Monday, 14 December 2009

Dinner party

Once upon a time, I loved to host a dinner party. Or thought I did. The truth is, I love a dinner party hosted by someone else. Anyone else really.

I went off the idea big time a couple of years ago after I just had one too many such parties. We used to live in a tiny house in which it wasn't possible to entertain so when we moved, I went a bit crazy on entertaining. Then I got over it. I get tired. Cranky. Stressed. Full of self doubt and then I collapse in a heap and wonder why I bothered.

To be clear, it's not the food part of it that distresses me. I love cooking and am mostly pretty confident about my abilities in this area. I'm not a perfectionist but I care, so the food is usually fine and once the wine flows everyone's happy.

Really, I'm just excessively hard on myself about other the stuff involved in a dinner party, like trying to do everything as well as talk to people. I can do the food. Or I can do the talking. Not both. When I try to do both I come away feeling like I did neither very well. Again, possibly not the reality of the situation so much as just my own insecurities, but insecurities are exhausting when they rage at full volume in your head so I decided for the sake of my mental health, no more dinner parties.

Friends could come for a meal but it'd be low key. Minimal expectations. And even then it felt too hard so I gave that up too.

Then a month ago, old friends of ours who moved to Perth said they were going to be in town and could they invite themselves for dinner. Without a moment's thought I said yes and knew at once that I'd have a dinner party for four because in the past, these friends have cooked for us and cooked well back in the day when we could not have reciprocated in out tiny one bedroom flat. They catered for us lavishly and lovingly. Doing anything less than that for them would have been just wrong.

So I created a menu, and I was kind to myself. I didn't go overboard in planning. I arranged things so that as much work could be done beforehand as possible. Sean does a fair bit with preparation too but he knows really it's my thing so he steps back and does stuff on the side and frankly I'm a bit of a control freak so don't delegate very well.

So here what is what i came up with. A little festive, a little different, a little special. That's what I was aiming for and I think I got it.

I cheated on the entree. I sent Sean out for a selection of good quality Turkish dips from a place near home that also makes their Turkish bread on site. I set them out in pretty blue glass bowls and we ate them with champagne.

The main was a dish I discovered a few weeks ago and knew at once it would be my dinner party dish. Pomegranate and Pistachio Chicken from Sydney food blogger, Not Quite Nigella.

Pomegranate and Pistachio Chicken

It was, I have to say, incredible. Slow cooked in a dutch oven with the lid on, it was moist beyond my expectations, rich with a sauce of pomegranate molasses and brandy, and decorated with the ruby seeds glistening on top. Amazing. This will become a standard for me.

I served it with a green salad and herbed couscous.

Dessert was made the night before and was left to soften a little before serving. A Raspberry, Pistachio and Rosewater semifreddo. Semifreddo is an Italian dessert that is deceptively easy to make - it's kind of an icecream cake. Eggs, whipped cream, sugar and whatever flavouring you like. Make it the night before, freeze then serve slices. Like this.

Raspberry and Pistachio Semifreddo

We ate this meal with a Lakes Folly Chardonnay and were all very, very happy. Most importantly, I managed to do with a real feeling of contentment. I felt relaxed and very much at ease. Lots of conversation, friends who were happy to see us and who enjoyed the meal. I'm not going to run headlong into a bout of entertaining any time soon, but I think I got a bit of the joy back. Feeding friends is really nice and I don't want to stop doing it. I just need to remember the ways that make it enjoyable and not a trial.