Pheasant... and a rant about dinner party etiquette7/17/2007 10:01:00 PM
Obvious though it may be, let me inform you officially - I am a bit of a control freak in the kitchen. When I'm cooking, I don't like people stirring my pots or opening my oven. I also have a firm stance against people bringing desserts to dinner parties. I mean, I know it isn't nice to turn up empty-handed when someone is cooking you dinner, but really, unless you have a prior understanding to do so, why would you bring dessert? Flowers or wine, (or at a push, nice chocolates) are almost always a good dinner-party-gift. But bringing an extra dessert? They can ruin a menu, leave people bloated, force the host to quickly find extra plates and serving utensils, and at worst, undermine the abilities of the person providing dinner - like when Patty and Selma bring extra food to Marge's Thanksgiving bash. (Ok, I admit that last point might be stretching it a bit far, but you get my drift).
So, imagine how completely my anti-dessert-stance turned around when I was presented with that lovely cake in the first photo of this post. Even the hardest, most stone-cold bitch of a kitchen tyrant would have to be softened. Isn't it gorgeous? Richard and Lahn brought this mixed berry cheesecake when we had them over for dinner on the weekend. Their thoughtfulness was just amazing. The cheesecake is from Richard's bakery, so you know it has to be good. And boy, it was.
Dinner for a Really Cold Winter, for 8
Pheasant with Gin and IT (How to Eat)
Goosefat Roast Potatoes
Walnut, Watercress, Pear and Parmesan Salad (Vogue Entertaining and Travel)
Pig's Bum and Custard (How to Eat)
Most dishes in this menu can be made in slightly in advance, leading to a less-stressful night. The pheasant, in fact, is better being made in advance, and simply needs to be reheated before eating. The roast potatoes can be parboiled in the morning, and shoved into the oven an hour before you wish to eat. The salad just requires a bit of slicing and tossing, and the dessert, for all that it is a steamed sponge, is very easy to make. It takes 2.5 undisturbed, effort-free hours in a steamer, and the batter itself takes about 5 minutes to make. It goes well with cold custard, so just make the custard once the pudding has started steaming, and leave it in the fridge, covered with gladwrap, until it is time to eat it.
I had made all the dishes before, so I knew they'd turn out ok. I have to admit, however, that the last time I made the pheasant was over a year ago, and whilst I remembered that I liked it, I couldn't actually remember how it tasted - I looked to an old blog post of mine to double check. Here is my blog about the first time I made the pig's bum - a steamed rhubarb pudding. It is so fabulous; definitely one of my favourite recipes from How to Eat.
The stew. Rich, full of savoury depth, and very tender.
The salad. I managed to get my hands on actual watercress this time. I used rocket leaves last time, which weren't quite as peppery.
The roast potatoes, using Nigella's method. Richard's favourite. My favourite. Everyone's favourite, really.
One generous plate. I love the way that salad leaves mop up the sweetly savoury juices of a stew. Thanks to Nigel Slater for alerting me to the fabulousness of salad leaves with hot sauce.
Richard's plate. I guess it's true, you don't make friends with salad...
And now the pudding! Although a close friend of mine joked that one Pig's Bum divided amongst 8 people would be "Nicole Richie's bum!", it worked out well this time - we all managed to have some pudding without feeling bloated or sugar-sedated. It's difficult to make a dinner in which the dessert is satisfying, but not so filling that everyone plans to start a detox the next day. And if, like me, you entertain a lot, it makes sense not to go OTT with desserts every single time. Tonight, luckily, it all balanced well.