Champagne and oysters!

Since food is one of my first loves, there has never been an event or special occasion that I have celebrated without it.

It was the stellar pair of champagne and oysters that officially carried me into my twenties – and will forever be my sidekicks in the ultimate celebratory cuisine.

After all, less is more and for me style is all about having two outstanding ingredients instead of a million little fiddly titbits. What's more champagne and oysters are the pinnacles of the current flashback to retro food. 

To celebrate TASTE's 10th birthday, I have chosen this heavenly pair of sparkle and shine as the ultimate party food.

Follow these tips and hints for a foolproof guide to serving champagne and oysters.

SENSATIONAL CHAMPERS

ICE AND FREEZY

To ensure a crisp and flavourful taste on the tongue, make sure that the champagne or sparkling wine is ice cold. I put a chilled bottle into the freezer for 10 minutes before opening and then continue to keep it in there in between pouring. (A chest freezer works wonders for keeping a bottle upright.)

CHILLY CRYSTAL

I always chill the champagne glasses on a shelf in the fridge about 30 minutes before my guests arrive. They frost beautifully for that wow factor but also cool your fingers down slightly before the champagne hits the glass.

TRIED AND TESTED

Serving pink sparkling wine will almost always go down a treat for first-time bubbly sippers. Get this right before introducing the slightly dryer white bubbles.

PRETTY LITTLE THINGS

Freeze baby rose buds or other small flowers in an ice tray with water, then crack them out of the tray into your wine bucket for a fancy finish.

OUTSTANDING OYSTERS

Special occasions call for extra special flavours. Give the Tabasco and lemon wedges a well deserved break and try one or all of these sublime ways to eat oysters. Make sure you buy the best oysters you can afford, ensure they are fresh and smell like the ocean and always keep them well chilled on ice.

  • Tempura oysters with Asian-style lime crème fraiche and crispy garlic (pictured above)

Whisk 1/3 cup of flour with 1/3 cup of cold water before folding in a beaten free-range egg white with a dash of olive oil and 2 T of finely chopped spring onions.

Dip your oysters in the batter and fry in a cup of hot canola oil for a minute or two until puffed up and golden.

Remove from the hot oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel. Serve immediately with zesty lime crème fraiche and pan fried slivers of garlic.

Pair with: Mulderbosch Chardonnay 2011

  • Fresh oysters with red wine vinegar shallots

Finely chop half a small red onion, mix with 1 ½ teaspoons of castor sugar, 8 T of red wine vinegar and a good crack of pink pepper. Prepare 30 minutes in advance and serve alongside freshly shucked oysters.              

Pair with: Silverthorn "Jewel Box:" Methode Cap Classique 2009                                                                 

  • Grilled oysters with coconut, coriander, mint and ginger sauce

Heat 1 x 3cm piece ginger, peeled and grated, 1 garlic clove crushed, the juice of half a lemon, and mix with a teaspoon of sugar and 1/4 cup of coconut milk over a low heat for 5 minutes until fragrant. Spoon over grilled oysters, adding chopped herbs like basil, coriander and mint with a dash of fish sauce to eat.

Pair with: Strandveld Adamastor 2010

My next birthday is my 26th and I plan to have a fancy-dress party where everyone has to come dressed as their favourite drink. I’m sure I don’t have to state the obvious but I will be dressed head to toe in a glittering gold dress with bubbles in one hand and freshly shucked oysters in the other – bliss!

Hannah

TASTE Contributing Food Editor

What's your favourite celebration food-and-drink combo? Send me an email, also if you would like some party tips and tricks.

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