Top ten dishes / drinks for a Jubilympic summer party – and how to put your own special spin on them

Polly Betton’s top ten dishes / drinks for a British summer party – and advice on how to put your own special spin on them.

1. Gin and tonic

The gin and tonic is a quintessentially English drink. Make your version memorable by infusing the gin with rosemary. Simply add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary to your bottle of gin and leave in a cool, dark space for 3-5 days, shaking occasionally. Strain through a sieve lined with a clean tea towel, re-bottle and it’s ready to serve with Schweppes tonic over ice, garnished with a long sprig of rosemary. For a non-alcoholic alternative try a cranberry limeade – cranberry juice, lime cordial, Angostura bitters and tonic water.

2. A royal spread

Use traditional decorative sandwich making techniques to give your sandwiches a Jubilee twist. Cut rye bread slices into crown shapes with cookie cutters, then top to make an open sandwich. Or use a rolling pin to flatten a slice of bread, add toppings, roll up into a tube shape and slice to create mini-pinwheels, which can be arranged around the plate like a string of pearls.

3. English country garden

Give your cakes a touch of the great outdoors by decorating them with edible flowers. Guides to which flowers are edible (for example, nasturtiums) can be found online. NB: only eat flowers you’ve grown without chemicals, if you don’t have access to any, edible flowers can be ordered online. Don’t use flowers from florists or garden centres because they won’t be suitable for consumption.

4. Punch bowl

There are lots of recipes available online for punches to suit all seasons, of varying degrees of complexity. Personally, I think that a good summer punch is light, sparkling and perfect for a warm summer’s day. Thus a favourite of mine is a simple mix of 1 bottle of gin, 2 litres of Schweppes ginger beer, the juice of 10 limes, a good few dashes of Angostura bitters (to taste) and a handful of lightly crushed mint sprigs. Pour into your punchbowl, stir a little, garnish with more mint and lime wedges and serve over ice with red and white striped paper straws (also available online). This is equally as delicious without the gin to create a great sophisticated soft drink for a summer garden party.

5. Cucumber cups

Cucumber is de rigeur at any self-respecting British summer party, but that doesn’t mean that it has to appear in a sandwich. Cucumber cups filled with cucumber and mint soup are a wonderful summery alternative. Simply peel a cucumber, slice into thick chunks and hollow out the centres to form mini cups. Blitz together a peeled, seeded cucumber, 240ml water, 240ml sour cream, a handful each of mint and basil, a pinch of salt and a big squeeze of lemon juice (to taste) until nearly smooth. Pour into the mini cups and top with a tiny mint leaf.

6. Iced tea

There are lots of tea recipes online, and it’s great fun to spend an afternoon testing your own variations using different teas. Start with a mixture of chilled black tea, Schweppes soda water over ice with a squeeze of lime and experiment from there. If you want, you can add vodka in 3 (tea) :2 (soda water) :1 (vodka) proportions.

7. Garden herb hummus

Continuing on the garden theme, adding garden herbs to homemade hummus gives a wonderful summery twist to this party staple. Hummus is very easy to make – just blitz together a couple of tins of chickpeas, half the fluid from one of the tins, the juice of two lemons a few big dollops of tahini, a couple of cloves of garlic and season (to taste). Then add a few handfuls of any garden herbs you have available and blitz again. Serve the vibrant green dip with fingers of rye bread for a good colour contrast.

8. Fresh fruit kebabs

This is a very pretty way to serve fresh summer berries to your guests, with the added benefit of avoiding the need for plates and/or cutlery. All you need is a pack of bamboo skewers and a selection of reasonably large berries. Thread the berries onto the skewers, stack into an impressive display and they’re ready to serve. For an extra aesthetic touch, before threading your fruit, carefully wrap and glue a few thin red, white and blue ribbons to the end of your skewers.

9. Ice lollies with a twist

For plain ice lollies, simply make up your favourite fruity cocktail mixer (with a dash of your favourite tipple if you fancy), pour into lolly moulds and freeze as usual. For a more interesting option, make up a couple of well matched cocktails, and layer them with flavoured yoghurt and fruit puree by pouring a small amount of one mixture into your moulds, waiting until frozen then pouring in another layer of something else. Repeat until the moulds are full. Once frozen, remove from the moulds and serve the pretty, stripy ices to your grateful guests.

10. Jelly jewels

Upgrade the humble jelly to something worthy of Royalty with the help of a candy jewel mould (available online). Simply make up jelly as directed on the packet, pour into the candy mould and set in the fridge. Once they’re ready, turn out and arrange in a pretty display on transparent glass saucers so that the light can pass through them.

Here is Polly’s excellent video where she talkes these dishes / drinks through.

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