Ringers’ dinner II

Last weekend I threw the house open to the lovely people in my tower for our now annual Christmas social. We initially decided we ought to have a Christmas social but that everyone’s diary in December is too hectic, so we have ours in February instead.

I like cooking for people and having people in my house but I actually don’t do it very often, so it’s nice to have an excuse.

Ringers' supper 2018

(Laid the table before counting properly AGAIN! and had to put an extra place setting in at the last minute.)

I thought that the menu had not evolved much from last year, but looking back it seems I did simplify quite a bit.  I did the mulled apple juice again and offered some of the crab apple vodka to those who were both not driving and suitably aged.

Ringers' supper 2018

It’s been cold this year, so I didn’t want to do cold starters and desserts again, and so went for a slightly ambitious three cooked courses.  Crudités were still the main feature of the starter, then I was initially thinking fondue… but it would be hard to put the pot where everyone could reach it, so went for two separate baked camemberts so that each half of the table could reach. I was planning for 8 but one of us was ill on the night and we were 7 instead.  Two vegetarians amongst our numbers and I was conscious that anything properly called camembert is by AOC definition not vegetarian, so there was some hummus available instead.

The mains as last year were baked potatoes with beans, cheese (veggie cheddar), sausages and Quorn sausages and homemade coleslaw.

I actually took hardly any photos this year, but I did take quite a lot of the dessert. I was making Simon Hopkinson’s sticky toffee pudding – I blogged about it before in 2013 and the recipe is still on the BBC, and it’s still decadent and delicious. The basic recipe says serves 4, and the only way that is true is if you don’t eat anything else for an entire weekend.  I still doubled it and cooked it in a disposable foil roasting tin for a dessert that fed 7 people on the night, did doggy bags to take for absent partners, fed my neighbours who liked the photo on Facebook, and did me and T the following day.  I still have spare ingredients and I’m making it again today for half term pudding club tomorrow 🙂

In its doubled up form you end up needing to buy over a litre of cream!

Ringers' supper 2018

The basic date sponge cooked the night before.

Ringers' supper 2018

With the first sticky toffee sauce poured over the top then put back under the grill.

Ringers' supper 2018

Loads of leftovers!

I also made fudge – this Nigella recipe ish. There weren’t shelled pistachios available when I went shopping and I didn’t fancy shelling 150 grams myself, so I just used chopped hazelnuts. And glacé cherries, because why not?  And then, having made fudge, and having been given two boxes of After Eights… I forgot to bring either of them out with the tea and coffee! So there were loads leftover which made nice end of term gifts at school for colleagues instead as well as satisfying my own chocolate craving whenever I walk past the fridge.

Ringers' supper 2018

 

 

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A very Jamie dinner party

I really enjoyed Jamie Oliver’s recent series of five ingredient, easy to cook food. I’ve made loads of the things from the show, but some of the recipes called for larger quantities and feeding a crowd – so I decided to invite some friends around just so I could cook the food and try to get them to drink some of the weirder things from the liquor shelf that have been hanging around for a while.

No starter for once, just nibbles and some of the last of the basil wine, which for all its worrying in the fermentation stage has actually ended up delicious.

The main was slow cooked lamb – almost a tagine, with its ras-el-hanout and preserved lemons and an unorthodox and worrying way of cooking chick peas which seemed to work out OK.

You do wonder, with the limiting yourself to 5 ingredients, if it would have been a little better with 6 or maybe 7?  Cooking lamb without garlic?  In the final dish, the flavour of the ras-el-hanout and preserved lemons don’t come through particularly well. I wonder if this would work in the slow cooker?  The recipe calls for a 2kg lamb shoulder for 8 servings – I was feeding four, and Sainsburys only had a joint slightly over 1kg and it just about went far enough. I didn’t reduce the other ingredients at all, so have ended up with massively more lamby chickpeas than anyone can use!

Final lamb with fattened chickpeas

I wasn’t sure if the one-pot would enough to feed us all by itself, so made a side of small hasselback potatoes. I’m glad I did as they were delicious, and a good avenue for garlic and salt.

Main in serving plates - lamb, hasselback potatoes, chickpeas and tomatoes

The dessert was frozen banoffee cheesecake, moderated from the original. I used half the ingredients and made it in a 1L  / 1lb loaf tin. There was enough leftover mix to make a few ramekins as well so those can stay in the freezer till an appropriate time.  The idea of piling the chopped chocolate on the top is brilliant – it looks pretty rough and ready straight out of the freezer and slightly clumsy greaseproof lining left it misshapen as the grease creases ate into the sides. But the extremely simple garnish, a work of 90 seconds, made it look awesome and it got a nice ooh! as I brought it to the table.

Frozen banoffee cheesecake

I do like to try and do some chocolatey things – nibbles for the digestif as well as the aperitif – so I had made white chocolate salami and homemade after eight mints.  Both straight forward to make, but slightly trickier to slice!

White chocolate salami and home made after eights

In all one of the least stressy dinner parties I’ve ever done. The dessert and chocs were finished two days ahead in just over an hour; the main went on seven hours before the start time and essentially looked after itself, as well as making the house smell awesome after the first few hours. Some very enjoyable cooking and company.

More photos on flickr here.

Bank Holiday nosh

Had a friend over for some food over the bank holiday, which gave me an excuse to go slightly mad on the food front.

We ate…

Marmalade gin tonics

Shake a generous measure of gin, a teaspoon of marmalade, a splash of crème de pamplemousse rose, bitters with ice, and serve with tonic.

Marmalade gin tonic

Walnut and gorgonzola croissants

Half a pack of puff pastry treated like this:

Eurovision hors d'oeuvres

I also tried these little tomato half tartlets but the puff was much springier than expected and ejected their toppings in the oven..

Eurovision hors d'oeuvres

The starter was a stilton and smoked mackerel pâté – blitz equal weights of smoked mackerel and stilton with a little crème fraiche and freshly squeezed lime juice. For 4 small portions, about 100gr each.

Smoked mackerel and Stilton pate

There was a black olive and tarragon loaf from the breadmaker to go with it. More tarragon next time.

At about this point I stopped taking photos.

The disgustingly healthy main was a leafy salad with celery, walnut and grapes with a honey mustard dressing to accompany a frittata which will probably feed me all week. It’s a regular recipe as it uses up the eggs and is reasonably healthy. I used caramelized onions from the freezer that had been made overnight in the slow cooker, with a fresh onion, two red peppers, two packs of cubetti di pancetta and half a bag of very tired looking new potatoes that seemed to come out OK. I fry the veg, boil the spuds and then plonk the lot in a lined 9″ cake tin for half an hour on a medium heat, topped with cheese, with 8 beaten eggs. Cheddar this time, usually something bluer.

Still vaguely healthy for the dessert – a gin and pink grapefruit sorbet. I was very impressed with the juice yield from a single grapefruit but the recipe perhaps over-sweetens the mix and removes almost too much of the tartness of the grapefruit. Next time, three grapefruits, 200gr sugar, 350ml water. I completely forgot the egg white stage and the final dish did not seem to mind at all.

I also made some truffles – a small pot of cream halved and heated, in the first half 150gr dark chocolate, in the second half 150gr white chocolate. Pour the ganache into a bowl and enfridgen overnight. Scoop the mix out in teaspoons and roll first in your hand and then on either cocoa powder or icing sugar and plate prettily. This made far too many so I got to take a box into work as well. Plenty of opportunity to flavour with something liqueury but I didn’t this time. I’ve also before made earl grey tea and white chocolate truffles by steeping the heated cream in loose leaf earl grey before going on to make the ganache, but not this time.