I invited seven girlfriends round for supper the night before we departed for Wilderness, and I realised at 6pm that I hadn’t given a moment’s thought to the menu for the evening. Thankfully I have London’s best greengrocer on my street, so I whipped downstairs and into Parkway Greens with a huge shopping basket, to scoop up anything that looked good at random.
(I have to say that writing your own cookbook comes in very handy in situations like this. It’s going to take quite a bit of time to get over the novelty of cooking a recipe from a book I ACTUALLY WROTE MYSELF!)
In the summer, I’m quite keen on lots of salads on the table for everyone to pick over. I would usually do five or six, but with only five guests that would have been overkill, so the eventual menu was:
Peaches with buffalo mozzarella and an emulsified basil vinaigrette,
Avocado, Halloumi and chickpea salad with red onion
(The remoulade and Halloumi salad are both in my cookbook).
I’m not entirely sure they all went together, but individually they are all delicious, so tant pis.
For pudding we had little very short pate brisee tarts, filled with homemade creme patissiere, raspberries and white currants, (the pastry and creme pat are both in the book too), followed by a thankfully perfectly ripe piece of Brie de Meaux from Whole Foods, Kentish cobnuts (which are just coming into season) and cherries.
(I actually meant to make this salad with white peaches, but picked up the wrong ones in store. It didn’t matter, as these were delicious.)
In the ten minutes between realising I had no food and no menu and heading out to Parkway Greens, I shoved Prosecco and Tio Pepe in the fridge from the wine rack, and knocked up the pastry in my Magimix, wrapping it loosely in cling film, and shoving it in the fridge to rest.
The moment I got back in, I cooked the creme patissiere, to allow it time to cool. Then I rolled out the pastry and cut discs to fit the little loose bottomed fluted cases I found recently in a hardware shop in Camden. I sprayed the cases with cake release, lined them with the pastry discs, and filled them with baking beans to bake blind for a scant 20 minutes.
I then laid the table, so that if I got terribly behind, the conservatory would still look welcoming and pretty.
Then it was simply a case of grating the kohlrabi, chopping onions, tearing the mozzarella, slicing the peaches, and making both the vinaigrette and the remoulade dressings.
The vinaigrette is simply a slug of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tsps of Dijon mustard, a splash of white wine vinegar, a good pinch of Maldon salt & freshly ground black pepper, and a bunch of basil leaves, de-stemmed, all placed in a Magimix and blended together.
I managed to finish everything in the hour before my guests arrived, with only the Halloumi (already sliced) to grill, the avocado to cube, and the tart cases to fill.
We ate every single scrap between us – and the last tart didn’t go to waste either – Hannah eschewed cheese for a second helping. Shame to leave it looking so lonely, eh?