Road to Rio South of the Border Inspired Summer Party
To celebrate this years Rio Olympics (and our rapidly rising medal count!) on Saturday night I threw my annual summer party in the conservatory for my old school friends and assorted parents, boyfriends and girlfriends, and we went to Rio (at least for the evening!) Inspired by this meal I had at the beginning of the summer at Cabana, and their brilliant cookbook, I cooked up a feast of their Brazilian and my own Mexican recipes for everyone to help themselves surrounded by a festival of colour as the sun went down.
Usually when people arrive I just hand them a glass of fizz, but this year I decided to build a tabletop, impromptu bar where I could serve up some of my favourite lime juice and white spirit South American classics: the Mexican Margarita, Cuban Mojito and the Brazilian Caipirina to order.
The slate cocktail menu was really easy to make. There are loads of mini wooden easel options on Amazon, and you can pick up slates at some of the bigger home improvement stores. I printed the font I wanted out, and used a sharp knife on a chopping board to cut the letters out to make a stencil. I traced the stencilled letters out with a pencil, and then filled them in with a metallic silver marker. I painted the drinks choices on with watercolours (the thicker kind out of a tube, rather than paintbox colours where you add water to solid colours) so that I can wash them off and reuse the sign at a later date.
While I was mixing up everyones drinks and we got the barbecue going, I put out a platter of Coxinhas with a chilli mayo for dipping. Coxinha means ‘little drumstick’ which explains their shape, and they’re little fried bites of chilli and onion flavoured mashed potato and shredded chicken. Everyone really enjoyed them and I received several recipe requests (I’m going to throw these up on the blog at some point). The recipe came from the Cabana book, but I made my own quick chilli mayo to make things a little more dinner party friendly (and because the chilli mayo is literally the only thing I have made from the book that has not worked).
I prepared two different marinated barbecue plates to bring to the table on platters. No Brazilian feast would be complete without the nations famous Spicy Malagueta Chicken (we loved the recipe from the book, but to be honest Marks & Spencer are selling a great one as part of their ‘Spirit of Summer’ range this summer), and ready to be sliced for sharing we barbecued a load of steaks, marinated overnight in my homemade fajita mix (basically the spices, the oil and the lime juice), which worked absolutely fantastically.
As far as sides, I made up a big casserole dish of Cabana’s black beans which are simply divine, a bowl of my Purple Cabbage Slaw with Cucumber and Dill, a big bowl of guacamole pimped up with a splash of tequila and a generous topping of crunchy, savoury cocoa nibs (which everyone loved tossed over the creamy guac), and a couple of bowls of homemade Pico de Gallo Salsa made from our home grown tomatoes.
I went a bit out there with the decorations this year. I already owned a whole load of brightly coloured plates, dishes and table mats, and my mother who is fantastic at flower arranging broke down a bright £5 bunch I picked up the day before in Sainsbury’s into these stunning mini arrangements to dot up and down the table. I sourced the brightly coloured mini pillar candles and the flamingo drinks stirrers from Tiger, and the bright paper baubles I suspended from the ceiling were another bargain Amazon find.
Something else a little special for the table I sourced some fitas from eBay. Fitas are traditional Brazilian, brightly coloured wish ribbons stamped with the words ‘lembranca do Senhour do Bonifirm’, which means ‘souvenir of Our Lord of the Good End’. With roots in Catholicism and traditional African religions in 19th century Brazil, supposedly if you tie the ribbon around your wrist with three knots, and if you throw it into running water when it falls off, the wish you made when you tied the knots will come true!
At the beginning of the summer we treated ourselves to one of the big Kilner jars with a tap that I’ve wanted ever since I went through Sorority rush at UCLA in 2012 and each house had made a different fruit infused water in them. So far I’ve put it out full of lemons, mint, water and ice for a dinner party (so much better than a heavy water jug in the middle of the table), and for the party I made up a double batch (a big watermelons worth) of Watermelon, Cucumber and Lime Agua Fresca from Design Love Fest.
For dessert we headed to the Caribbean with this Fresh Coconut Cream Cake. I made it in two layers rather than four because it was easier, and it was bloody delicious served alongside some fresh strawberries and blueberries. However, I feel I have to put a disclaimer in here: I will never make this cake again. It was lovely, and everyone enjoyed it, but I never want to go through the hassle of grating that much fresh coconut again!
After we’d cleared away the plates I set about making everyone tea, coffee and pots of fresh mint tea, and carried our a few plates of what has to be my favourite recipe from the whole party: Brigadeiros. These Brazilian chocolate truffles made with condensed milk, cocoa and butter, rolled in chocolate vermicelli are little rich bites of glory, and so much easier to handle than you’re average cream truffle. Yes you have to stir the mixture for 15 minutes, but it is strong enough that you can roll the mixture into balls with your fingers. I’ll be making them again next time I have a dinner party, and sharing the recipe here at some point too.
I think this has to be my absolute favourite of my summer parties I have thrown so far since I started the tradition five years ago. Everything was so bright and colourful, and I really enjoyed learning all about Brazilian food as I researched the menu. Also, I hope I have given you a few ideas if you’re thinking of entertaining during the upcoming Bank Holiday weekend!