There is a popular UK programme called Come Dine With Me, where 4 or 5 people each host their idea of a perfect dinner party. They are scored by the other competitors at the end of each evening and the winner bags £1000. Looking at the variety of contestants, you can immediately separate the ones who are genuinely passionate about food, from the attention seeking reality show wannabes, who can’t even boil an egg. If I were to enter the show, I would definitely file under the enthusiastic amateur category. My twin sister and I love to watch the Sunday afternoon re-runs of the show (usually sprawled on the couch with a hangover), and she works with a couple of gents who also share a love of food. So we decided to have our own Come Dine With Me competition.
Saturday night was the first night. My night. The four of us had been casually flirting with the idea of a CDWM competition for months; so it was quite a shock when it was all set in stone and the first night was looming upon us, at a rate of knots! My own menu had been changing several times a day(!), so when I printed them off, to roll into adorable little scrolls (tied with shiny ribbon), it felt so final and committal! I’m happy to report that, if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t change a single thing!The key, in my opinion, of a successful dinner party (yes… listen to me preaching after ONE dinner party ha), is to prepare as MUCH as you can beforehand! I felt quite guilty that I was away from my guests at intervals throughout the night. However, it was mostly a case of reheating what I’d made earlier and putting finishing touches on things!This is how my menu read:
Mini Welsh Rarebit Toasts
Champagne On Arrival
Cocktail – Strawberry Daiquiri
Root Vegetable Soup
Served with home-made crusty rolls
Slow Cooked Beef Bourguignon
Served With Dauphinoise Potatoes
Sautéed Green Beans Infused With Garlic
Chocolate Cheesecake With Ginger Snap Base
Decadent “Crunchie Bar” Ice Cream
The first thing I tackled was the beef bourguignon – TWO days before the event! I wanted to marinade my meat in the red wine overnight. The next day, I put it in my slow cooker for 8 hours, then I wanted to develop the flavours over the next day (I always hear that it’s better the day after it’s cooked, which was definitely true in this case!).
I used this recipe with no changes apart from cooking it in the slow cooker – Beef Bourguignon Recipe
I made my bread dough the night before, to let it chill in the fridge overnight. It’s the first time I’ve done that (I usually just leave it a couple of hours) and I could definitely taste the difference; it was less stodgy and more flavoursome. I used this recipe and shaped the dough into little roll shapes instead of one large loaf.
After the champagne (when my friend Jayne sneakily popped by with her blender!), I made Strawberry Daiquiri cocktails (this served 4 and was repeated more than once, I’ll tell you!):
I made my dauphinoise potatoes (earlier that day), by thinly slicing 8-10 medium sized King Edward potatoes. I put them all in a bowl and added a generous pinch of salt, 3 cloves of crushed garlic and 600ml of double cream. I mixed it all together by hand, then poured into a roasting dish. I pressed down on the potatoes, right to the bottom of the dish, making sure they were all able to bind together easily. I covered the top with foil and cooked for an hour and a half in the oven at 180 degrees. When my guests were here, I preheated the oven to 200 degrees and took the foil off the dish. I added knobs of butter sporadically over the dish and baked until the top went nice and brown (about 15-20 mins). It’s taken me a bit of practice to get my dauphinoise potatoes right, but I will do it this way EVERY time from now on. Every plate was cleared! While they were baking in the oven, I sautéed some green beans that I had marinated in 1 clove crushed garlic and a drizzle of olive oil. This was also the point where I cooked my shallots and button mushrooms, to add to my beef bourguignon.
Last, but not least, was my chocolate cheesecake. I made this the night before, so it could chill in the fridge and set properly. I drizzled some melted Cadbury’s Dairy Milk over it generously, and cut my strawberry into a little heart shape by hulling the strawberry then making little V shapes at each end!
I based mines on a Nigella Lawson chocolate cheesecake recipe, however I substituted the digestives for ginger snap biscuits, and used Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate (instead of dark chocolate), to compliment the Cadbury Crunchie Bar Ice Cream.
When I had served everyone the cake, I was subtly(!) reminded that there was supposed to be ice cream with it!! Hence the lack of photograph, but I did get to serve it in the end! I got the recipe for my decadent Cadbury’s Crunchie Bar Ice Cream from here.
My first dinner party was a resounding success in my eyes (I have nothing to compare it with yet anyway!) and I look forward to hosting many, many more (and posting about it on here of course!). Just looking at the photos is making me hungry again!