Friday, 4 May 2012

Come Dine With Me...

Some friends and I have committed to do a Come Dine With Me style series of dinner parties - without the sarcastic commentary and rifling through each other's knicker drawer.  The idea being that it's not that often you get the excuse to make a 3-course (or more) meal and we wanted to give 'proper entertaining' a go.  So, roughly once a month, we're going round to each other's home to, in the words of Lloyd Grossman before Masterchef's more aggressive resurrection, 'cogitate, deliberate and digest'.

I went first with an 'Italian feast', keeping true to the programme in that frequently the cooks on there try and be inspired by even the most tenuous link to a foreign heritage.  My grandad was Italian and in good Italian style, one of the main things he passed on was a love of Italian food and it's always inspirational to me.  Also we have one vegetarian in our party and rather than relegate her to a special menu of rabbit food like some Come Diners on the show (and having once been a vegetarian for about 9 years myself) I thought that for a truly enjoyable convivial meal what is is good for one should be good for us all.  And despite a love for carnivorous Italian delights like parma ham, salami or a meaty ragu, arguably what defines just as much classic Italian food is fantastic vegetables, herbs, breads and cheeses.

What I thought would be a simple menu actually turned into quite a time-consuming process, involving a couple of bread-type procedures as well as homemade pasta that not only required assembly of the dough but then a further fashioning into pretty little ravioli.  Despite preparations over 2 - 3 days I still found myself with an hour before my guests arrived, both myself and a sink full of utensils needing washing, mirroring the right-to-the-wire position of many Come Dine With Me contestants who I'd normally scoff at for their lack of preparation.  Somehow I managed to clean myself and the kitchen up and prepare the Campari and snacks before my first guest arrived promptly at 7pm...

The one good thing about going first is that I now have 3 more dinner parties to enjoy where I can just put my feet up, relax, and slag off their home decor... mwa ha ha.

Stella's Italian Feast

Campari cocktails and aperitivo: homemade tarallucci, polenta with gorgonzola and broccoli, olives and pecorino

Lemon and goats cheese ravioli

Melanzane parmagiana with green salad and homemade bread

Baked luccan fruit salad with mascarpone and amaretti

There wasn't much time for photos amongst the wine, strange Italian liqueurs, and chat, but here are a few....

Table - flowers, napkins, and even a water jug!

Tarallucci - first had these in Milan, little savoury biscuits with fennel, great with drinks!

Assembling the melanzane.... Anna Del Conte's is the best recipe EVER.
Melanzane parmigiana and polenta with broccoli and gorgonzola

Homemade sourdough bread

Lemon pasta - determined to be soggy, I managed to save it in the end....

Homemade lemon and goats cheese ravioli - after many hours faffing.

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