Ask Peter: Help for a senior citizen
I am a retired granny (76) taking part in a family My Kitchen Rules competition against six couples ranging from 30 to 84. Our first dinner at my nephew’s set a very high standard. I am a bit rusty when it comes to entertaining 12 people and we have a very small kitchen. My partner Don (84) and I will be hosts to the gang in January 2016, (that is if we are still alive!) I would like to try out different recipes now. I feel the starter and dessert should be easy to make, complementing the main casserole or mince dish. Aubergines are in season in January and I have thought about moussaka. Have looked at bite.co.nz for a chicken dish but am overwhelmed with 1350 dishes to choose from. What do you think about baked chicken and broccoli or Moroccan baked chicken? I have made Annabel Langbein’s lemon parfaits that can be kept in theh fridge for up to 6 hours. Have also been trying out various potato gratin recipes but still not satisfied with the results. Incidentally one person is allergic to nuts and fish. -JA
Goodness, you’ve got quite a challenge ahead of you! But you have plenty of time, which is the best news. Nothing worse than being told you need to feed a dozen in a few hours. As your dinner will be in January, the warm weather means a good, exciting, salad-based starter, will work really well. If it were in the depths of winter you’d be hard-pressed to satisfy your guests with a cold starter.
Think of what your family would really like and then create something to have them all licking their lips and you’ll get extra brownie points. You could buy some whitebait and have it in the freezer and then surprise everyone as you serve it to them. I made some fritters recently and served them cold, with a Thai-inspired salad of shredded green mango and green papaya, tossed with crushed roasted peanuts and coriander. I made a simple dressing from lime zest and juice, palm sugar, a little soy sauce and chopped red chillies. It was a lovely way to eat whitebait, and it’s the sort of starter that will have your fellow contestants feeling slightly disadvantaged with your generous spirit. The person with the nut and fish allergy needn’t go hungry. Serve them the same salad (without peanuts) and dressing with a zucchini fritter instead of a whitebait fritter.
For the main course, as it’s going to be the middle of summer, you need to be certain a stew is a good idea. It might be too heavy, unless of course it was a chicken stew, cooked with light chicken stock, slivers of ginger and garlic and lots of basil and flat parsley stirred through at the end. Serve with broccoli couscous, rocket and radicchio salad. Or you could stuff chicken breasts under the skin with mascarpone mixed with fresh herbs, chopped capers and a little horseradish. Roast those off basted with melted butter and olive oil, and serve with a potato gratin (as you suggest) in which you’ve replaced some of the potatoes with kumara. A salad of blanched and refreshed green beans, peas, thinly sliced zucchini, broccoli florets and halved cherry tomatoes would do the trick.
Annabel’s lemon parfait sounds delicious and you could add a personal twist to it. I assume it’s frozen if it’s called a parfait? Puree 1 ½ cups strawberries with 3 tablespoons runny honey and swirl this through the mixture as it goes into the freezer with around 24 small basil leaves, roughly torn in half. The honey stops the liquid in the puree freezing to an icy texture and keeps it of a good consistency, and basil is such a gorgeous accompaniment to strawberries and lemon. Make it in a loaf tin, lined with baking paper or double thickness plastic wrap, then remove it from the freezer the morning of your dinner party. Cut into slices about 2cm thick, lay on a tray with baking parchment between the slices and place back in the freezer until you need it later that night. To serve the dessert, drizzle strawberry puree across your plates, then lay a slice of the parfait in the centre and scatter with a few quartered strawberries (which you’ve tossed with a little icing sugar and lemon juice) and place a few extra baby-baby meringues around it for garnish.
If I were to be served this meal, I’d be very happy. As with any large gathering, just make sure you are really well prepped in advance and only leave jobs that are completely necessary for last minute. Also, do a dry run of the same dinner a few weeks before with less critical friends — you’ll be really pleased you did.
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