Bonnie May’s top tips to wow your guests this party season

PUBLISHED: 11:32 08 December 2014 | UPDATED: 11:32 08 December 2014

Christmas pudding and sparkling fire

Christmas pudding and sparkling fire


It’s time to party with our new writer, so get ready for glitz, glamour and foodie fun as she reveals how to wow your guests

About Bonnie

Bonnie May has over 25 years’ experience working in the events industry, feeding many of the biggest names in show business and providing event design, logistics and catering support at functions around the world including Royal weddings and Olympic Games. Now the international events guru, who has launched a dynamic new enterprise closer to home, Bonnie May Events, is writing a brilliant new column for Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life, in which she will share great seasonal recipes and inspirational party ideas with readers.

Says Bonnie: “I’ve been privileged to cater some of the greatest names in the music business and to be involved in spectacular occasions, amazing parties and major corporate functions. I’ve met and worked with incredible people and events over the years which has provided me with opportunities to develop my creative skills.

“Importantly, I’ve listened to their visions and have then turned those dreams into reality. I’m passionate about good food and passionate about partying. Over the coming months I’ll be passing on my seasonal tips and suggestions to help your dinner party or function stand out from the crowd.”


The Witching Hour: spicing up the festive season

Boots on; jumpers and scarves out of the cupboard; new Paul Smith brolly in my bag (cheeky new purchase in the sales) and changed the playlist in the car – leaving those summer tunes behind. I am ready to go! All is good in my camp as my favourite season is upon us.

I am not exactly sure why I love this time of year – be it the colours, the change in the food I seem to cook, (even without consciously knowing it), or the secret excitement that we are on the run up to the season to party which is something I do quite well.

October to me is every excuse to think about all the good things to come over the next few months - it’s time to experiment and long evenings in to perfect the most lavish of dishes and party tricks. When your guests come round you can serve them up with the utmost of ease and truly be the dinner party diva.

So, with two fab celebrations right around the corner you can party with friends and family on a fun, or more formal level. Throw the doors back and invite the neighbours in for Halloween or Guy Fawkes. Be the envy of the street leaving them in awe of your calm, collective creativity and effortless hospitality or spice up your dinner table for an evening of kitchen trickery, that only you hold the cards too.

Whatever you decide to do, be sure to get organised. This is the simplest way for you to enjoy the evening too...and whilst you need to be thinking about these hot dates looming, we need to be embracing a few extra missions to make December a little easier too.


Time for a drink

So, now with job in hand,’ hedgerow heroes’ this month ...sloes...sent from the heavens above. A little patience, sugar and gin turn these hidden gems into the drink of the gods.


Applause for your pud

So, here’s what is on the ’to do’ list: Christmas pud. I know Heston can rock this out with his hidden orange thing, and it tastes fab, but imagine the applause when, dressed in your Christmas Day pinny, mistletoe dangly earrings, and a very wry smile you serve your very own pud. Nothing, not even Heston’s could ever taste this good! Make it now, it’s one evening’s work, and they’ll be no wiping the smile from your face Christmas afternoon! Tried and tested over the years, this recipe by the mum of one of my colleagues Mary Shelley-Smith wins hands down.

• 4 oz - Beef suet

• 2ozs - Self raising flour

• 4oz - Breadcrumbs

• 1.5 tsp - Ground spice/Nutmeg/Cinnamon

• 8oz - Soft brown sugar

• 8oz – Sultans and Raisons soaked in Cointreau

• 10 oz – Currents

• 1 oz - Mix Candied peel (optional …I’m not a big fan, so add another 1 oz of sultanas)

• 1 oz – Chopped almons

• Grated zest of half a lemon and half an orange

• 1 x Cooking apple, grated

• 2 tbs – Port or Amaretto

• 2.5 fl oz – Stones Ginger Wine

• 2.5 fl oz – Stout

• 2 large eggs

1 Measure everything out first. Double check you have all the ingredients ready to go which makes the whole process so much easier and quicker in the long run.

2 Get your biggest mixing bowl. In this order and mix suet, flour, breadcrumbs, sugar, spice, dried fruit, peel, nuts, apple, zest

3 In a separate bowl – Port (or Amaretto), Ginger Wine, Stout and eggs …

4 Now add together and mix well. The mixture should be quite sloppy and fall from the spoon , if not add a little more of your chosen tipple.

5 Cover and leave overnight.

6 Grease a 2lb basin and pack the mixture in – double cover with baking parchment and foil and tie with string (make a handle if you can)

7 Steam over a saucepan for 8 hours (keep your eye on the water, don’t let it boil dry). Then let it cool before lifting.

8 Remove paper and foil and replace with a fresh set.

9 Store in a cool place.

10 To reheat. You can steam for 2 hours or microwave and turn out. To top off with a flame heat brandy in a small saucepan. Make sure your guests are ready. 11 Take the pudding to the table first, then set light to the brandy and pour over. Serve with custard, cream or ginger and orange butter.


This ‘ule by thumb’ recipe pretty much works with all tinctures. Don’t be scared, it can’t really go wrong, and it’s great fun tasting it all! Try rhubarb vodka and if you are feeling particularly festive add shredded silver leaf to create you very own 40% proof snow globe in a bottle.

Okay! Orange, red, burnt amber – think fire, warmth, dark nights and bright lights. We have set the scene, inside or outside here are my tricks to be the hero at Halloween or flirty and fabulous for fireworks night.


Cupboard love

It’s not just the food to think about. Consider what you are going to put it on or in. I bet your cupboards are bursting with ideas, you just don’t know it yet. Think glasses, tins (yes, the ones you throw away all the time) jars, little tea cups, pots and shots. These all make a perfect set of service ware for a party at home. Nothing needs to match perfectly. We can pull that all together with the boards or table that we set it out on.

There’s numerous great party menu ideas and you can check out the recipes at the Bonnie May Events website. Here’s just a few suggestions to get your taste buds tingling.

• Vibrant soup shots – all made in advance. Green pea and crispy bacon, pumpkin and truffle, red pepper and black poppy seed croutons, green asparagus on herbs.

• Pots of pasta - Chorizo and garlic prawns in a smashed tomato sauce over squid ink pasta.

• Sticks and dips – Cheese straws to die for, Bloody Mary infused cherry tomatoes, torn onion and balsamic bread and delicious dips.

• Get Stuffing - Filled sweet potato skins with beef steak chilli, salsa verde and soured cream

• Gorgeous glasses – All shapes and sizes look fab. Fill them with fresh goats cheese, green apple and smoked duck breast or Cherry Chutney and Manchego shavings.

• Style it out with these two tip top puds – apples in honey with Cointreau soaked grapes and a treacle top and a Lemoncello and pistachio crème brulee. Ta dah!

I thought that over the next twelve months I would introduce you to some of my friends who cook fabulous food, sometimes in the most obscure of places. We all need to be fed and watered, and many of us take it for granted, so we’ll creep behind the scenes to see what is going on around the world. I have just waved off a great friend who is taking to the road with Lady Gaga and her crew, so next month we can have a peek at what they might be cooking up for Thanksgiving. Last month I found myself in the kitchen at the Invictus Games - over 5,000 meals were being prepared in a tent tucked away behind the scenes and the kitchen’s unsung hero was a delicious Marzipan and Cranberry cake we named ‘The Invictus Loaf’. See the website for this simple but tasty recipe.


See for more ideas and catering treats


Read on

Bonnie May on catering for Frank Sinatra, the work of GIG and her favourite things about Buckinghamshire

Delicious new deli in Twyford - Alexandrina Victoria

6 places for Christmas dining in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire

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