A simple sense of occasion.

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One of my fondest memories was of my Mum and “Aunty” Fran sitting on the front verandah on a Friday evening, drinking G & T’s and treating us all to a kilo of prawns.

I enjoyed how relaxed my mum was when entertaining and how she always greeted people with a welcome drink – it’s like a big hug in a glass. I now take that same relaxed approach when I entertain. So when website Stay At Home Mum issued me a challenge to create the perfect welcome drink as part of the #madeinhouse series, I had one thought – to throw a party!

But why all the fuss about the first drink of the night? Well you know what they say about first impressions!

And according to the fella that knows a thing or two about hosting a dinner party, Masterchef’s Matt Preston, we Aussies have become a bit posh when it comes to entertaining. Over the last decade, we’ve been experimenting more, embracing flavours and becoming far more knowledgeable when it comes to food and drink.

One of the things that he noticed about the best parties he’s had or been to is the resurgence of the welcome drink and how hosts are putting as much thought into this as the rest of the night: “I’m thrilled that we’re stretching beyond beer, bubbles and wine and putting mixed drinks firmly back on the menu,” said Matt recently.

“For me, serving a spritz or cocktail as a welcome drink to my friends when they arrive, is a great way to make a casual get-together feel a little special.”

Dude…I am not going to correct you there!

For my welcome drink, I had to turn to the Queen of all things delicious for inspiration. My secret weapon….my neighbour, Mrs. Goodman.

So, challenge accepted I skipped across the road to learn some tips and tricks when it comes to posh entertaining without the drama.

Mrs. Goodman believes in one thing when it comes to entertaining; keep it simple. So we chose for our welcome drink something that was simple and reminded me of mum – the elderflower Cooler, featuring two of my favourite ingredients – Gordon’s gin and elderflower cordial.

This was the welcome drink of the century and a lovely drink for warm evenings! So delicious, it was a great option to get the night off to the perfect start. Have a go at the recipe below – I think you’ll like it!

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Elderflower Cooler starring Gordon’s London Dry Gin (Serves 1 standard drink)

Ingredients:

30ml Gordon’s London Dry Gin

20ml Elderflower cordial

Soda Water

Ice (lots of ice)

1 mint sprig

2 cucumber slices

Method:

  1. Pour 30ml Gordon’s gin over ice in a tall glass
  2. Add 20ml of elderflower cordial, one mint sprig and two cucumber slices
  3. Top with soda water and stir well

The great thing about this welcome drink is that it can be prepared a little earlier, with the ingredient (Gordon’s, elderflower cordial and soda) pre-measured in a jug (as the quantities increase so too will the number of standard drinks within the jug). You can then make them to order. Just chuck in loads of ice, mint and cucumber and serve.

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Done in thirty seconds.

But what about some nibbles to go with the drinks? Don’t worry, Mrs Goodman has you covered there! With all the welcome drink deliciousness going on, a packet of chips just isn’t going to cut the mustard. So Mrs. Goodman designed a canapé menu especially to enhance this drink. And she has agreed to share with you her most excellent recipes.

She is nice like that.
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Ingredients

250 grams Haloumi Cheese

¼ Watermelon

Olive oil

Salsa Verde

A handful of watercress

A handful of mint leaves

½ cup of garlic infused olive oil

1 anchovy fillet (She promises that you will not even know it is there, if like me you avoid the furry fish at all costs. Turns out, she was right.)

1 tablespoon of drained baby capers

1 teaspoon of black pepper

3 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar

Method

 Slice cheese into ½ cm slices

Slice watermelon into ½ slices and then into whatever shape your heart desires

Gently fry cheese in a little olive oil until brown. Place onto paper towel to drain.

Meanwhile, whack all the other ingredients into a food processor.

Layer the watermelon, haloumi and Salsa Verde and demolish. The flavor combination is genius.

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Ingredients

1 kilo peeled green prawns, tails intact.

1 cup shredded coconut

2 cups of panko crumbs

3 beaten eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

2 spring onions finely sliced

1 long red chilli, finely sliced

Method

Butterfly the prawns before sprinkling them is salt, pepper and chilli flakes.

Toss the prawns into the egg mixture and coat well.

Grab a large zip lock bag. Add the coconut and crumbs before adding the prawns.

Moosh it up until the prawns are coated.

Heat the oil in a wok before frying the prawns in batches.

Drain on paper towel.

Pile the prawns onto a plate and dress with spring onion, chilli and lime.

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Place in your mouth and repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

I could NOT get enough of these and they went perfectly with our special drink.

The elderflower cordial is amazing when combined with the Gordon’s Gin, soda, mint and cucumber. And because of the vegetables, it is almost a salad in my books.

If you’re planning on making your own welcome drink, share your special drink recipe using the hashtag #madeinhouse so I can check them out and make the yummiest ones for my mates.

And now I pass the baton, or cocktail shaker in this case, to the lovely Paula Joye to show us her best welcome drink recipe. TAG! YOU ARE IT!

Are you going to give my drink a go?

What about those prawns?

Let me know where and when using #madeinhouse, just saying…