Monday, July 22, 2013

Dinner Party - Canapé, Cocktail & 1st Starter

Dinner parties are a great way of having friends over, enjoying great company, good conversation which can be louder than in a restaurant and you won't be kicked out before midnight...I love getting my friends together and just enjoy a relaxed evening. The success of the dinner depends on a few factors - not only the food but the entire atmosphere. Setting the table nicely, nice background music and a relaxed host are as important than great food.

I have my own little way of preparing for a dinner party - so the below is working for me, it might not work for you. The structure of my dinner parties is always the same - canapés & cocktail on arrival, starter, soup, main course, dessert, tea/coffee with homemade chocolates or biscuits. All that means that I might have to cook the whole day - especially since I cook everything from scratch but fear not, a lot of the dishes can be prepared in advance. Soups can be made a week in advance and frozen, same goes for pastry etc. I would recommend a timetable for beginners - tick off items as you go along.... trust me, it works.

Stuffed Mushrooms
Canapés can be easy things like stuffed mushrooms which I served at the last dinner party. I calculate 2 medium sized mushrooms per person. Brush the mushrooms clean, remove the stalk and with a small teaspoon scrape out the brown gills. Brush the outside of the mushrooms with melted butter. Now take a handful of breadcrumbs and out them in a bowl. Heat some of olive oil in a frying pan and add a chopped half onion and pan-fry until starting to brown (you can also add some crushed garlic). Pour the onions incl. the oil into the breadcrumbs and combine well - you want all the breadcrumbs moistened by the oil (add some melted butter if it is too dry). Now add chopped hazelnuts, chopped chives, grated parmesan and some seasoning. Combine well with the breadcrumb mix. Divide the mixture between the mushrooms and bake in a preheated oven at 160C until browned and cooked through (stuffing the mushrooms can be made a few hours in advance). Arrange nicely on a plate - maybe top each mushroom with some shredded Parma ham - and serve with a nice cocktail. This will entertain your guests until all guests have arrived and it gives you time to see to last minute tasks in the kitchen. If using Portobello mushrooms, you can use this recipe also as a first starter.

Since the weather was so beautiful and warm, I wanted to serve a cocktail that felt like summer. Puree a quarter of a watermelon in a food processor and pass through a sieve. Pour into a jug and chill until needed. That can be done a few hours in advance to give the juice time to chill nicely. When your guests arrive, pour watermelon juice into champagne flutes halfway and fill up with chilled prosecco - summer in a glass.

While your guests are enjoying the canapés and cocktail, check if the table is nicely set and start arranging the first starter. I have opted for a terrine last Friday - it is made the day before, doesn't need re-heating and looks impressive when served in slices on a bed of salad leaves and a light dressing. I always line a terrine tin with heatproof clingfilm to make it easier to remove the terrine from the form after cooling down.

Pork Terrine with Chicken
Pork Terrine with Chicken

250g bacon (enough to line a loaf tin)
4 small chicken breasts (skinned)
1/2 lemon - juice only
400g pork mince
1/2 onion, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
small bunch of fresh parsley
Salt & Pepper to taste
olive or sunflower oil

Preheat the oven to 160-180C

Line a 2 pound loaf tin with heatproof cling film (make sure it is heatproof otherwise it will melt into the terrine). Now take the bacon and stretch it with the back of a knife. Line the tin with the strips of bacon, making sure that there are no gaps. 

Take one of the chicken breasts and cut into thin strips, drizzle with lemon juice and set aside. Put the rest of the chicken into a food processor together with the pork and the chopped onion. Process until almost combined, now add the eggs, seasoning and parsley to the mix and process until combined. 

Spoon half the mix into the lined tin, scatter the chicken strips on top and spoon in the rest of the pork mix and level the surface. Knock the form a few times hard on the table/worktop to remove any air pockets. Oil a piece of tinfoil large enough to cover the top of the loaf tin and squeeze the tinfoil tight around the terrine. Place the tin into a roasting pan and pour boiling water to halfway up the sides of the loaf tin. Place into the preheated oven and bake for about 50 mins. 

Leave the terrine to cool in the tin. Take a tea towel and cover the terrine and place a heavy weight on it. This will ensure that the terrine doesn't fall apart when sliced later (in case there are still some air pockets). When completely cooled, remove the terrine from the form and place on an oblong platter. Serve sliced on a bed of salad leaves with a light dressing. 

Bon Appetit

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