How To: Entertaining 101

How To: Entertaining 101

Approximately two weekends ago I hosted a lunch for my Mother’s birthday. I ran a poll on instagram to see if you were interested in just the recipes only or wanted to know more about the process, how I plan my menu, control my budget etc. It ended up being a really long post but I hope you find it useful, especially if you’re just starting out.


When it comes to my parents birthdays, ideas for presents start dwindling after giving the usual pyjamas, hand creams, mugs/ tea time paraphernalia (we really like tea), socks (happy socks for Dad) – you know these gifts. They were as boring to buy as I’m sure my parents felt receiving them. After all they used to tell me they didn’t need gifts because they have everything (Awwwwww). Hence the dinner party for birthdays was born. Instead of giving a totally norm core gift, I would plan a menu of things they hadn’t eaten before, food that was deemed “special occasion”. A full three course meal including dessert.

While I am in charge of the food, Kashif is in charge of setting the table and decor, finding suitable entertainment and just being the social butterfly that he is.

My top tips for planning a birthday party:

  • It’s not about you
  • Quality over quantity
  • Make them feel special! (this doesn’t cost a thing)


When it comes to the menu I usually start with one or two ingredients and build around that. The whole point is to make sure that whoever’s birthday it is on that day has been thought about. What does this person like? What will they enjoy eating? A few years ago for my Dad’s birthday, I wanted to make a dish with beef fillet. In my world I would have made a beef wellington but I wasn’t sure if my parents would have enjoyed that and I know he really likes creamed spinach and butternut, thus that was what I decided.

For my Mum’s birthday this year I knew I wanted to make grilled peri peri prawns, but just prawns alone would have been boring. So I went with a surf and turf theme and drew inspiration from NV-80’s menu. For starters we had beef trinchado, made from beef fillet that I bought from Woolworths. Most stores in Cape Town have a butchery section and you can buy per weight. I bought two small pieces of beef fillet with a total weight of +/- 400g for approximately R100. Trinchado is a Portuguese dish of beef cubes and because I had two other proteins I could get away with buying a small amount.

For my main course I served peri-peri prawns which I bought from Food Lover’s Market. I purchased 700g (2x350g) for R100. I was lucky to get these when they were on special and they are really good quality prawns. I also bought 3x baby hake from Pick ‘n Pay and the prices varied from R6.00 – R10. Crazy I know. My starch was stir fried vegetable rice and for dessert I made hot cross bun pudding with orange blossom water and served it with Woolies Vanilla Custard and cardamom tea. My original idea for dessert was to buy something from Woolworths (a Self-Saucing Pudding R59.99), then I walked past the hot cross buns and remembered this pudding I made for Easter and promptly put that ready made dessert back!

Luckily I did not have to buy every single ingredient I needed because the recipes I came up with used ingredients from my fridge/freezer/ pantry of dry ingredients. I find this can save you a lot of money as you are not buying ingredients that you are only going to use once off. Another point to note is I hate recipes which use an excess of spices and ready made sauces. Most of these are unnecessary and end up hiding the natural flavour of the food. I always try to have a balance between food that is spicy and food that is unnecessarily spiced. You will be able to see in the recipes below that they are incredibly easy to make and do not require a lot of ingredients.

My top tips for budget control would be:

  • Shop around
  • Don’t buy every single ingredient a recipe asks for (unless its utmost important)
  • Ready made sauces are unnecessary
  • Use ingredients that you have at home
  • Don’t overbuy, buy what you need
  • Your eyes are always bigger than your stomach.


I started preparing the food in the morning, lunch was supposed to be served at 13:30. I defrosted and cleaned my prawns, defrosted my fish, cut my meat into cubes and soaked my bread pudding. I marinated everything and kept them aside until I needed them.

When it comes to time management work backwards from when you want to serve your meal. You should have some idea of how long it will take you to prepare everything (if you have made it before) give yourself extra time if they are new dishes. I started at 11:00am which was plenty of time. Nothing ever goes perfectly and I get thrown a curveball too every now and again. For example; I assumed the fish was completely cleaned before I marinated it. When I looked closely I discovered there were very tiny fins running down the hake. I was always taught to prepare food so that there is no work left for the guest to do. So I had to go back and make sure all of them were actually cleaned properly. I only started cooking my proteins before my parents left their house to walk to mine, I did not want to reheat or overcook my proteins as they are easily overcooked.

My top tips for time management:

  • Work backwards
  • Prepare as much as you can before hand
  • If you are not confident in the kitchen, make things you know
  • Use the skills of the butcher or fishmonger to clean meat and fish if you don’t know how
  • If you prefer to cook something completely beforehand choose dishes that work well with this (goes back to 2 &3)


Beef Trinchado


  • cubed beef fillet
  • salt and pepper
  • cayenne pepper/paprika
  • pouring cream
  • oil for cooking


  1. Season meat with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper or paprika, drizzle with olive oil before cooking.
  2. Heat up a large frying pan – dry – without any oil.
  3. Place pieces of beef into pan and seal on 2 – 3 sides. The beef fillet will cook quickly and you want to serve it at medium.
  4. Once the sides are brown, add the pouring cream and reduce. You can also take the meat out of the pan at this stage if you are worried about overcooking them and add them back in once the cream is reduced.
  5. Serve immediately.

Peri-Peri Prawns


  • de-veined prawns, head, legs off, tail and shell on
  • peri-peri oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 lemon
  • red chilli flakes
  • cayenne pepper/ paprika
  • coriander, for garnish


  1. Add the above ingredients to your prawns and marinate before cooking. I like to be generous with the peri-peri oil and do not add more oil during cooking.
  2. The salt, chilli flakes, cayenne pepper or paprika are to your own taste. Remember, cayenne pepper is much hotter than paprika so use sparingly.
  3. Heat up a dry pan and cook prawns on either side until cooked. Do not waste the “marinade/masala” and cook all of it too.
  4. Once the prawns are cooked garnish with coriander and serve immediately.

Baby Hake with Green Masala


  • 1 – 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp green chillies (ground) or more depending on heat
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • flour for coating
  • oil for cooking
  • butter & more lemon juice for a “sauce”


  1. Add garlic, salt, green chillies and lemon juice to a big bowl and marinade fish.
  2. Heat a large frying pan – dry – then add oil just before cooking.
  3. Coat each piece of fish in flour on both sides, then fry in oil until lightly golden brown.
  4. Again, don’t waste the marinade, pour whatever is left into the empty pan and add a few knobs of butter and a squeeze of lemon, swirl the pan around a few times so you get all the knobbly cooked bits.
  5. Place the cooked fish in a platter, pour the “sauce” you made over and top with crispy julienne chips.
  6. Garnish with coriander and serve immediately.


Hot Cross Bun Pudding with Orange Blossom Water

The original recipe made individual ones, I used 6x hot cross buns for this dessert with 1 cup of milk, 1 egg, 2 tsp of orange blossom water and a dash of cinnamon for the liquid.

Stir Fried Veggies with Rice


  • 1 cup of Bimrie rice, cooked and drained
  • Various veggies of your choice
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely sliced
  • 1/2 tsp ground green chilli
  • salt to taste


  1. Saute the onion in ghee/butter/oil. Add the garlic and green chilli then the vegetables of your choice. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes and add to rice. Season to taste.
  2. Steam the rice/veggies for 4 – 5 minutes before serving.
  3. Add chopped coriander.



I hope you enjoyed this post, I know it was a long one but leave me your feedback in the comments and let me know what you like doing for your loved ones.


Ilhaam a.k.a The Wife 

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