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How to Host the Perfect Spring Racing Soirée
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How to Host the Perfect Spring Racing Soirée

Spring racing season is here! While it’s a lot of fun to get into the glitz and glamour of the races, actually attending on the day can be a stressful (and costly) experience. If you ask us, the best way to experience Cup Day is from the comfort of your own home, with good company and even better drinks. Because the big race happens mid-afternoon, we’ve put together a grazing menu that’ll keep everyone happy in the lead up to the main event.

Much of this can be made in advance, so you don’t need to worry about missing the charge down the final straight because you’re putting the finishing touch on dessert.

Avocado Dip

Kick things off with something simple. This dip is super straightforward to make, but it’s guaranteed to please.

Makes: 2 cups
Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
Flesh of 2 avocados
Juice of ¼ lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 vine-ripened tomato, seeds removed, chopped
1 small Lebanese cucumber, chopped
¼ bunch coriander, leaves chopped
Carrot sticks, to serve

Method:
1. Using a fork, mash avocado in a bowl with the lemon juice and crushed garlic - the mixture should still be chunky.
2. Stir in tomato, cucumber and coriander, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Serve with chips and carrot sticks.

To drink: Ease into the day with a mellow, drinkable beer along the lines of Coopers’ Session Ale or Brewmanity’s Social Beast Pale Ale. Alternatively, if you’d prefer wine, try an easy white like Oakridge’s Over The Shoulder chardonnay

Prawn Cocktail Crostini

What’s a prestigious affair like Cup Day without a luxe prawn cocktail? This version reinterprets the classic as an easily shared hors-d'oeuvre.

Makes: 12 pieces
Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

2 Avocados
100mL buttermilk
Juice of 1 lemon
24 cooked prawns, peeled and deveined
150g whole-egg mayonnaise
2 tbs tomato sauce
1 tsp Tabasco
12 slices chargrilled ciabatta
1 baby cos lettuce, outer leaves removed
Cayenne pepper, to serve
Dill sprigs, to serve

Method:
1. Using a blender, puree one avocado with the buttermilk and half the lemon juice. Cut remaining avocado into 1cm pieces and in a separate bowl, toss with the prawns and remaining lemon juice. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
2. Combine mayonnaise, tomato sauce and Tabasco in a bowl and season.
3. Spread the ciabatta slices with a little of the avocado puree. Top each with a lettuce leaf and prawn mixture. Drizzle with cocktail sauce, dust with cayenne and top with dill sprigs, to serve.

To drink: Drinks-wise you’ll want to choose something that won’t overpower the prawns. We’d go with the infinitely quaffable Fili Prosecco DOC for a light but layered bottle of bubbles.

Sausage Pillows

You’re never too old for a sausage roll. This rendition switches up the staple finger-food, creating soft and delicious bite-size ‘pillows’.

Makes: 48
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 small carrot, peeled, grated
1 small zucchini, grated
300g beef mince
100g sausage mince
2 tbsp barbecue sauce
2 eggs
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
6 sheets frozen puff pastry, partially thawed
Tomato sauce, to serve

Method:
1 Preheat oven to 220°C. Grease two large baking trays. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and mixed herbs. Cook, stirring, for three minutes or until onion has softened. Add carrot and zucchini. Cook, stirring, for two minutes or until softened. Transfer mixture to a sieve. Press down to drain. Cool for 10 minutes.
2 Place vegetable mixture, beef mince, sausage mince, barbecue sauce, one egg and parsley in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
3 Cut one pastry sheet into eight rectangles. Place two heaped teaspoons of mince mixture on half of one rectangle, leaving half a centimetre of border at edges. Fold pastry over mixture. Press edges to seal. Cut a small slit on top of pillow. Repeat with remaining pastry and mixture. Place on prepared trays.
4 Beat remaining egg with one tablespoon cold water. Brush pillows with egg mixture. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Serve with tomato sauce.

To drink: It’s virtually impossible to beat a pairing of sausage rolls and beer. Choose something slightly heavier like the Thunder Road TRB Rip Snorter Aussie IPA to really cut through the meat.

Melbourne Cup(cakes)

These are sure to be the pièce de résistance of your carnival celebration. If you’re equine-inclined, decorate the cupcakes like jockey’s silks.

Makes: 48
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 17 minutes

Ingredients:
200g unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
130g caster sugar
3 eggs
320g cups self-raising flour, sifted
120mL milk

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line mini-muffin pans with paper cases.
2. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, vanilla and sugar in a small bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition (mixture will separate at this stage). Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Stir in half the flour. Stir in half the milk. Repeat with remaining flour and milk until combined.
3. Ladle one tablespoon of mixture per cupcake into a mini-muffin tray. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
4. Stand cakes in pans for two minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Decorate to taste

To drink: It would be criminal to celebrate the races without champagne. For a big occasion like this, it’s only fitting to mark the occasion with something special like Moet & Chandon’s Brut Imperial NV champagne.