Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Degustation to Order

On Saturday night I had the pleasure of putting on my official catering hat - a paid gig, cooking a six course 70th birthday degustation dinner. After consultation with the hosts, we came up with a menu that we thought would please the guests and especially the birthday boy. I was able to do most of the prep work in my own kitchen, which was great. It is always a challenge working in someone else's space with someone else's equipment but with most of the work done prior to the event, I only had a few tasks left once I got to the venue. Whether you are catering for a couple of people or a hundred, the planning is pretty much the same. I am the queen of list making and scheduling! Without a clear plan of what to do and when, it is easy to mess up your preparation and particularly the timing of the courses. You don't want guests kept waiting, but you also want enough time between courses to not make them feel rushed. This is even more important with a degustation menu.

I am happy to report that Saturday night went brilliantly, with happy guests, a happy cook and a lovely evening all round. Here is what was on the menu:

We started with an amuse bouche - a deliciously creamy chilled soup to get everyone's tastebuds going.....

Chilled Zucchini and Leek Soup
with Garlic, herb and paprika croutons

Next came the first of two starters - lovely fresh prawns that were marinated in heaps of garlic and pan fried, served with crispy rosti and a creamy horseradish sauce with heaps of tang and bite.

Garlic Prawns and Potato Rosti 
with horseradish cream sauce

Second starter was hand made tortellini, filled with fresh herbs from my garden, ricotta, mozzerella and parmesan. This was served with fresh asparagus that was sauteed with sea salt and plenty of black pepper.

Handmade 3 Cheese Tortellini
with sauteed asparagus

Next up was a free range chicken, that I deboned and stuffed with almonds, apricots, fresh herbs and Dijon mustard. I served this with a salad of pears and toasted walnuts and dressed it all with a maple and white balsamic dressing.

Deboned Free Range Chicken with Apricot and Almond Stuffing
Served with baby spinach, rocket,pear,toasted walnut salad and maple dressing

The second main course was a beautiful piece of lamb which I marinated for 24 hours in crushed juniper berries, bay leaves, garlic and verjuice. This was then pan fried and served with a decadent creamy puree and a salsa verde, flavoured with capers, anchovies, garlic and plenty of fresh herbs.

Juniper and Garlic Backstrap of Lamb
Served with cauliflower, potato and parmesan puree/ salsa verde

And finally the dessert - a French fruit tart which was cut and served at the table. The recipe for this tart came from my stint at cooking school in Paris last year. A great chance to revive my baking skills, as I don't tend to make desserts that often. I used seasonal berries and finished the tart with a redcurrant glaze.

French Berry Tart
with almond crust and vanilla bean creme patissiere

I really enjoyed creating this menu and it was really well recieved by the guests. It is such a lovely feeling to see everyone enjoying what you have created - makes all the preparation totally worth it.

The Roman philosopher Seneca once said that "There is no delight in owning anything unshared" - I feel sure that food and good company fall into that category! A wonderful evening that I was thrilled to have been part of.


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