Category Archives: Dinner parties

Dinner party

Well let’s face it, who on earth besides antique dealers and gay couples actually still give dinner parties?
~ Nigel Slater

Nigel, I adore every piece of writing I’ve read by you save one (see above) – on this front, I hope you stay wrong for a long time to come!

May I be so bold as to say that everyone should host at least one dinner party in their lifetime? It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated… all you need to do is gather friends, cook something and share your food. There’s just some kind of magic about taking the time to cook for others and filling your home (or your friend’s home in my case this time ;-) with cooking smells and friends/friends-of-friends…

We hosted a dinner party for 10 on Saturday night, at Kath’s place. Between Kath’s efficiency and preparedness and my groggy state of existence after a rather busy week, we launched our informal dinner club!

Most people knew just Kath or myself, and it really didn’t matter. Midway through the evening, it seemed that we didn’t need the background music; everyone was chatting, laughing… and Katherine and I looked on from the kitchen feeling pretty good indeed!

We had gone shopping in the rain on Saturday morning, at La Cigale and at a supermarket, before meeting up again in the afternoon to prepare dinner for our guests.

Before dinner, we served slices of fresh French batard from the market, dukkah from Zarbo, fresh tomatoes and Kath’s homemade basil & balsamic pesto. Guests contributed a very generous amount of wine too.

Dinner was chicken, ricotta and spinach cannelloni swathed in a bubbling sauce of tomato puree, spices, and a light sprinkling of grated cheese – and an impromptu green salad with olives, capsicum and whatever else we could find. I had never attempted to make cannelloni before, and it was an exercise in patience stuffing those tiny tubes! All worthwhile in the end :-)

Dessert was Bosc pears poached in spicy syrah, cinnamon, star anise, lemon juice and sugar, served in ramekins with a melting scoop of maple walnut ice cream… and the requisite tea and coffee.

Altogether a great evening, I hope we hold our next dinner soon!

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Dinner party @ Nish’s

I hesitated about writing this post, because not long after Nish and I held this dinner party in Christchurch, the earthquake happened. The morning I awoke to news of the quake striking the lovely city I’d been in only days before, was not a calm morning until I ascertained that just about everyone there was alive. Shaken, but alive.

It was very surreal viewing the photos, watching it flash on the news, reminding myself that this was happening in my country… in my previous line of work I dealt with disasters etc so much, that sometimes I thought I was becoming numb to all of this – and that my heart had turned to stone, because I no longer always reacted with emotion. Sometimes my mind willed it all to disappear, or to let it wash over.

Except, really, you can’t just push it away entirely.

You can’t pretend that people aren’t suffering, because they are, and you can’t pretend disasters aren’t striking – all over the world – more than you realise – because they are.

The only thing you have the freedom to determine is the way you live your life, and the way in which you respond to things beyond control, and the way in which you love, I guess – and I don’t mean in a cheesy way!

Which is where I am coming from as I write this post. Yes, the quake left devastating effects. But the night we had this dinner party, we were focused on feeding friends, eating together and enjoying life for what it was – and now, post-quake, there lies something undeniably horrible, without a doubt! – but a chance to build something better too, hereon.

Here’s one thing we can do… donate to Christchurch earthquake relief efforts here:

Nish and I had fun preparing all the food (well, I did anyway, since most of the work was done by Nish, hehe!) and we were waaaayyy exhausted by the end of the night… but it went well, and we had leftovers a’plenty to last us all of the next day!

Our menu in short:

    Garlic prawn & vegetable skewers
    Green salad with Thai dressing (not photographed)
    Portobello mushrooms with garlic & red wine vinegar
    Potatoes with creamed spinach
    Pumpkin with cinnamon and brown sugar (not photographed)
    Chocolate tart with gingersnap crust
    Sticky date pudding

Dinner for 10

If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony.
~ Fernand Point

At my friends’ wedding a few weeks ago, a few of us came up with the idea of having a dinner party sometime. And it happened tonight! In a way that these well-intentioned “we should do…” discussions often never lead to. :-)

Thank God for the power of words, and super friends.

We had an amazing dinner party tonight. 10 of us for dinner, 4 of us to cook (Tim, Matt, Claire, myself). Nice, modern, sleek apartment kitchen to cook in & lounge to dine in (thanks Tim!).

7 dishes were cooked and served, all from the cookbook – 1 repeat (gotta stop repeating the oven-baked fish) and 6 new attempts.

Oven-Baked Fish with Tomato & Parsley – Page 105 (repeat)
and
#18 Chicken, Coconut & Cashew Nut Curry – Page 352
#19 Rice with butter & lemon – Page 356
#20 Carrot Salad with Cardamom, Ginger & Lemon – Page 357
#21 Prawns with Lemon, Peri Peri, Garlic & Feta – Page 102
#22 Lachmajou – Page 159 (topping only, as I have made pitta before)
#23 Lemon Creme Brulee – Page 262

We all did bits and pieces of everything, but I admit I stayed FAR away from the creme brulee, because the recipe was just a little intimidating… so full credit for the wonderfulness of this goes to Tim and Claire (the only thing I dared to do was separate some eggs for the 16 egg yolks required). Matt made the fish tonight, and it looked better than the picture – I certainly did not manage this in my last two attempts of the recipe!

Getting rid of prawn excrement for around 1kg of prawns was probably the most tedious part of the entire cooking process for me. Above is a picture of a prawn sitting perched on the grater…

We decided on who would do what pretty quickly, and then it was a flurry of chopping, frying, whisking, etc…

So it all went well, and time went by fast but not too quickly. And there were moments of relaxation, spilling a few things on the cookbook, laughing, feeling tired… and eating of course. All things necessary for life.

I feel like I want to write so much, about the sound of my friends’ voices and laughter, the sunset outside the window, the way the pools of rainwater splashed the car windows from the ground as we drove through town today, my fear of making creme brulee, the way it felt crumbling feta between my fingers (onto the prawns), the nice focus this cookbook project brings, the way I feel like my friends support my madness of cooking through a book…

About the earthquake that’s happened in Haiti, about the world at large, about the way it makes me feel alive each time I drink plain water, about the seductive nature of cooking, about the great satisfaction I find in feeding people…

About art, psychology, womanhood, books, walking, nature, dreams, thoughts…

But it is getting quite late… and this post already looks so long.

I am gratified to have received a few comments, online and in-person, about this blog – and to see on the blog stats page that I have around 20 readers on average daily!

I was going to share my (slightly modified) version of Tessa’s prawns… but I think I might fall asleep here on my laptop, sitting on the ground – so better roll into bed…

Good night! And have a splendid Sunday.

PS. Re last post, the milk tart turned out OK. :-) Almost like Dan’s.