MY GRANDMOTHER ALWAYS said that whatever we did on the first day of the new year would be an indication of how we'd be spending the rest of the year. She was talking about the Lunar New Year, but because we were living in the United States, we also interpreted it to mean January 1. My parents usually gave a big party on New Year's Eve, with baked ham, smoked turkey, poached salmon, homemade char siu bau, nau mei faan (glutinous rice), and Californian sparkling wine served out of those awful bowl-like glasses instead of flutes. Regardless of how late the celebration ended, my mother woke us the next morning so we could have breakfast with friends in our multicultural neighbourhood. We would first visit the Valdivias down the street to eat menudo, a hearty Mexican soup made with tripe, tendon and hominy (dried corn), which is traditionally served on New Year's day because it's believed to be a hangover cure. Then we would visit the Yamamotos across the road to eat ozoni, a rich savoury stew with sticky blobs of mochi (pounded glutinous rice cakes), meant to bring good fortune throughout the year, and nibble on simmered adzuki beans, which are supposed to bring wealth. It wasn't until I left home that I realised that for many others, New Year's day is celebrated with egg nog. It can be dreadful and cloying - the commercial stuff is awful - but potent and delicious when homemade and served ice cold. With The Peninsula breaking with tradition and ending its annual egg nog party, it's time to start your own celebration - and what better way to start the new year than by spending it with friends? Since you're throwing the party, you dictate the time: 2pm sounds good to me. It gives guests time to slowly come to their senses and wonder if they made fools of themselves the night before, have lunch and coffee before coming over. If you start it earlier, your guests will expect more substantial food. EGG NOG Make the base the day before and refrigerate it. The next morning, fold in the whipped egg whites and cream. The egg whites gain the most volume if you let them come to room temperature before whipping them, but it's essential that the cream be cold or it will turn to butter when you try to whip it. You'll need a large bowl or pot to make this in. Ingredients 12 eggs, separated 11/2 to 2 cups granulated sugar Dash of fine salt 2 litres whole milk 350ml bourbon 350ml dark rum 200ml Grand Marnier 1 litre cold, heavy cream Freshly grated nutmeg Method Whip the egg yolks with 1 to 11/2 cups sugar until thick and a pale, lemon colour. Stir in the milk and spirits and refrigerate. The next day, bring the whites to room temperature then whip them in a clean, dry bowl using clean, dry beaters. When the whites are frothy, add a dash of salt. Still beating, gradually add 1/2 cup sugar. Whip until soft peaks form, then fold into the yolk/milk mixture. Whip the cream (no need to wash the bowl or beaters) to soft peaks and fold in. Check for taste and texture - if it's too strong and thick, you might want to stir in extra milk. Pour into a big serving bowl and grate nutmeg over the surface; sprinkle more nutmeg over each serving as you ladle it into glasses. Serves at least 12. Supply other drinks as well - egg nog is so rich your guests won't be able to drink more than a couple of cups, which is a good thing because it's very alcoholic. Also have bottles of chilled white wine and/or champagne (if you're feeling flush) on hand and a big pot of coffee to help with hangovers. For food, keep it simple unless you're in the mood to spend New Year's Eve cooking instead of partying. Because there's a good possibility your guests will be feeling rather woozy and delicate from the night before, don't serve anything that smells too strongly - no pungent cheese boards, please. Serve platters of cold sliced meats, crusty bread (which will help absorb the alcohol) and dips with crudite. Break out the boxes of Christmas chocolates, fruitcakes and biscuits - you won't want them lingering on your shelves anyway because they're sure to tempt you into breaking your New Year's resolution about dieting. The other thing to make for this celebration is gougeres: a simple, wonderful, unfilled savoury puff based on pate a choux (cream puff paste). You can make these ahead of time and freeze them; the day of your party, just reheat in a 180-degree-Celsius oven for 10-15 minutes. Your guests will love these, so make lots. Vary the cheese according to your tastes. I like a combination of gruyere, sharp cheddar and parmesan. They're also delicious if you add parma ham, prosciutto or Yunnan ham - sliced paper thin, then diced. GOUGERES Ingredients 1 cup water 115 grams unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 1/2 tsp fine salt 1 cup plain or bread flour 4-5 large eggs 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper 11/2 cups finely grated gruyere and/or sharp cheddar 1/4-1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan Method In a heavy saucepan, heat water, butter and salt and bring to the boil. Add all the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. Cook until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Continue to cook over low heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Put mixture into a heavy bowl. Beat in four of the eggs one by one, letting each egg incorporate fully before adding the next. Test the mixture with your fingertip - it should form a soft peak when you touch it. If it's too stiff, stir the fifth egg with a fork, then beat it into the mixture a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. Beat in the pepper, cheeses and ham, as desired. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a pastry bag or teaspoons to shape the mixture in small (15-20cm) blobs on the baking sheets, leaving sufficient room for them to spread. Bake until puffed, crisp and firm to the touch, about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on size. Do not undercook or they will collapse. Serve hot or warm. Makes 40-60 small puffs.