Thursday, 16 June 2011

An Impromptu Feast

Last Friday and an intimate dinner for four; including me, my house mates (two old queens whom I love dearly) and our friend Jen. Being a food geek and follower of Delia from a young age, I had prepped on Thursday and my carefully planned menu was good to go. Or would have been...

Bloody housemates. Whilst I was prepping, they were busy drinking free gin and doubling our four to eight. Cool as a courgette, I did a mental recalculation of the food, a calculation of my bank balance plus what we had in the freezer and a slightly mismatched, but delicious dinner party was born. Hurrah!

(terribly murky images to be blamed on excessive wine consumption plus only having an iPhone camera at my disposal)

Stuffed Peppers with Beef and Rosemary

A hybrid of a Nigel Slater recipe featured the last Observer Food Monthly which, due to Asda only doing mixed peppers, my obsession with thyme and our friend Elauen not eating pork, I followed only vaguely. Here’s what I did (not that I am suggesting mine to be better than Nigel’s, which would clearly be absurd).

Large Red Onion

Two Cloves of Garlic

500g Minced Beef

50g Breadcrumbs

6 Mixed Peppers

3 Sprigs of Rosemary, finely chopped

3 Sprigs of Thyme

3 Tomatoes

Good Squeeze of Tomato Puree

Pinch of Sugar




Preheat Oven 200 degrees.

Cook onion over low heat in olive oil til soft. Add rosemary, thyme, garlic and season, cook for a few minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and cook until broken down, then add sugar and tomato puree.

Meanwhile halve and deseed peppers then simmer in boiling water for about 8 minutes of until starting to soften. Drain and put skin side down on baking tray.

Add beef and breadcrumbs to tomato mixture, give it a good stir and take off the heat. Fill peppers with mixture and top with grated parmesan. Cook in oven for around 30 minutes.

Roasted Sweet Potato, Red Onion and Feta Salad with Cous Cous

This started off as a salad, but extra guests meant bulking out with carbs was necessary. The ‘Moonblush Tomatoes' are from Nigella and her Nigella Express; basically turn up oven as high as it goes, quarter tomatoes, coat in oil and season well, turn oven off, put tomatoes on baking tray with a few sprigs of thyme and leave overnight. In the morning you will have something akin to a sundried tomato, which can be thrown into most salads and taste brilliant. Thanks Nigella!

Large Sweet Potato

2 Red Onions

Four Cloves of Garlic

Four Dried Chillis

One Chilli, finely chopped

8 ‘Moonblush’ Tomatoes

Bag of Baby Spinach

Juice of One Lemon

Olive Oil



250g Cous Cous

200g Feta


Preheat Oven to 240 degrees

Chop sweet potato into large chunks, quarter red onion (leave skin on), smash garlic cloves and dried chillis. Mix together in a bowl with generous glug of olive oil and season. Transfer to baking tray and cook until potato is soft and the onion is starting to blacken at the edges (around 40 minutes).

Meanwhile, prepare cous cous (aka follow the pack instructions)

Prepare dressing by mixing lemon, olive oil, fresh chilli, salt and pepper.

Combine sweet potato, onion (discard skin and chop roughly), cous cous and two thirds of the dressing in a large bowl until everything is nicely coated.

On a large plate layer spinach leaves, then cous cous, then tomatoes, finishing with chopped parsley and the rest of the dressing.

Turkey Stuffed with Thyme and Cream Cheese Wrapped in Bacon

Again, this is a variant on a recipe shamelessly stolen from another chef (I like to think they all taught me how to cook in lieu of a domestic mother), this time Gordon Ramsey who uses chicken, parma ham, ricotta and sage. However, I had to think on my feet and use what was lingering in the fridge/freezer/cupboard and these weren’t bad either.

4 Turkey Steaks

8 Rashers of Streaky Bacon

5 Sprigs of Thyme

4 Cloves of Garlic

Pack of Cream Cheese



Preheat oven to 190 degrees

Mix cream cheese, salt, pepper, crushed garlic and thyme in a bowl, set aside. Smash turkey steaks until thin with rolling pin then fill centre with a generous tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture, fold in half and then wrap in bacon. Repeat.

Brown turkey parcels in a hot frying pan, around five minutes on each side. Finish in oven (15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the steaks)

Slice before serving so everyone can share.

To my main dishes, I added new potatoes which were par boiled, coated in a garlic and herb butter (handful of basil, handful of parsley, 3 cloves of garlic and 300g butter) and then roasted in a hot oven for 15 minutes, and lots of crusty bread (which I didn’t make, girl's got to have time to sip her wine).

Being a Friday night and everyone coming after work at random, people gathered in the kitchen drinking whilst I cooked. This was a blessing, by the time we ate (at about 9.30pm) everyone was merry, starving and extremely complimentary. A success.

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