We’ve all done it – accepted dinner invitations from fantastic cooks and had wonderful meals. Then reality hits home. At some point we have to invite them back … horrors.
- manage the guests’ expectations by mumbling about an informal rustic meal
- select a menu that can be prepared in advance so that you don’t look deranged when you open the frontdoor
- try to avoid shouting at the other half within earshot.
We had two couples over for dinner on Saturday evening and this was my menu:
- beetroot carpaccio with mozzarella and pine nut salad, served with brown bread
- fish pie with carrots and samphire or lamb stew and dumplings
- strawberry cheesecake with strawberry sauce or apple crumble and custard.
It’s not going to blow anyone’s mind with its complexity but you won’t disgrace yourself. I don’t drink alcohol but the others had wine; red and white.
Carpaccio and marinade ingredients:
- beetroot (cooked)
- red onion
- garlic oil
- olive oil
- walnut oil
- balsamic vinegar
- Dijon mustard
- lemon juice
- Mix to taste and put the ingredients into the marinade overnight
- Make a stack of the beetroot and onion on each serving plate
- Serve with spiralised courgette and carrot on a bed of mixed leaves with pine nuts and mozzarella pearls and a simple vinaigrette dressing.
Fish pie ingredients:
- Mixed fresh fish; comprising salmon, smoked haddock, cod and prawns
- green beans
- onions (two)
- courgette (one)
- sweet corn
- leek (one)
- baby spinach leaves
- hard boiled eggs (six)
- Worchester sauce
- white sauce (butter, flour and milk)
- potatoes (sweet and white)
- seal the fish (leaving aside the prawns) in a frying pan and place in an ovenproof dish
- pop veg, herbs and seasoning into frying pan until tender and transfer to dish
- add prawns to dish
- descale frying pan with white wine
- make white sauce and add liquid from frying pan plus Worchester sauce and slosh over ingredients in dish
- slice hard boiled eggs and layer
- place washed spinach leave on top of eggs
- cook potatoes for five minutes, grate and mix together
- layer over the top of the fish and egg mixture
- cook in a moderate oven for an hour-and-a-half
- serve with samphire and carrots.
- neck of lamb
- root vegetables of choice plus celery
- herbs (to taste)
- red wine
- tomato ketchup
- brown sauce
- Dijon mustard
- flour (self-raising)
- fry off lamb
- add everything else and cook for several hours
- make dumplings – half the amount of suet to flour, salt and herbs or mustard
- add twenty minutes before serving
- check consistency when adding the dumplings and thicken gravy if it’s a bit thin.
- apples (or other fruit)
- mixed spice
- oats for the topping
- stew apples and a bit of sugar to taste if they’re tart, add raisins and mixed spice
- mix together flour and butter then add sugar – half the amount of butter to flour and half sugar to butter
- sprinkle with oats for topping
- half-an-hour in a moderate oven when you take the main course out.
You could make your own custard or cheat and use a carton … guess which I did?
Cheesecake ingredients: (I’m usually pretty vague with quantities but for the cheesecake you do need to get the balance right)
- soft cheese – 600g (I made a mistake and used cottage cheese; my first effort ended up on the compost heap; Mascarpone is great)
- icing sugar- 100g x 2 (sieved) – 100g for cheesecake and 100g for strawberry sauce
- double cream – 284ml
- lemon juice and zest if you have a fresh lemon (or just juice if it’s out of a bottle)
- vanilla extract or pod
- biscuits for the base
- butter (melted)
- make base by crushing biscuits and mix together with melted butter, chill
- mix cheese with icing sugar, vanilla and lemon juice/zest
- beat in cream
- spread over base and chill
- use half the strawberries to make sauce by liquidising with 100g of icing sugar and a splash of water
- pass strawberry mixture through a sieve
- add remaining strawberries to the top of the cheesecake just before serving.
- if you don’t own a loose-bottomed tin, put double strips of greaseproof paper under the biscuit base to use as a ‘lifting-out’ device
- made sure you make the cheesecake filling when you’re alone so that you don’t have to share the remnants of the mixture with anyone.
If like me, you’re a no frills cook, try this menu; everything can be done in advance so avoiding a meltdown is (almost) guaranteed.
PS: I asked my daughter for a spiraliser for Christmas. She was delighted that I’d finally grown up and was attempting to cook.
However, as you can see, I didn’t fair too well. It felt like a lot of effort for salad presentation. Courgettes worked well but carrots kept breaking, cucumber might have been better.