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The Perfect Dinner Party Guide

Let’s set the scenario you’ve invited some guests to dinner, maybe close friends, colleagues or family it doesn’t really matter, the end goal is giving your guests something really good to eat, sure isn’t that the aim of any decent host?  Good food has no barriers and it brings friends, family and would be friends together.  When people are gathered around a table they all have with one thing in common… They want to eat good food and enjoy some genial banter, so to avoid all the stress the golden rule is to plan a meal that is not too complicated and unfamiliar. Cook something that you have cooked a couple of times before and most disasters will be avoided.  You will definitely be the hostess or host to beat all others if you have time to chat to your guests and refill their glasses (rule No 1 of the “host or hostess with the mostess”).  I have learned this lesson over time, arriving at the table with your dish for that ta-da moment dripping in sweat and hair frazzled from the heat in the kitchen, is really not a good look not ever on anyone. I love to wow guests with tasty but hearty dishes and here is the recipe for one of my favourites.


Black pudding scotch eggs

Ingredients

(makes 6)

6 small/medium eggs

350g good quality black pudding chopped (I use Clonakilty)

200g sausage meat

70g plain flour seasoned with salt and black pepper

For the coating

1 egg beaten

150g breadcrumbs

1litre of cooking oil for deep frying

Parsley for a garnish

Method

1.​Put the black pudding and sausage meat into a large bowl and mix until evenly combined, season with black pepper. Divide the mixture into 12 even-sized balls.

2.​Fill a pot of water and add the 6 eggs, bring to a rolling boil and simmer for 3 minutes which should give you a nice soft yolk. Drain the eggs immediately and run them under the cold tap until cool and then peel off the shells and put the eggs aside.

3.​Lay out three bowls. Put the bread crumbs into one, a lightly beaten egg into another and your flour in another (season your flour with salt and pepper).

4.​ Use two of the rough black pudding balls and flatten them out into discs of around 6cm in diameter. Place one disc in the palm of your hand, put your soft-boiled egg in the middle and then put the second disc on top. Shape the black pudding around the egg, into a nice oval shape, make sure you seal it very well. Repeat with the remaining black pudding and eggs.

5.​Coat each shaped scotch egg with seasoned flour. Dip the scotch egg in the beaten egg mix and then roll it in the breadcrumbs. Place your scotch eggs in the refrigerator for half an hour to chill.

6.​Fill a deep pot with 1 litre of cooking oil(this oil can be used again) and heat to 170°c – 175°c. You can use a deep fat fryer if you have one. Fry 3 eggs at a time for 6–8 minutes, turn them so they are an even golden colour. Lift them out and rest on kitchen paper towels allowing them to cool for a few minutes, so as not to burn your mouth. Garnish with chopped parsley

Casseroles and one-pot wonders are just the best dishes for gatherings and family dinners as they can be prepared ahead of time and you can leave it in the centre of the table and let people help themselves. I have fallen in love with Italian cuisine over the last couple of years following a fantastic foodie holiday on the Amalfi coast, along the southern edge of Italy and I love trying to recreate with justice the dishes from my memories. This rich and aromatic Italian lamb ragu is such a crowd pleaser which I serve alongside some pasta and a basket of crusty bread to mop up all those delicious juices. I always top the dish with plenty of good parmesan cheese and love how it adds an Unami layer to the dish.

For me, this is my perfect dinner party dish with bundles of taste, little or no fuss and allows me plenty of time to chat with my guests.


Lamb Ragu with Conchiglie

Ingredients

450g Lean lamb mince

1 medium brown onion chopped finely

3 garlic cloves crushed

4 stalks of celery chopped

1 can of cherry tomatoes

20g dried mushrooms ie porcini

1 tbsp of chopped fresh thyme or sage

1/2 tsp of grated nutmeg

1 tsp of toasted fennel seeds crushed

4 tbsp of red wine

1 tsp of sugar

1 heaped tbsp of tomato paste

1 lamb stockpot or cube

Rapeseed oil for frying

Garnish

Fresh basil leaves for and grated parmesan

Method

1.​Fry mince on a dry pan and discard any excess oil, remove the lamb from heat and set aside in a deep or pot. Fry the onions in rapeseed on a pan for 3 minutes, add in chopped celery and crushed garlic, cook for a further 4 mins making sure not to burn the garlic.

2.​Melt stock pot or stock cube in 50 mls of boiling water and add to the pot with the cooked lamb. Add in celery, onion and garlic. Deglaze the pan used for cooking the onions etc with red wine and pour into lamb pot. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar stir and cook on a  low heat.

3.​Rehydrate the  dried mushrooms in 75mls of boiling water, after 10 minutes pours the liquid and mushrooms into lamb and mix.

4.​Put a whole nutmeg and fennel seeds on a pan (low heat) on toast for 3 minutes. Crush fennel seeds and grate 1/3 of the nutmeg and add into lamb along with the chopped fresh thyme or sage stir and cook for a further 15 minutes on a low heat. Season to taste. Serve with Conchiglie pasta.

I’m not a huge fan of desserts and I’d much rather a farmhouse cheese plate with some crackers but being the hostess always like to make something for my sweet-toothed guests and this recipe is the perfect way to end a meal especially when served warm with a scoop of ice cream.


Skinnier chocolate and peanut butter brownies

Ingredients

140g crunchy peanut butter

120g low fat or fat free greek yogurt

2 large eggs

2 large very ripe bananas

3 tablespoons of Honey

80g unsweetened cocoa powder

100g rolled oats

30g toasted peanuts

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180° and grease an 8×8 inch tin really well and set aside.

2. Place the rolled oats, bananas, yogurt, honey and cocoa powder into a blender. Blend until ingredients are completely smooth and mixed thoroughly.

3. Beat your eggs until light and fluffy for about 4 minutes. Add a little of the egg mixture into your blended mix of yogurt oats etc to loosen it. Fold in the rest of your blended ingredients bit by bit into your egg mix then pour the mix into your prepared baking tin and set aside.

4. Microwave the peanut butter for about 30 seconds or until soft. Drop melted peanut butter by spoonfuls onto the mix, swirling gently with a knife to create a marbled effect. (Do not to over mix). Sprinkle over the toasted peanuts.

5. Bake for 20 minutes or until the brownies begin to pull away from the sides of the tin. Wait until the brownie slab is completely cooled before cutting into squares (makes 12)

WRITTEN BY JENNIFER OPPERMANN

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