Sunday 1 February 2009

Dinner party distress.

I Love cooking......
But sometimes it can be a bit stressful.

Take last night, a small dinner party for four. I'm cooking for my partner's Brother and his Girlfriend.

I've worked out what I'm cooking well in advance - All the recipes will be from Casa Moro, a 'thank you' to my guests as they purchased me the cookbook for Christmas. (Moro has you've no doubt noticed has been a bit of a 'theme' for me recently, the cookbooks are fantastic, incredibly inspiring.)

OK, Everything's in hand - I'm organised, I have a neatly written list and all the ingredients.

Starter - Hummus with Ground Lamb and Pinenuts
This recipe is actually from the first Moro Cookbook, I planned on serving it in a big dish with toasted flatbread, pickled chilli's and a yoghurt, garlic and allspice dip

Main - Beef Tagine with Prunes.
This is from Casa Moro - I planned on serving it with Saffron Rice.

Desert - Pistachio and Almond tart with Orange and Cardamon.
Bit expensive this - loads of Almonds and Pistachio's, but the recipe does say it's for 12 - so I plan on eating the leftovers all week.

On with the cooking - I begin briskly and confidently.
I decide to start with the desert as the pastry base can be made in advance and frozen.

This promptly goes completely pear-shaped, my 'pastry' which I need to "Form into a flat disk" has the consistency and stickiness of wallpaper paste, I get it everywhere - all over me, the walls and every kitchen gadget within reach....finally, more from instinct than any real 'know-how', I decide to add more flour to 'thicken it up' and it appears to come together.

The next step is rolling it out to line my tart tin - it crumbles to pieces - no matter what I do, cracks appear in it, my casual bonhomie with my partner has now been replaced with curt irritable snapping, she wisely retires from the kitchen....a bead of sweat appears on my brow.
After 3 or 4 goes - I get the tart tin lined. It looks OK.

Time to Blind Bake it.
What can go wrong here? Nothing apparently, until I remove my baked pastry case from the oven - and manage to tear a hole I could get my thumb through in the bottom of the pastry, right in the middle.

My partner meanwhile is scurrying around the place, avoiding me and tidying up in preparation for our guests. Later she tells me she knew something wasn't going quiet right from the "Howling and cursing 'For F*cks Sake' and making other noises of distress" - she stays out of the kitchen.

I decide that the thumb sized hole will be covered by the filling, a paste made from Pistachios, Almonds and Orange. I can get over this setback.
Lets crack on and make the paste - on checking the recipe, I realise to my horror I've misread the amount of Pistachios I need - 300g not's almost 5pm - I mutter more curses under my breath, grab the car keys and tear off down the local shop to try and find some more Pistachios - the small health food shop have them, but they're three times as expensive as the ones from the out of town Supermarket, with no time to lose I have to purchase them.

This tart is costing me a fortune.
I pray to God neither of my guests has a nut allergy.

I stride purposefully back through the door and pick up where I left off.
Grind all the nuts, butter and Cardamon together - by the time Ive got this lot in my little food processor (Oh for a Magimix) I can just about get the lid on.
I decide that it will decrease in volume when its ground up - so I can get the orange juice and egg yolks in. Right now it's looking doubtful.
I grind away - and instead its somehow doubled in volume and comes spilling out when I take the lid off.
I decide I have to make the paste in two batches, which is fine but obviously takes twice as long.

The four hours or so I allowed myself before my guests arrive has disappeared in the blink of an eye - I have just over two hours left.
I haven't got the tagine on - I haven't made the hummus, the worktop is littered with seemingly a thousand ingredients. Everything is spattered with 'wallpaper paste pastry'
I decide to start on the alcohol early, and grab a Peroni out of the Fridge.
The next two hours pass in a blur.

My tart comes out looking good. My Tagine is simmering away nicely, my hummus and ground lamb is plated up and covered with tinfoil.

They'll be here in 10 mins - I haven't had time to shower or change, and now I won't have time.

I decide to have a quick wash, sort my hair out, squirt of aftershave and change my top.
That's all I have time to do.
My partner on the other hand has managed a bath, her two hour hair washing ritual and has had the time to model a choice of outfits in front of the mirror.

The guests arrive, they're starving - the cooking smells "Lovely" -
I hit the booze a bit harder.

We sit down and it flows well - the food comes out on time, it's pretty good, especially the starter and the Main, I'm not sure about the tart - it's nice, but the flavour is very unusual and it's quite dry - needs some ice-cream on the side perhaps - I'm quite critical of my own cooking, I guess everyone is.

My guests compliment me on the cooking "How do I make it look so effortless?"
In response, I smile knowingly and wonder why the hell I put myself through this.


Jacqueline Meldrum said...

Never mind! It sounds like you came through in the end. I think it is best to plan ahead and don't do too many new dishes. You are more relaxed if you are familiar with what you are making. Bet you have a good night once you took time to relax :)

Dan said...

Holler, yep your right - I did relax after the nightmare tart came out ok.
Your also right about being familiar with what your making....oh well, here's to less stress next time (Dinner Party for 6 - end of Feb)

Unknown said...

Think we have all been there. You were brave trying three new recipes for one meal - I usually try to limit it to one in the thought that if it is a dud at least my guests will not go hungry!

Dan said...

All good advice :)

Three new recipes - well, I was trying to cook recipes from the cook book they'd bought me for Christmas - kind of backfired on me.

Perhaps I should have made the tart well in advance. We live and learn.

Anonymous said...

This dessert sounds AMAZING. I will have to give it a go.