Thursday, 28 July 2011

At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well. And one should talk well but not too wisely..

Happy 2011!

Sorry this post has been a few days in the making. Our NYE party turned out to be pretty epic - both in terms of wine consumption AND party related mess. Plus, we had guests who stayed over for 72 hours and only just left. So much mess but so much fun!

I'm now bursting with news though and there are two things I really want to talk about; firstly lessons learned from our mega cooking experiment on NYE and secondly lessons learned from the way I felt the day after our NYE party. :).

I think the second part may need to wait for tomorrows post though...

NYE party was AWESOME. It was super stressful cooking for 12 people, but the fiancee and I also had so much fun doing it. We made the Ottolenghi Tart I talked about in my previous post, the recipe for which is here. We made two of these tarts for 12 people and, with two humungous salads and some pate and crackers as a starter, it turned out to be the perfect amount. We were going to cook two further tarts, using this recipe, so that everyone would have a third of a tart, as opposed to a sixth. The problem was we only had two tart tins so we would have had to bake in two separate batches and we ended up running really late. My best friend persuaded me that the sixth of a tart with pate and salad would be plenty and I'm so glad I listened to her about it. It was much better to leave people not feeling to full and floored after the meal so that had energy and room for dancing (and drinking!) after the meal. Here are some other things that I think went well at our first major dinner party;

1. Asking people to help! At first I felt bad about doing this but I asked my best friend to bring salad and another great friend to bring some chicken liver pate. I'm so glad we did this. The pate was amazing and totally took the pressure off the fact that our tart wasn't as perfect as I would have like. Cooking for lots of people is also expensive and there shouldn't be any shame in asking to spread the cost a bit. I'm lucky to have friends that are super supportive and amazing cooks.. but I'm sure this idea could work in most circles. Key is to get over your superwoman ('I must do everything and I must do it perfectly') syndrome.

2. Making humungous salads! I always feel bad subjecting people to my healthy style of eating. I should feel good about it I know, but I want people to enjoy the foods they eat at my house and I don't want to push anyone too far out of their comfort zone. My current strategy is just to cook a fairly standard main course (tarts, roasts, pasta dishes, enchiladas) and then bump it out with lots of salad. I try to make the salads as interesting as possible (or to give my friends, who I am getting to make the salads, instructions about recipe resources). That way I can still eat a ton of vegetables, and other people have the option to eat healthily, without quite forcing quinoa down anybody's throat.

3. Skipping serving dessert! This was actually a bit of an accidental strategy because we did make both Russian Tea Cookies (high butter, kind of low sugar, Weston Price Style!) and homemade coffee ice cream, using my new ice cream maker. Playing it by ear though, everyone seemed pretty full after the meal and also kind of keen to get back on the champagne! I'm so glad we decided to go with the flow and not bring out the sweet stuff, despite having made it. If there is one thing I hate it's wasting dessert by eating it when I'm drunk. It's such a waste because, although kebabs and burgers can taste amazing when a little tipsy, dessert never ever seems to. Plus it always seems to straight to my hips. :( By taking the hint and keeping dessert under wraps we also got to enjoy it the next day, after our Indian Take away feast...

Unfortunately though not everything went too prefect. At first I was pretty bummed about the things that went a bit wrong. However, this was such a stupid way to be. Life is learning to curve and now I know, at future dinner parties, not to do the following;

1. We should not have cooked something we had never made before! The tart turned out pretty good but I really wish we had time to do a test run first. If I had made it first I would have known to salt the vegetables more before we roasted them, and also to roast with balsamic vinegar as well as olive oil. The crust needs to be rolled really thin as otherwise its just way too heavy and I think a thin grating of parmesan on top would have made a world of difference. Basically, we needed a trial run.

2. We should have made a smarter assessment of amounts BEFORE buying the ingredients. Sure, we saved some time and effort by not making the second two tarts but we could have saved some time, effort, and money by realising this before we splurged on a bunch of ingredients like fresh raw goats cheese with a relatively short shelf. Darn that.

3. We should have used plastic glasses! Yeah, me and my friends are civilised and everything, but it was NYE and there were 12 of us. A few glasses got broken, a few emergency cleanups were neccessary and we could possibly have spared a few splintered fingers by bringing out the childrens party cups and not pretending things were ever going to be perfect.

Despite these few hiccups I had SO much fun and have decided I really love having friends for dinner. Good thing too because one of mine and the fiancee's key resolutions is to eat out only twice per month. We don't eat many indulgent meals out of the house but we do have too much of a tendency to rely on Pizza Express after a late movie, or burgers after a day of window shopping. We've decided to save all our money and have two nice meals out per month, checking out places we havent been before and generally being a bit more organised and strategic. I can't wait! I also have a bunch of other resolutions that I want to talk about tomorrow, along with some lessons I've learned about how to eat after the indulgent holiday season. Cant wait to write about it all!

Until then I hope you are having a wonderful 2011, that you've enjoyed the holiday season and are all ready to be healthier than ever before in the upcoming year! xox

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