INTERIORS

EASTER IS ALMOST HERE: LET US BE YOUR GUIDE

Cooking, travel, conversation and keeping your sanity: we have advice on it all.

April 3, 2019

Who says you have to send your blood pressure soaring to set out a satisfying Easter spread this year? Nothing much in life compares to the joy of a meal – and time – with your nearest and dearest. In such situations, formality should be as far from the table, as those you don’t like.

Whether you’re hosting, attending or just along for the ride, here is some of our best advice for making sure this year’s Easter is a good one.

Stick with us for four days of fun and freedom; the perfect antidote to the seasonal doldrums and workaholism. If you’re hosting a house party or lunch over Easter, you’ve hopefully at least sketched out who you’re inviting in a perfect world, and got a rough idea of what you’re going to cook. But this is an imperfect world, and we are imperfect people. So let’s start from the top.

Forget notebooks brimming with timelines and shopping lists, diving into the merits of various meat breeds, signature cocktails, canapés, or course-by-course wine pairings.

This year, we are having a different kind of Easter – one in which fireside relaxation supplants treks to specialty grocers and long walks in the fresh air replace hours pacing the kitchen floorboards.

We’re possessed by a reductionist spirit, drastically simplifying and reducing our culinary ambition – by using what we have to achieve maximum impact for minimal effort at home.

We’re getting smart with our holiday leave, too – there’s still time to put in a request for leave over Easter. It coincides with Anzac Day, so if you take off three days you get a delightful 10 days work-free.

How to Fake the Perfect Holiday Party

Before we even get to the cooking, let’s go over how to be a gracious and attentive host (or guest), because really, what is Easter but a casual lunch party? Here’s how to whip it all up in no time. Read more, The Last Minute Hostess: How to Fake The Perfect Holiday Party here.

DRAW ATTENTION TO YOUR HOUSE’S BEST FEATURES

Put one big arrangement of autumn berries in the entry. Whether you are planning an intimate gathering among friends or an elaborate holiday celebration, every detail in the décor helps you captivate your guests and create an experience that echoes the essence of the holiday.

GIVE YOUR FRIDGE (AND HOUSE) A DEEP CLEAN

Before the shopping and cooking even begin, deep clean your refrigerator to make room for all your Easter ingredients. The holidays tend to make special demands of our refrigerators: extra groceries, meals that require multi-day preparation, leftovers that take up room — alongside the usual things.

Here is the right way to get it done. Start by taking everything out. Yes, everything. You will be tempted to leave some things behind in the name of timesaving (“I can just clean around that box of baking soda”).  But it will be easier to take stock of what will stay and what will get thrown out because once you turn a more critical eye to your robust collection of jams and mustards when they’re out of their native environment.

NO-STRESS FOOD FOR EASY FEASTING

Create a buffet – it’s the driverless car of entertaining. It’s how we entertain. Guests help themselves to dinner or lunch, no precisely measured settings required, and when all is well programmed, the host rarely has to grab the wheel. Once guests arrive, you can keep your time in the kitchen to a minimum. Read more, ‘An Entertaining Plan To Maximise Mingling.’

WHAT’S THE PERFECT NUMBER OF DISHES TO SERVE FOR AN EASTER LUNCH?

We usually do four or five dishes and set them up on a big serving bench. A side of salmon or mushroom lasagne is great for Good Friday. Or put one thing – like a lamb shoulder, in the oven and forget about it for Easter Sunday.  To go with it, we make a leafy green salad, roasted mixed vegetables (cauliflower, kumara, zucchini), a warm potato salad tossed with dijonaisse dressing and a loaf of sourdough to mop up the juices.

Occasionally my husband wants to try something new and I’ll say “No” because I think reputation is repetition.

His favourite dish is pasta forno, so it’s a tradition to make sure we always have it. A simple pear tart or apple cake, are our usual choices for pudding. Served with vanilla ice cream, then coffee. Read more, ‘4 Secrets to Throwing the Best Holiday Party here.’

MELISSA PENFOLD EASTER 2019 STORY

Getting ready for Easter at Melissa Penfold’s country house. Photo: Annabelle Hickson.

RULES OF THE HOUSE PARTY

Fortunately, many of us have fabulous friends who want to share their stunning country houses and beach pads with us at this time of year. We are, after all, civilised beings. Read more, ‘How to be Better at House Parties’. The secret is you really only must provide the wind that fills the sails of a ship called fun. You must help your host to make the other guests happier – with whatever it takes. Read more, ‘How to be the Perfect House Guest’; and ’23 Rules of The House Party.’

After all, a good guest is rarer than a good hostess.

WHAT YOUR HOUSE GIFT SAYS ABOUT YOU 

A jar of homemade marmalade just won’t cut it anymore. When you think what goes into providing a bells-and-whistles long weekend for thirsty and hungry friends, a pot of homemade chutney isn’t really enough if you want to make the guest list again. It’s time to up your game, but there’s a fine line before it all gets a bit OTT. Discover the hostess gifts that strike the right note every time. Make sure you read ‘What Your House Gift Says About You’ and, ’15 Gifts to Make Your Hostess Smile.’

MELISSA PENFOLD EASTER 2019

Easter at Melissa Penfold’s Country House. Photo: Elise Hassey.

EASTER ESSENTIALS YOU’LL ACTUALLY USE ALL YEAR ROUND

The Easter long weekend has long been synonymous with getting away. More often than not, this is the time of year where we find ourselves retreating from the bustle of everyday life, indulging in fine wine, big books, warmth, flickering fires, layers that soften, rough-hewn textures, and good food. Discover great ideas for setting a simpler table to elevate your Easter. Read more, ‘Easter Essentials You’ll Actually Use All Year Round.’

EXTRA SEATING

Make sure you’re ready for any number of guests to descend by investing in simple foldaway furniture. Try Bunning’s foldable tables, $54 a pop. You can quickly set the tables up outdoors, or in the hallway, and throw a few meters of cheery fabric over them. Instant extra seating for 30. We have a couple of these tables in the garage.

MELISSA PENFOLD 2019 EASTER STORY

Easter at Melissa Penfold’s Country House where large bowls and trays of fruit on the table are placed in close proximity to create a sense of generosity. Nothing feels too precious – people should feel totally relaxed. Photo: Elise Hassey.

TABLE SETTINGS 

We like natural materials from wood to stoneware and rattan.  Large platters of vegetables on the table give the wow factor and by placing them in close proximity you create a sense of generosity. We never want the food or the setting to feel too precious – people should feel totally relaxed. Our food and home aren’t manicured or pristine,  stains on the table contribute to the atmosphere.

Our tables settings are a banquet for the senses yet easy to pull together. They include things we have in our cupboards – from marble bowls to baskets, trays, and stands – abundantly piled with linen, in different shades of grey, white and stone.

Bring some casual grandeur to your table with luxurious textured pieces.

EASY AND AFFORDABLE EASTER UPDATES

Whether you’ve grown weary of your dinnerware or are looking to establish a collection of entertaining staples for the first time, Easter is the ideal time to update your glassware, china, and cutlery, so they can become your everyday wear, too. Here’s how to set an Instagram-worthy Easter table that doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive – Easy and Affordable Ways to Class up a Dinner Party.

EASTER IN THREE HOURS OR LESS

Time to cook. Here it is, the master guide on everything you’ll need to know to make your Easter a success. From planning your menu and going shopping, to setting the table and serving the perfect dessert this sum of all entertaining knowledge will get you through the long weekend. Read more, ‘4 Secrets to Throwing the Best Holiday Party.’

EASTER CHECKLIST

This is your checklist for an easy Easter party that you can throw together in no time at all. Plan your menu, keeping in mind what ingredients are in season and what can be prepared a day before the party. Think about how you’ll want your dishes to look when served, and be sure to include any special serving tools, plates or garnishes you’ll need to create.

Prepare as much of the food as possible, including dessert.

Pick up flowers or grab leaves from the garden and put them in vases. Clean up your home, especially areas where guests will be (the dining room, living room, and bathroom) and be sure the trash and the dishwasher are empty for the next day.

MELISSA PENFOLD EASTER 2019 STORY

Easter is the ideal time to update your china so it can become your everyday staples. Image via Zara Home 2019.

THE CLASSICS

Here we are, this is the good stuff. Stick to classic, easy recipes that are the bread and butter of any successful lunch or dinner, that you can use as a guide to building on for your Good Friday or Easter Sunday menu. Nothing beats a couple of perfectly roasted chickens or a filet of beef. A whole salmon or a butterflied leg of lamb with Indian pickles are always winners.  Serve with a salad of roasted cauliflower, pomegranates, and hazelnuts. And a bowl of arugula, red onions and walnuts. To finish there is nothing wrong with cheating – as long as your store-bought pastry is a stunner. The French have been doing it for decades. Keeping your menu humble is far more stylish than slaving to concoct a 5-course masterpiece that will leave you exhausted and your guests overfed and conscience stricken at how much work you’ve done.

THE SEATING PLAN

It is difficult to get right. It’s quite a good idea to seat people with people they actually like, even if they see each other all the time. I think people like going to a party and sitting with people they already know and love. It gives them a sense of security.

THE BEST HOT CROSS BUNS IN SYDNEY AND MELBOURNE

Black Star Pastry In addition to filling the hot cross buns at Black Star with big, juicey sultanas, raisins, spices and chunks of orange peel, plus a Frankincense glaze. The infused sugar syrup gives the buns a glossy coat that soaks into the dough adding an extra perfumed kick. Plus, they are vegan. 277 Australia St, Newtown NSW 2042.

Sonoma Bakery Cafe At Sonoma outlets across Sydney their Easter offering is all about French curves, with buns marked with an ‘S’ instead of an ‘X’. Expect sweet little spiced buns that are light and airy with only a limited amount of peel. Plus cranberries extra kick. 10/178 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach NSW 2026.

Bourke Street Bakery Do you like raisin toast? Bourke Street Bakery’s hot cross loaf has you covered. It’s either a compact loaf or a monster-sized bun, depending on how you look at it, and comes densely packed with dried fruit and peel. 633 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010.

Flour and Stone There’s a rustic Quality to Nadine Ingram’s hot cross buns, which are still sweet and spicy which are aren’t intensely fruity, with small raisins and peel small. 53 Riley St, Woolloomooloo NSW 2011.

David Jones The upmarket department store is making their own hot cross buns. A pack of six will set you back $11.95 – six sticky, fruit-heavy, preservative-free buns that have a gratifying weightiness to them. www.davidjones.com.au

AFTER THE MEAL

Success! You’re on your way to a great Easter (or eating your way through one) – don’t miss our last-minute guide to what to give in our upcoming newsletter on Thursday, April 18. Happy Easter to all.

MELISSA PENFOLD EASTER 2019 STORY

Easter at Melissa Penfold’s Country House. Photo: Elise Hassey.

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