Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Come Dine with Merlotti

Last night was the night - my hosting of three friends for dinner. Now, it was a school night, so we knew it wouldn't be a late one, and I also knew I'd only have about an hour and a half to cook. With that in mind, I spent a couple of hours on Sunday evening sorting things out and preparing what I could.

So, here it is...

I began by preparing the amuse bouches: tomato and chilli gazpacho; tadpoles in holes with onion gravy; smoked haddock pot au feu bites.

Having never made a tomato soup before, let alone a cold one, this was a bit of trial and error! I basically combined and cooked tomatoes, garlic, herbs and chilli flakes, then cooled and served in shot glasses with a straw! For the tadpoles, I browned the mini-sausages (bought rather than home-made I'm afraid) and mixed up the batter. This I spooned into hot oil inside mini silicone cases, popped in a sausage and cooked for about 5 minutes. I also made the onion gravy ready to heat up on Monday evening. The smoked haddock was the most phaff, but also one of the tastiest! I cooked everything ready to assembly come the night, and so it was very easy to prepare when my guests arrived.

Monday night arrived and we sat down at the table after a glass of Cava and some nuts, and began with the amuse bouche. These are always my favourite part of any meal and last night was no exception. I could eat things like this forever without ever having a main course. The Yorkshire puddings were a little overbrowned due to the re-heating, and the Quails' eggs never made it to the top of the haddock bites, (if anyone knows how to peel soft boiled Quails' eggs, or poach them successfully, please let me know! I gave up in the end!) but all tasted fine, even the trial and error gazpacho!

Next was a very simple mackerel pate which I covered with a layer of butter, just so it looked nice, and so we could use it on our toast! Again, I was able to make this the day before and keep it chilled until it was needed! I removed it from the fridge earlier in the evening and had it all plated up ready to serve. All that was necessary before leaving the kitchen for the table was a drizzle of oil and vinegar and some freshly toasted seed bread: no, I didn't have time to make my own!

Main course was Chicken with Mushroom, Spinach and Tarragon cream sauce, served with toasted almond rice. This was something I had to make on the night, but I'd done it several times before so knew how long it took and what I could get done early on in the evening. Now, I'm usually rubbish with rice - I tend to forget about it and it very quickly goes soggy - but this time I kept an eye out and ran it under cold water when done. The chicken was just about on the right side of begin done, but would have benefited from several minutes fewer in the oven. And the rice? It was cooked to perfection, but I struggled to re-heat on the hob so was only luke warm when served. Sorry girls.

The finale of the meal was Dan's Chocolate Fondants. Now, all the girls are foodies so know the difficulties often associated with this dessert. Again though, having made it previously several times and trusting this fabulous recipe implicitly, I knew that if I followed the instructions, nothing would go wrong...and it didn't! I made all the ganache-type mix the day before and kept it chilled until the evening itself. I popped the bowl into a pot of hot water on the night to ensure the mixture was runny enough to spoon into the dariole moulds, and as usual, after 10 minutes in a hot oven and a sprinkling of icing sugar, they were cooked to crispy on the outside and runny in the middle.

The chatter flowed, along with the wine, and before we knew it, the clock read half past ten, on a school night, and it was time for bed! Thanks girls, a lovely evening.

I'll add recipes in my next few posts so we're not overrun if that's ok!

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a great night. I spot Gu ramekins ;) I think every self-respecting cook has a collection of them!


Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!
Merlotti x

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