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Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Love is All Around

You have to hand it to the missus: when it comes to creative entertaining she is a master.

Take last Sunday for an example. We'd invited a few friends around for Sunday lunch. It was Valentine's Day but I was going to treat it like any other Sunday lunch - meat, two veg and possibly a pud.

It was a couple of days before the grand event when I got round to thinking what I could possibly cook. I am the Auguste Escoffier in our house. While I was wondering what the hell to dish up - something our guests hadn't had before or clearly looked so simple it would have premiered on "Ready, Steady, Cook", 'er indoors announced that the whole event was to be Valentine Day themed.

I gradually appreciated the scale of my wife's ambition.  A specially Cupid decorated dining table, a Valentine's quiz and games, and prizes. Which left my run of the mill lunch floundering. But her idea sparked off the few remaining synapses in my old head.

There had to be a printed menu, the food had to reflect the day - it had to be red and it had to be fun. I have a load of cookery books but nowadays, if I need inspiration, I head for Googleland. I don't know what made me think of it but my starter had to be borscht. Type in beetroot soup and you get a number of quite inviting but ultimately tame soup ideas. Type in borscht and you open an  Eastern European Pandora's box. I settled for one by Katerina of the Ukraine. It had everything in it, including the kitchen sink. It took an age to make and I created enough for a whole Cossack Army. Luckily, I made it the day before: the main course was a major miscalculation.

Continuing on the red theme, I decided to do a roasted red peppers and sun dried tomatoes with ricotta cheese in cannelloni. It would be cooked in a rich tomato sauce and baked with a nutmeg infused white sauce. That, with a simple green salad and a homemade French dressing, what could be nicer.

Unfortunately, I misread the preparation and cooking times. I thought it would take an hour and a half in total, so as our guests were to arrive at 2 o'clock, I started preparing at noon. In fact the total time was two and a half hours. One hour preparation and one and half cooking. OK, I thought being such a skilled cook I could cut into the preparation time and still not over run. How wrong could I be.

The recipe called for sheets of lasagna, which you'd cook to soften and roll into cannelloni. I thought I knew better and bought already made cannelloni. I soon discovered why the recipe had called for lasagna. Having mixed up the chopped sun dried tomatoes and the slithers of roasted red pepper, torn basil leaves with the ricotta, the mixture was to be spread onto the lasagna sheets which were then rolled up cannelloni wise.

My pre-made cannelloni was extremely narrow and stuffing the mixture, with long strands of red pepper and chunks of sun dried tomatoes took an age. It took at least two minutes to fill each little strip of pasta and I needed about 16 of them. By the time I done that, placed them in dish with the tomato sauce, made the white sauce, covered the pasta with it and put the dish in the oven it was one thirty, and it needed an hour and a half to cook.

While I was panicking in the kitchen the missus was quietly transforming our dining table and dining room into Cupid's lair. It was a sensation.

The wife made Eton Mess for afters and we were to have some simple cheeses with a fig ball and fig and chocolate salami.

One pair of guests saved the day. They were delayed by traffic so arrived at two thirty. Having started off with a rose Prosecco we had the borscht soup with rye bread bought that morning at the local Farmer's Market. The eating was interspersed with quizzes and charades, prizes and far too many bottles of wine.

After our guests had left we settled down to watch Vera. I fell asleep and while snoring 'er indoors tidied up and put on the dishwasher. Have loving is that?


RM and HJ said...

Indeed it was a splendid event but we could have sworn you were going to clear up.

Barry Coidan said...

Dear esteemed guests. No, I'd drunk too much so wouldn't have been allowed to stack the dishwasher had I been awake.