Channel the fun and glamour of Melbourne Cup Day this year by celebrating with a race day soiree at home. We share some top tips for hosting the perfect Italian-themed lunch party, complete with recipes and simple styling ideas.
Chic styling suggestions guaranteed to make your event an odds-on favourite
Begin the planning of your very own race day luncheon by deciding on a theme. For Flemington-inspired whimsy look no further than the exclusive Birdcage and their pretty previous themes including the 2015 'Spring Botanica' theme which saw thousands of spring flowers, fruit and vines adorning the celebrity-filled marquees.
A visit to your local flower market can also yield inspiration. For something a little more subdued, have fun with the still-on-trend metallic theme, styling your invitations, tableware and lighting accordingly.
Have fun on the day and set a dress code. Fashions on the Field has become a major focus of the Melbourne Cup so invite guests to come suitably attired and offer prizes for best dressed.
To capture the feel of Flemington, decorate tables with bunches of luscious, perfumed roses.
Diminutive votives en masse filled with tealight candles add instant elegance.
Unless you want to play bartender all day, set up an easily accessible self-serve bar, although we do recommend you greet your guests on arrival with a glass of Prosecco to get them into party mode.
And finally, create a few mini seating areas around the television so that come 3 pm (AEST), with Prosecco in hand, your guests can cheer on the race day winner.
A carefully curated Cup Day menu
CRUSHED BROAD BEANS WITH GARLIC AND LEMON CROSTINI
Italian for “little toasts”, crostini make versatile appetisers. Serve on wooden boards for a rustic Italian vibe.
- 500 gm shelled broad beans (about 2kg unshelled)
- 1/4 Spanish onion, finely chopped
- 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
- 100 ml each extra-virgin olive oil and olive oil
- 1/3 cup (firmly packed) mint, coarsely chopped
- 1 lemon, finely grated rind and juice only
- Garlic and lemon crostini
- 80 ml (1/3 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon, finely grated rind only
- 24 thin slices of sourdough bread (about 1 large loaf)
- 1 garlic clove, halved
Preheat oven to 200C. For garlic and lemon crostini, combine oil and lemon rind in a bowl, and season to taste. Place bread in a single layer on oven trays, drizzle with oil mixture, turn and repeat. Bake, turning once, until golden and crisp (4-6 minutes), then rub with cut-side of garlic and cool to room temperature. Makes 24. Garlic and lemon crostini will keep if stored in an airtight container, for 1 week.
Blanch broad beans until just tender (1-2 minutes), then refresh. Drain, remove skins (discard), combine in a food processor with onion and garlic and pulse until coarsely crushed. Transfer to a bowl, stir in oils, mint, lemon rind and juice, season to taste and serve with garlic and lemon crostini.
Recipe from Australian Gourmet Traveller
CHAR-GRILLED QUAIL, FARRO AND PROSCIUTTO SALAD
- 125 Amlamontillado sherry (see note *)
- 75 gm raisins
- 100 gm piece of prosciutto, diced
- 200 gm (1 cup) farro perlato (see note)
- 320 ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for rubbing
- 180 gm (1 cup) natural almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves (about 1/2 bunch)
- 150 ml verjuice
- 80 gm (1 cup) dark-skinned grapes, halved
- To season: freshly ground white pepper
- 6 butterflied jumbo quail (about 220gm each)
Combine sherry and raisins in a small bowl and macerate until plump (25-30 minutes).
Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat, add prosciutto and sauté until golden and crisp (2-3 minutes), set aside.
Combine farro, 500ml water and 1 teaspoon sea salt in a saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until all water is absorbed (16-18 minutes). Remove from heat, spread on a tray, drizzle with 20ml extra-virgin olive oil, and cool to room temperature. Transfer to a bowl, add almonds, parsley, raisin mixture and prosciutto, toss to combine and set aside.
Combine verjuice, grapes and remaining extra-virgin olive oil in a shallow tray, season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground white pepper, and set aside.
Preheat a char grill over high heat and brush with a little olive oil. Season quail to taste and rub with a little extra-virgin olive oil. Grill skin-side down until brown (2-3 minutes), turn and grill until cooked through (2 minutes). Transfer to the grape mixture and stand for 5 minutes. Remove quail from the grape mixture, halve and serve immediately with farro salad and a little grape mixture spooned over.
- Amontillado sherry is available from select bottle shops. If it's unavailable, substitute another medium-dry sherry.
- Farro perlato is pearl wheat available from select delicatessens. If it's unavailable, substitute pearl barley.
Recipe: Nicky Riemer, Melbourne Wine Room
ZUCCHINI ALLA POVERELLA
- 6 green zucchini, thinly sliced widthways
- For shallow-frying: olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup(loosely packed) mint leaves, coarsely chopped, plus extra whole to serve
- 2 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar, or to taste
- For drizzling: extra-virgin olive oil
Place zucchini in a single layer on tea towels, then stand overnight to dry.
Heat olive oil 3cm deep in a saucepan to 180C. Add garlic and stir until just turning golden (5-10 seconds). Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. Add zucchini in batches and fry until golden and starting to crisp (3-5 minutes). Drain on absorbent paper, then season to taste and transfer to a bowl with garlic. Add mint and vinegar, toss to combine and serve warm or cold, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil to taste and topped with extra mint leaves.
Recipe: Sabino Matera ,QUOCO
A rich delicious cake that should be a staple in every Italian baker's repertoire, the Torta Caprese can be served with gelato or double cream and strawberries.
- 125 grams of unsalted butter
- 200 grams dark chocolate, chopped
- 250 grams of sugar
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 250 grams of almond meal (or hazelnuts finely ground).
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees. line a 10-inch round, springform cake pan with baking paper
Combine the butter, chocolate and sugar in a heatproof bowl and set over simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Heat until the butter is melted and the chocolate is soft about five minutes. Remove from the heat and stir until the mixture is smooth. Cool to room temperature.
Beat the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture, one by one, with a wooden spoon making sure each is incorporated before adding the next, stir in the almond meal or hazelnuts.
Beat the egg whites with the salt in a bowl until stiff peaks form; fold into the chocolate mixture in thirds, just until no white streaks remain. scrape into the prepared cake tin and bake for 40-60 minutes or until the cake starts to shrink away from the sides, and is firm in the middle with a fudgy top.
Cool on a rack, remove from pan and allow to rest for half an hour before serving.
Italian Country Cooking - The Secrets of Cucina Povera by Loukie Werle.