another day, another meal for 8 people.
we played a murder mystery game called 'the champagne murders' which i decided meant something classy with a hint of 'france' about it.
menu+pics+recipes, PLUS tips for cooking for a large group of people, you ask?
step this way...
potato and courgette fritters with hot red onion relish
no pics of the starter - apologies - but this was so easy. as with most of the menu, a lot of it was prepared beforehand - all relish ingredients were chopped and stored ready to chuck in the pan, and the potatoes and courgettes for the fritters were pre-cooked and left to cool in the fridge. AND the batter was mixed ahead of time.
for the fritters - serves 8
8 small/medium potatoes, mashed
2 courgettes, chopped into small batons
bicarbonate of soda
herbs and spices: basil, salt and pepper
for the relish
2 large red onions, chopped into long strips
one box of cherry tomatoes, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped finely
2 small chillis
half a tin of chopped tomatoes
herbs and spices: salt, pepper, coriander
extras: heaped teaspoons of honey, worcestershire sauce, ketchup
cook and mash the potatoes, and fry the courgettes in butter until soft. mix together, throw in the herbs&spices, and leave to cool.
mix a little flour and water in a bowl until smooth but quite thin, then add 2 level teaspoons of bicarb and mix again.
when it comes time to serve, throw all the relish ingredients apart from the tinned tomatoes into a hot pan with oil in it (i use olive oil). you'll need to stir this mixture every couple of minutes - don't forget or it might burn, but you can turn the heat down a little. its good to get someone to stir for you....
also, add plenty of oil to a separate pan. keep the oil handy for topping this pan up!
with your hands, mould the potato and courgette mixture into coin-shaped pieces, dip both sides in the batter, and plonk them in the oil in the empty pan. they can be any size you like, but i made them approx 2 inches (??) in diameter and they ended up serving 3 fritters per person, which is pretty good.
fry for around a minute on each side, then transfer to another plate (we put them all on one big plate which was warmed through to keep them hot, and dished them up once they were all cooked. highly recommended.)
when there's only a little mixture left (meaning you're probably on the last batch of fritters), add the tinned tomatoes to the relish and stir in. this should mean both are ready at the same time.
plate up the fritters and the relish - we choice to put all the relish in one big bowl and let people help themselves. which was a good idea, because some people LOVED it and though I thought this might be too much for 8 people, it was just right.
creme fraiché chicken + creamy mash + broccoli
again, serves 8
8 chicken thighs*
one large tub of creme fraiché
9 medium potatoes, with skins on, mashed
one large head of broccoli
*chicken thighs are, IMO, the perfect cut of chicken. they aren't too big, they're easy to cook, and they're CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP! (or, £1.50 for 4 in Morrisons). they're on the bone, of course, but they have the wonderful taste of chicken quarters without being as big or fiddly. AND they have the skin on. yumyumyum.
before the party: brown the chicken thighs in a grill pan, then put them in a shallow tray for the oven - sprinkle a little olive oil on them, plus the coriander, salt and pepper, than pour the whole tub of creme fraiche over them and leave in the fridge.
you could also chop the potatoes and the broccoli and leave them in pans ready to cook, but you should keep water in the pans so they stay fresh.
this is such a simple main, though - once the party is going, all you need to do is bang the chicken in the oven and set the veg off to cook when needed. i recommend turning the oven on to warm up as you serve the starter, as the chicken takes about half an hour to 40 minutes to cook.
the chicken can then be plated up, one to a plate. we poured the sauce left in the tray into a jug for those who wanted extra sauce.
the butter, double cream and salt and pepper just need to be chucked into the pan with the potatoes and mashed until smooth. again, we served the veg in large dishes for everyone help themselves. we also served a jug of gravy...
note: a little more mash (10 potatoes worth?) and more veg (either 2 medium instead of one large head of broccoli, or perhaps a packets worth of baby carrots) wouldn't have gone a miss, according to our guests. although i thought my portion was just right, given that we had a 3 course meal!
crème brûlée with strawberries dipped in chocolate
easier than it sounds, honest. but, a cooking torch is advised. i got mine from ebay (plus butane gas from amazon) for under a tenner....
i cooked ours in one big cake tin and cut it into smaller portions before creating the caramelised sugar topping - because we didn't have any ramekins, let alone 8. if you have them, or have more time to collect small tins*, then i recommend that. purely because it doesn't matter if the crème sticks to the pan/tin foil, then...
for one large but relatively thin crème brûlée, which just about serves 8...
5 egg yolks (i used the whites to make a white chocolate mousse)
one tub of whipping cream (300ml?)
double cream (about 150ml, i think)
200g sugar (of course, i didn't weigh this out)
one vanilla pod
sugar for topping
one punnet of strawberries
50g-ish of milk chocolate
i prepped this first, because it need to cook and then cool in the fridge.
separate your eggs (the whites, if you're keeping them for mousse/meringues/whatever, can be put in the fridge...) and beat the yolks, then add the cream and the sugar and whisk until smooth.
slice the vanilla pod sideways and scrape all the seeds into the bowl. warning: they will get everywhere. i had them under my nails for hours. at least they smell nice. (note: i've lost the recipe i used, but the bbc site recommends cooking the mixture first and adding the vanilla case to the pan then straining it....it all sounds very complicated, but you could read that method either by clicking the above link)
done! see how simple? pour into a lined cake tin and cook in a medium/low oven for about an hour and a half, or until you can stick a knife in the middle and it comes out clean.
as for the strawbs, melt the chocolate over a pan of boiling water, then dip the bottom of each strawberry in it and leave to cool in the fridge. simple, but delicious.
when it comes to serving, remove the crème brûlée from the tin (as best you can**), cut into desired portions***, and sprinkly with sugar until unleashing your shiny-magic-torch-gadget on them.
thumbs up from our dinner guests!
** i lined my tin with tin foil, and it got well and truly stuck to the brûlée, which is, of course, not ideal. maybe try lining with baking paper next time?
*** yes, you CAN make a large brûlée and cut into smaller portions. i looked all over for an answer to this question before committing to it anyway, but i'd recommend not caramelising until afterwards because the top will crack when you cut into it. purely aesthetic reasons....
and * i'm currently collecting small tins (i.e. the single portions of baked beans, kidney beans, etc. small, quite thin, about ramekin sized, y'know?), washing them, and taking the top and bottom off them. i reckon they'd be a great, cheap way of making ramekin sized food without the ramekin, or forming 'stacks' for nice presentation. you know, like on 'come dine with me' when they make seafood stacks, or something.
also something i made: candle/old wine bottle table pieces. pretty, simple, and they don't take up too much room on your table!