Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Dinner with guests on Friday (last).

I do not know how to not over cater. Is that too many double negatives for you? 

So  my chain of thought usually stars with me thinking of having 6 or so peeps over for dinner and having a lovely evening around the table chatting and eating and drinking et al. Somehow that always turns into me thinking to myself “Penny be reasonable, you know you will cook too much food and it is as easy to cook for 6 as it is for 12” and the next thing you know I have enough people invited for dinner so that if I want to cook potatoes I need a wheel barrow to transport them. Well, not really, but you get the picture. Anyway, 6 people - intimate dinner turned into dinner for 12 and find a space to sit….

I won’t  give you the recipes of what I served up. You can find many on line or handed down to you by your great aunt ( right?).  My “modus operandi” is (mostly) to look in all my cookery books, look up a gazillion recipes on line and then mix them up. Sometimes this works and sometimes it is a case of too much change resulting in a complete mess…. On the back of that disclaimer -yes that is what that drivel is all about- I can tell you what I did to “ring the changes” and pass on some tips.

Beef Wellington tips

For a change I used both Pâté and mushrooms in different layers over the fillet.  I liked it but it was, in all honestly, a bit like overkill. It is probably better to keep it simple.  Decide on your smearing ingredient. Pâté, Mushrooms, Parma ham with or without mustard.

For the Pâté I don’t think you need anything too rich , think of  like Pâté de foie grass  -which in any case sounds a bit cruel to enjoy. I made my Aunt Trish’s lovely chicken liver Pâté recipe. It is way better to make the Pâté yourself rather than use shop bought as it quick and easy to make -  if you have  a hand processor.

I have read and ,over the years tasted, many recipes for Beef Wellington and what I have found is that this is such a lovely rich dish that you can afford to not go over the top and still have something very special. Yes you can add wine or port and have trendy mushrooms and garlic et al but at the end of the day this dish really stands on its own with inexpensive good ingredients. I do think t you should get good quality beef (preferably from critters that had a reasonably kind life and death) and use butter rather than marge. I used shop bought puff pastry, some people prefer filo and some like to put English muffins under the fillet to avoid soggy pastry underneath. 

Your Wellington will be soggy if you wrap the fillet when it is warm. You know how raw pastry likes to be cool? So get everything ready and let it cool down before you wrap it up. This is a good excuse to pre do the smearing ingredients.   The usual rule with beef is don’t over- cook it.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

This time the recipe I tweaked was not great.  Well that is not strictly true.  Stacked up against the beef wellington  it was a bit subtle and maybe a bit too Mediterranean to go with a roast beef so hints. If you use uncooked rice make sure it is a very absorbent short grained rice so that it cooks!!! If you are using couscous flavor it up with lots of herbs try fresh mint and parsley, sultanas, slivers of almonds, etc. You absolutely do not have to use cheese. 

Actually if you find a recipe that calls for cheese where the cheese is not the main ingredient, do me a favour and don’t cook it.

Stuffed peppers are an underrated meal. They are really great for a no fuss easy supper  and as a side dish for dinners. I prefer the red peppers but here in Dubai they are more than double the price of the green so generally I use the green peppers.

Apple Crumble

The person who invented crumbles deserves a hug and a kiss. All the loveliness of pastry and none of the stress. I prefer recipes where you pan fry the apples rather than boil them. I add orange juice to the pan for extra flavor and a bit of zing. I do peel the apples. Really just do it. There is no flavor benefit to the peel and somehow it just takes away from the whole apple crumble experience if you you have to chew through the peel. I add chopped walnuts or hazel nuts ( choose a nut) to the crumble YUMMY. I also use Demerara  / Muscovado  or a similar moist  brown sugar for the crumble rather than white sugar. Try mixing the flour up with some whole meal flour or some muesli.
So that is me done on the cooking front.

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