Gourmet cooking for indulgent evenings (+recipes)

By Amanda Laird

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Treat your guests to a fine feast of decadent ingredients prepared with care.

Dishes to impress: Beef Wellington; seared scallops with caper breadcrumbs and gold leaf madeleines with marsala mousse. Photos / Babiche Martens
Dishes to impress: Beef Wellington; seared scallops with caper breadcrumbs and gold leaf madeleines with marsala mousse. Photos / Babiche Martens

Chilly evenings make for a perfectly indulgent evening surrounded by good friends, wine, music and, most importantly, a carefully selected menu. But instead of sticking to tried and true favourites, how about putting in the effort to create a special menu to make your guests feel important.

The recipes today are not difficult but they do take time and attention. Not all the ingredients are available from supermarkets, so plan your shopping in advance to be well organised. Scallops, venison and the best quality chocolate you can find create the foundations of the menu - expensive ingredients are worth considerate preparation.

Use New Zealand scallops because they have a sweet flavour and are not too big. Fresh is preferable although frozen can be substituted if necessary. It is a nice idea to serve this entree in scallop shells if possible - ask the fishmonger if shells can be ordered.

If not, take care to present the food elegantly.

Speciality food stores sell punnets of micro greens, which are essentially varieties of salad greens grown to look pretty while easy to style and also taste good.

A beef Wellington has been a long-time favourite for an important dinner but because it is such a large cut of meat, I thought a venison loin prepared in the same way would be equally as delicious, but would look more refined on the plate when served on glossy green just-wilted spinach with a drizzle of rich jus.

For dessert, a classic chocolate mousse made silky with 70 per cent dark chocolate and marsala is divine. Serve alongside freshly baked delicate madelines and add a little gold leaf for extravagance.

Chef's tip

The venison can be prepared in the morning and refrigerated. The mousse can be made the day before. Put effort into using gorgeous plates, cutlery and glassware. Beautiful flowers and candles all create a special ambience.

- NZ Herald

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