Wednesday, May 16, 2007

We had lovely guests over for dinner yesterday, and I had such a wonderful day preparing for their appearance that I thought I'd share it. Firstly, I decided “forget work!” which meant that I could mosey around doing things gradually.

Since it needed chilling in the fridge, I started by making a chocolate lover's dream from Celia Brooks Brown's NEW VEGETARIAN (if you try this yourself, track down Green & Black's white chocolate because you get the lovely vanilla bits in it, making it even more interesting). Easy peasy - no cooking (except for melting of chocolate and butter), and only 5 ingredients, although for the faint-hearted among you look away now, for it is made almost entirely of double cream and chocolate, the other bits are incidental. So delicious.

Next I set the soup on the go: (Zuppa di Zucca if you're being correct, pumpkin soup if you're me) from Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers THE RIVER CAFE COOK BOOK. This is a deceptively simple but stunning soup. You wouldn't think so. How exciting can pumpkin soup be? Very, it turns out. We've never served this without the table falling silent as it is first sampled, followed shortly by recipe requests. And everyone has seconds, even though it is the starter. Even die-hard pumpkin haters.
If you are vegetarian, replace the chicken stock with a top notch vegetable stock, like Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon.

After lunch I took the bridle way shortcut on my way down to town. I'm such a frequent passerby that the nesting blackbird family ignore me now. The stinging nettles are out, along with other weeds and wildflowers - the combined effect with the low overhanging trees, makes for a deep green tunnel as you make your way along. I posted off bookmooches at my friendly local corner store/post office. I've long since given up queuing for hours at the main branch in town, where thirty people will stand in an inching line for half an hour. In my teeny local branch a two people queue is a flurry, and three or more he might call in crowd control! The advantage (or disadvantage, depending on your point of view) is that he is both interesting and interested. So my adventures at the Soyinka event were asked after...

A little while later I popped into the Kenyan Indian newsagent and the Turkish dry cleaners. Then the local farmers' market, The Goods Shed, had flat leaf parsley, asparagus, strawberries, and raspberries, all from farms within an eight mile radius. Canterbury Wholefood had the courgettes, rocket and pinenuts to round out the menu.

I cheated and took a bus home (running out of time) and was rewarded with the following sign: “With all teenagers in the South East so stylish and mature it's no wonder we get confused. Please carry a discount ID card to help us save you money!” Sadly no-one asked for ID. The recent profusion of grey hairs must have given the game away.

My last prep was to whizz up a sundried tomato pesto, and rinse the salad(See the brilliant Denis Cotter's THE CAFE PARADISO COOKBOOK), while roasting the vegetables for the “filling” in the risotto bake (NEW VEGETARIAN again). As the guests arrived, that slipped straight into the oven.

So, if you had been over chez us last night, you would have been served with:
Zuppa di Zucca
Rocket & flat-leaf parsley salad with currants, parmesan, a balsamic dressing and sundried tomato pesto crostini
Torta di risotto with char-grilled courgettes and three cheeses
White chocolate mousse torte
Delicious. Who said vegetarians don't eat well?!

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Blogger James said...

That is a gorgeous post (with lots of handy cookery book recommendations) - it describes a lifestyle so heavenly that I am nearly catatonic with envy. Good on ya!

9:22 am  
Blogger Lotus Reads said...

Oooh, sounds marvellous! I'm envious that you are so cheerful about cooking for company, I get so stressed out. I'm also envious of the lucky people that got to eat your wonderful meal!

2:41 pm  
Blogger equiano said...

James, welcome and glad you like the description. I should point out, however, that it is not a normal day for me! It was a super day, though, you're right, which is why I shared it. I'll be blogging later this week about more cookery suggestions so check back then.

Lotus, I do like having company around and hosting things, but they're only fun when you have time to prepare ahead, that's for sure. Consider yourself invited to dinner chez us if you're ever this side of the pond!

11:38 am  

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