Ask the Past: Midwinter party

Can you suggest some good recipes for a midwinter party? I'm going to turn the heaters all the way up and pretend it's summer.

For a summery midwinter party, I am going to suggest a menu that's heavy on fruit and light on cooking. Pretend that it's summer for real, and that it's too hot to spend too much time slaving over a hot stove. Why not start with this recipe for Chinese Gooseberry and Cheese Cocktail from the Hostess Cookbook?

Ingredients: Chinese gooseberries; cheese; sugar; cream or evaporated milk.

Fill 6 cocktail glasses two-thirds full with sliced Chinese gooseberries. Grate 4 oz. cheese and add to it 2 tsp. sugar and 3 tbsp. cream or evaporated milk. Season with a little salt and pepper. Place on top of the gooseberries and top with a ring of gooseberry. Serve chilled if possible.

Four bright green slices of kiwifruit on a white background
Chinese gooseberries

Once your guests have settled in and got through their welcoming cocktails, move on to this Tropic Slaw from the Hostess Cookbook. There are a lot of ingredients, but fortunately most of the ones that are genuinely difficult to find in the winter are optional.

Ingredients: Heart of cabbage; bananas; dates; nuts; celery (optional); Chinese gooseberries (optional); watermelon (optional); egg (optional); Brussels sprouts (optional); mayonnaise.

Shred finely enough heart of young cabbage to make 2 cups. Place in a bowl and add 2 sliced bananas, 1/2 cup chopped stoned dates, and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts - chopped peanuts are excellent. Finely chopped celery and Chinese gooseberries, skinned and diced, may be added. Toss with about 2 tbsp salad dressing and serve either in a salad bowl or in individual dishes. It may be sprinkled with chopped watermelon or chopped hard-cooked egg.

Note: If preferred, grated Brussels sprouts and torn or shredded lettuce may replace the cabbage.

If the Tropic Slaw sounds tasty but a bit fussy, this recipe for Hungarian Salad from The Boston Cooking School Cookbook will give you a similar look with a lot less chopping:

Mix equal parts shredded fresh pineapple, bananas cut in pieces, and sections of tangerines, and marinate with French dressing. Fill banana skins with mixture, sprinkle generously with paprika, and arrange on lettuce leaves.

Cold dishes are really the most summery ones, but if you do want to serve something hot, try this recipe for Curried Peaches en Casserole from The Kookaburra Cookery Book:

Put an ounce of butter in a casserole, melt it, then add half an ounce of flour, and half an ounce of curry powder. Mix it and let slightly colour, put in a pint of milk and water, let it come to the boil and then simmer, when put in stoned and peeled peaches, half a dozen, having halved them. Simmer them, after adding a little paprika or any pepper preferred, and a little salt, for 20 minutes to half an hour, according to the size of the peaches. Serve in casserole with rice separate, or empty into entree dish and put border of boiled rice.

Bananas may be done in the same way, also mushrooms, but to these one or two thin strips of onions fried first in the butter is an improvement.

To finish up, you really want a gelatine dessert. It would be impossible to choose the best one for a party like this, but this Sunflower recipe from Lady Hackett's Household Guide sounds like it would be very cheerful.

Take five sheets of gelatine soaked for two hours, and two large cups of water, and three tablespoonfuls of coffee essence, few drops vanilla, and sugar to taste, and make into a jelly; put in a wide basin to set; when cold, turn out on a flat dish. Place sponge fingers around, iced with yellow icing (for which use yolkaline), and stick blanched almonds in the jelly to look like a sunflower.

I'm sure that will help.

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