Sunday, 11 October 2009

The dinner party

There's this TV programme called "
Come Dine With Me" (in the UK - other countries have their national variations. Click on the link if you don't know what this programme is about, or you'd like to know what your country's version is called). Marie and I find it very enjoyable. My older daughters and their spouses also enjoy watching it (some more than others). Marie thought that it might be fun to have our own "Come Dine With Me" competition, and mentioned this to my sons-in-law. They were enthusiastic about the idea, and soon the whole family was involved.

After pairing now-single Colleen with family friend Guillaume, we had four couples and we decided to dine at each other's houses on consecutive Saturdays. Lots were drawn to determine the order in which we would be hosting the dinner parties. Marie and I were to be the first hosts. Diners would give each of the host couples marks (out of 10) and the winning couple would get a meal at a posh restaurant paid for by the losers. To make sure that everyone had an even chance, everyone would post their menus on Facebook by 9 p.m. last Wednesday, and all meals had to be totally home cooked.

Thus on Saturday last, Marie and I gave care of Joseph and Orla to our baby sitter while we prepared the meal. Marie had selected the starter and dessert, and I had selected the main course.

This was our menu -

Bruschetta with salad garnish

Moroccan spiced roasted Exmoor lamb shanks
Maris Piper potatoes and sweet potatoes
Selection of vegetables

Individual strawberry or banana pavlova

Cheese tray
Selection of biscuits

Tea or coffee
Selection of chocolates

By lunch time on Saturday, Marie had cooked the meringues for the pavlovas. They looked perfect.

I had marinaded the lamb shanks all night in my specially prepared, 12 spice, red wine marinade. I individually wrapped the lamb shanks in tin foil and put them in the oven, five hours before they were required. I cubed the potatoes, coated them in olive oil and spices and put them in the oven just two hours before required. The tomato-based sauce was prepared and cooked and the vegetables - baby carrots, miniature courgettes, baby corn and asparagus tips - were ready for their few minutes in the steamer, just prior to serving.

Preparations complete, and with Marie busy creating her bruschettas, I turned my attentions to getting the dining room ready.
With just one hour to go, I thought I noticed the faint smell of burning. Marie was changing into her evening wear, so I quickly checked the cooker.


Someone had turned the oven up to 250ยบ! (Probably Orla, when the babysitter wasn't looking.)

I took out the somewhat charred potatoes and the tray of lamb shanks. Although a little burned, the potatoes still tasted good. Since the lamb shanks were wrapped in tin foil, it was impossible to know whether or not they had been incinerated. There wasn't enough time to prepare anything else, so I decided to take a chance and serve them as planned.

The guests arrived bearing gifts of fine wine and were soon sampling the culinary efforts of Marie and myself. Marie's bruschettas were superb and she was duly complimented. The lamb shanks, when unwrapped, turned out to be crisp on the outside, but very tender, succulent and aromatic on the inside. The marinade had done its job superbly. The potatoes were equally delicious despite their charred appearance. The main course had almost turned out the way I had hoped. Later, the meringues Marie had prepared were absolutely perfect and her pavlovas were a big hit.

After dinner, our guests requested that I play the piano for them. I was able to play some of their favourite tunes and I remembered some popular French melodies which greatly pleased Guillaume. After much wine consumption, festivities ceased around 2 a.m.

Our dinner party had been a great success. We retired, happy tired, looking forward to seeing what the other dinner parties will have to offer.

And Marie's anxiety was absent all day long.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Did you know that Tesco sells saffron for almost £6,000 per kilo!!? (That's about $4.300 per pound.) You knew that? Well, it was quite a surprise for me.


Kaci said...

The menu sounds like it was amazing! I am glad that everything turned out well for the dinner party and best of all Marie's anxiety was absent for it! :)

Kit Courteney said...

I love that programme (and so much more when things go wrong!)

Sounds like yours was a big success and great news about Marie's anxiety.

Nota Bene said...

I'm so glad I read this after I'd had my lunch...otherwise I'd have been dribbling! Sounds amazingly delicious....

maz said...

Hi, it sounds like you all had a fab time.
It'll be interesting to see how the other meals go too!

maz x

Rachael said...

I love that show too, the narrator is the best, so sarcastic.

That sounds like a fun thing to do, hope the rest goes well

Michelle said...

The piano sounds like a perfect touch. What a delightful evening. I'm so happy to read that Marie got to enjoy everything. It gives me hope.

momcat said...

Lucky you were there to save the lamb. You'll have to watch the little one around the stove because chances are she'll try it again!

ladythinker said...

A mouth watering menu - well done -glad it all went so well ..

Anonymous said...

That sounds like a lot of fun- and a little stress when kids find there way in. You make quite a team, very appetising. All in all it must have been a brilliant day. Good to hear Marie had an anxiety free day too.

All the best


Robert said...

Kaci, KC, Michelle & Nechtan - We did have a great evening. Marie was busy for most of the day with preparations, and with the anticipation of an enjoyable evening...which one of these things caused her to be anxiety free? Or was it both of them?...

Robert said...

NB, maz, Rachael & ladythinker - I believe that our guests found our culinary offerings pleasing to their palates. For the next 3 weeks, Marie & I get find out what our guests are capable of serving. We're looking forward to that!

Robert said...

momcat - It's not the first time that Orla gave in to the temptatiion to fiddle with the knobs on the cooker. I'm sure that it won't be the last! I have to keep a constant eye on her - but, hey, she'll grow up quickly enough, so I can put up with that for a while.