up.
Getting kilted up. Promises, Promises!

The anticipation of a themed party is as much fun as the event itself. The opportunity shops ( charity shops) were thoroughly scoured in the weeks leading up to the party, in search of kilts, tartan cloth, scarves and rugs, green clothing, Celtic knotted jewellery, Scottish bonnets and hats, and anything quirkily Celtic. It’s amazing what you can find. I wanted to come as Grace O’Malley ( Gráinne Ní Mháille ),¹ my Irish heroine, or wear a T-shirt printed with the label, “If lost, return to Jamie Fraser”, but the latter, with its Outlander reference, would have been lost on all the other party goers.

Irish Yoga
Irish Yoga T- shirt.

Our Celtic party happily coincided with the weeks leading up to St Patrick’s Day so the local $2 shops provided green kitsch galore. Online shops are a great source for Scottish flags and hanging four leaf clover strings. And red wigs were popular too.

Lassie draped in Scottish flag

Decor and dress ups were the easy part of the theme. The finger food proved far more difficult, especially given the balmy afternoon, the lack of good cooking facilities, and the general preference for Celtic style drinking on the day. I had planned to cook up some local Mt Martha mussels and stuff them with spinach, cheese and crumbs as my token nod to Brittany, but the day just disappeared. The Cornish Celts were represented with some mini Cornish pasties that I made before the event, based on this recipe. Other finger foods came in the form of sausage rolls and filled pastries. My sister whipped up some potato pancakes topped with smoked salmon, a fitting cross -Celtic food. Green coloured cocktails were popular, say no more!

Picture file below can be opened separately for a costume and decor guide to a Celtic themed party.


The Winter of Our Content

As June creeps toward winter solstice and the day’s light compresses at both ends, I consider the good fortune we have had to date. No ‘wrathful nipping cold’ or visits from ‘the secret ministry of frost’ so far. No howling winds straight from Antarctica, winds that rattle the rafters and provoke dark insanity. The Black Dog month of August is still a distant thought. No long, damp windless weeks where the fog refuses to lift and the cold wet air rising from the Diamond Creek invades old bones. No, we have been lucky so far.

Oak Trees along the driveway slowly shed their leaves.
Oak Trees along the driveway slowly shed their leaves.

I do really like many aspects of winter, the guiltless indulgence of reading in a sunny window or collecting kindling for slow combustion fires.  Or looking forward to watching a repeat of a Danish Drama Series in front of the fire, cosy hand knitted blankets strewn about for extra warmth. Big bowls of soup, puddings and cream, parsnips and swedes, slow cooked Indian black lentils, smokey chowder and good bread. Baking. There is a lot to like.

Only in winter, the little red robin visits.
Only in winter, the little Scarlet Robin visits.

Only in winter does the tiny Red- capped Robin flit about the garden, its shocking red breast startling those behind glass windows. The Petroicidae are not closely related to either the European or American robins although they do go by the familiar name of red robin.

King Parrots
King Parrots

The King Parrots have remembered us, encouraged by a handful of sunflower seeds on a ledge. Sociable and noisy, they don’t mind you getting close.

Mother Kangaroo and Joey
Mother Kangaroo and Joey

Unlike the King parrots, the kangas keep a respectable distance, even though this young grey kangaroo appears to be posing with her joey for the shot. The birds and kangaroos draw us outside. On clement winter days, when the sun lights up the back paddocks, the kangas behave just like humans and enjoy sunbaking. My winter pastie dreaming finally came to fruition, thanks to Beck who, with this link, inspired a Cornish method of making pastry. Only in winter do these deep cultural yearnings for pasties resurface, like a Cornish miner returning from the tin mines.

Vegetarian Cornish Pasties.
Vegetarian Cornish Pasties.

Cornish pasties are not supposed to contain carrots, must be D-shaped and be filled within Cornwall, according to an EU document! I’m thinking about Mr Tranquillo’s great great-grandfather who died down one of those Cornish tin mines. He probably took a pastie to work. So, bad luck Cornish cousins, mine have carrots, no meat, are filled in Australia but are crimped and taste pretty good. Winter is a time to make Crostata. There is always plenty of jam to use up. A little sweet hit goes down well after wood gathering or fencing. Crostata with Mirabella Plum Jam and Almonds Salads of young winter leaves and herbs make a refreshing contrast to heavy winter dishes.

Winter Herbs and Leaves,
Winter Herbs and Salad Leaves.

A winter’s hearth is a great spot for warming rolled out pizza dough, then eating the lovely thing by the fire.

Pizza on the Hearth
Pizza on the Hearth