Entertaining for a large group
I am sitting here in my PJs having cleared up, washed up and settled down after a meal with 12 friends. I love feeding people, seeing them enjoying their food whilst laughing and chatting. Today was my turn to host our annual get together of a tennis group. Tim and his friends have been playing tennis every Thursday evening during the summer months for the last 36 years and each year one of the team hosts the ‘Post tennis meal’. I have been asked whether I feel more pressure since winning the Bake Off. I thought about it and realise -absolutely not. These are my friends and I think when cooking for people you need to feel relaxed and enjoy it and not get over stressed about the food being produced. I try to keep things simple – "simple is genius" in my book !
I think writing about entertaining is probably pertinent because we are now getting to the time of year when we do more of it. The secret is in the planning and preparing things ahead. How often have you been invited for a meal to someone’s house and the hosts spend most of the time in the kitchen. Are they really enjoying the company of their friends or stressing about trying to produce a perfect, restaurant quality meal? That, by the way is impossible ! In a restaurant there is a team of staff plating up your food and the head chef doesn’t join you for dinner so don’t try to compare the two.
This weekend I decided on three courses that caused me no stress whatsoever because I was able to make most things in advance. I share with you my menu with a little note alongside stating when I prepared it. My recipe for maple glazed ham and crab apple sauce is attached this week and is a great one for entertaining. No waste either, any left over ham is delicious with chips and pickles.
Starter – Filo fish parcels – veg prepped day before and parcels assembled morning of the meal and chilled. Baked for 20 minutes and served immediately. Popped them in the oven when everyone had been served a drink.
Main – Maple glazed ham – baked the day before then glazed and roasted for 45 minutes. This came out of the oven as the guests arrived. I serve it with my crab apple sauce which is served cold and made two days before. Cumberland sauce works just the same.
Braised red cabbage – cooked two days before and reheated
Dauphinoise Potato cakes – cooked the day before (covered) then browned for 25 minutes whilst starter was being eaten.
Marmalade carrots – Carrots prepped the day before, covered in a damp tea towel. On the day baked in a foil parcel having first been coated in marmalade. Pop into the oven the same time as the potato cakes.
Cheese and Fennel oatcakes – I made the cheese biscuits some four days prior and stored them in a freezer bag in a tin and they were perfect.
Desserts – for large numbers serve chilled desserts. I made a no bake cheesecake and chocolate and passion fruit tart. Both made the day before then decorated the morning of the meal.
On the day of the meal therefore the only tasks undone were the last minute ones. Tim sets the table for me and this was done the day before too. I always write myself a little timetable starting from when people arrive then working backwards to when food needs to go into the oven etc. Another tip is wait until your starter is on the table before having a drink ! I always have a glass of water with the guests as a first drink so that I know my head is in gear – once the starter is served and everyone is chatting away then I start on the wine !
Have a happy week readers !
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