I was rummaging through the attic the other evening thinking it was time for a clean-out when I became sidetracked by the discovery of all sorts of china from days gone by. Wedding presents, heirlooms... all beautifully stacked in boxes that no one can see. These things are meant to be used, not hoarded, so I thought why not invite friends over for a relaxed winter's evening and bring out all that fabulous china?
Spending a little extra time in the kitchen, now that the weather isn't tempting you out to play, can be truly satisfying. Working away enjoyable and your efforts will be appreciated.
For my dinner party I opted for some classic dishes that tend to be forgotten but always cause a fuss when brought to the table. Souffles are one of those dishes that people think are difficult to get right, when actually they are very simple.
Follow the recipe, add an extra egg white for lightness and bake in a hot oven.
Timing is imperative if serving a hot souffle; take it straight from the oven to the table or it will sink. The twice-cooked souffle takes that stress away, as it's reheated and can be made ahead of time. Reheat just before serving and you have an impressive starter. It could also be served at a ladies lunch with a salad.
For the main course, I drew on a traditional favourite, beef wellington.
I remember catering a formal dinner for a group of parliamentarians in London.
This dish was a winner as it looks so spectacular, especially if you cut out shapes with the leftover pastry to decorate it.
Traditionally, beef wellington is made with beef that is smothered in pate and rolled in puff pastry. Today, I have used mushrooms, cooked until no liquid is left, then wrapped with the beef in prosciutto and pastry. One thick slice of juicy steak per person is bound to keep everyone at the table happy. If you prefer, you can make individual parcels, with a thick steak per person.
Profiteroles are a great dessert to share with a group; stack them up and drizzle with warm chocolate sauce. Make them the day before and simply add the filling before your guests arrive. You will find choux pastry is versatile once you've discovered how easy it is to make.
If you are using small eggs you may need five for this recipe, to help the mixture hold its shape.
For an alternative, pipe the pastry into a ring shape and, once cooked, slice it open and fill with a sweet or savoury filling. Alternatively, add cheese and herbs to the choux, then bake or deep fry and eat hot.
For more of Angela Casley's fabulous recipes, visit foodhub.co.nz