A Stress-Free(ish) Dinner Party Menu

One thing that I was really excited about when moving into our new place was all the entertaining I was planning on doing. I really love having people over for dinner and spending a few hours in the kitchen. For this post I thought I’d share an easyish menu that makes you look like a superstar cook. The best part is that most of this is prepared ahead of time because when your guests arrive you don’t really want to be running around the kitchen – you want to be able to spend time with them!

This menu has a bit of a French theme because you can’t go wrong with French Food, it’s a crowd pleaser. To start with, I served up a cheese board. I’m sure there are lots of guidelines for how to assemble a good cheese board but what I usually do is have one soft cheese, one nice cheddar (again, everyone loves a cheddar) and one hard strong cheese. You can change this to your own tastes, you’ll notice I didn’t include a blue cheese and that is because I hate them.

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Bit of cheese

This is a really easy starter, just present your cheese with some nice crackers and some relish/chutney and you look really fancy. Sometimes I worry about giving people too much food to start with but I think this is perfect.

For mains a beef bourguignon can be made ahead of time and is really delicious. I got this recipe a few years ago from a site that I think no longer exists. I’ve tried my best to source this recipe to no luck so I’m going to share it below – I cannot stress enough that this isn’t my original recipe but it is so so so good and I love it.

  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped roughly
  • 10 (not a typo!) whole shallots
  • 1 packet bacon lardons
  • 900kg/2lb round steak, diced
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Half bottle red wine (not crazy expensive but you should be willing to drink it)
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • Thyme and Parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 160 degree Celsius. Heat a large, ovenproof dish – add the oil and fry the lardons until brown. Remove with a slotted spoon, keep nearby but not so nearby that you snack on them while you cook.
  2. Roll the diced beef in flour, add to hot oil and brown. Then remove. You’ll need to do this in batches and it is the messiest/most time consuming part of the recipe. It’s worth it, I promise.
  3. Heat butter, cook onion, shallots and garlic until lightly brown and smells amazing.Then add mushrooms and carrots, cook for about 2/3 mins.
  4. By now your kitchen should smell fantastic 🙂
  5. Return meat to the dish, add the wine, hot stock and herbs. Just a quick note about the wine – Aldi and Lidl sell really lovely wines for less than a tenner so there is no excuse to use a bad wine when making this.
  6. Place lid on dish and cook in the oven for 2 and a half hours. Maybe check every hour just to make sure all looks good, ovens can vary!

This can be reheated if you want to make this the day before your dinner party – in fact it`ll only improve in flavour! I usually serve with mashed potatoes and some peas.

Now for dessert! Tarte Tatin is a caramelised fruit tart that looks really impressive and is fun to make. Unfortunately the one I made a few weeks ago fell out of the tin like a collapsed sand castle but it still tasted good 🙂

I use a Nigel Slater recipe for mine, basically make some shortcrust pastry (or buy some ready-made pastry, I think some people recommend puff but I like shortcrust) and peel some apples, core and halve them. Melt butter in a metal cake pan and add the sugar – over a lot heat keep stirring until the mix goes brown and sticky and you have a caramel.

Caramel gets really hot and is really sticky, be careful folks!! Take the pan off the heat  and gently add the apples, cut side down. Roll out your pastry over the top of the cake tin and bake in the oven at 190C for about an hour, but start checking after 45 mins. Once the pastry is browned and you can see caramel bubbling it’s done. Very carefully tip out onto a plate and if it does collapse, don’t panic. It’ll still taste good and your friends and family will still love you. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

And that’s it! Bon appetit!

 

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