I’m not sure. After reading this post on The Wednesday Chef blog, I have vowed only to make food for guests that I, myself, feel like eating — the most practical advice ever (and somewhat obvious, I’m prepared to admit).
And if you need advice on entertaining (even if you think you don’t), I urge you to grab a copy of How to Feed Your Friends with Relish by Brit food writer Joanna Weinberg (recently given to me by my dear friend Steph as a wedding present). It’s not about how cutlery should be set out, or full of fancy-shmancy dishes and 10-course menus — ‘it is not a rulebook for the socially anxious; in fact, it dispenses with etiquette altogether.’ Marvellous!
So what is it about? ‘All the different elements that contribute to a great evening at home with friends.’ I particularly like these two intro paragraphs, which I think sum up the book beautifully, and put my own feelings into words (as the best books do): ‘[When I was younger] I read cookbooks with an eye to what was realistic in terms of my own life — as soon as they as they used the words “whiz in the food processor” or “fresh truffles”, I turned the page. I developed a loathing for intricate cooking that couldn’t be prepared in advance, or that could go wrong — curdle, burn, etc. — at the last minute. I wanted to know which recipes used the least kit and caused the least mess.
‘Having people over was my way of saying, hi, I like you, please will you be in my life. Gradually, I became aware that cooking was about people even more than it was about food. I became frustrated if recipes didn’t take into account the context in which I was cooking; many of them spoke to me as if money was no object and inviting people round was about impressing them, not spending time with them. In their enticing descriptions of asparagus glossy with Hollandaise, or pan-fried scallops with balsamic mash, they failed to point out that I needed to be standing over the stove for the final 45 minutes, stirring a boiling pot that would melt any make-up I’d attempted, or need to be dished up individually, so that I never got to sit down until the first person’s food was cold.’
The baked garlic recipe below is from Relish — simple, delicious and easy to prepare ahead. I ate it for lunch with a salad, but it would be ideal as a relaxed starter for a crowd.
I was also given a copy of Cookbook for Brides by Dorothy Malone (first published in 1947!). This was another wedding gift from friends, Tracy & Chenel, who know I have a fetish for archaic recipe books.
The chapter titles are hilarious (‘From wedding gown to kitchen apron’; ‘The bride considers vegetables’; ‘The bride meets meats’; ‘Fishing for compliments’), as is the (kind of) laughable sexism: ‘Moonlight and roses can make you a bride,’ says Malone, ‘with the help, of course, of that man among men who recognised a paragon when he saw one. But you can’t become a cook without a cookbook. This book is written, therefore, for the day when, in the natural sequence of events, you put away your white satin and orange blossoms and turn to ruffled plastic aprons and parsley.’ Indeed.
Jokes aside, there are actually a few interesting recipes I may have a bash at: Sherried sweet potato bake; Sole poached in Champagne; Brussels sprouts with green grapes...
I leave you now with this little titbit of advice from Mrs Malone, which I think applies to brides of all ages: ‘“Happy is the bride the sun shines on” and clever is the bride who is attractively dressed and nicely complexioned when the sun shines on her at breakfast time.
‘An intelligent and beautiful bride I once knew had an excellent plan of procedure. Setting her mind to it, she rose 15 minutes before her husband and slipped noiselessly into her dressing room. There she tinted her complexion and put on a beguiling breakfast coat. When her husband’s eyes rested on her, she looked as though she had just stepped from a freshly washed and rosy cloud. Breakfast proceeded happily, and at last check the marriage was proceeding securely.’
So there you have it. Clearly divorce rates are so high these days because women don't take care to be ‘attractively dressed and nicely complexioned’ in the morning.
Baked garlic with herbed white cheese
4 whole garlic bulbs
2 sprigs thyme
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
For the cheese:
150g creamy goats’ cheese
100g Greek yoghurt
3 tbsp chopped mixed herbs such as thyme, parsley and chives
1. Preheat the oven to 140C. Cut around the head of the garlic and remove the outer skin from the top, exposing the cloves underneath. Place the bulbs in a baking dish just large enough to fit them in, and tuck in the sprigs of thyme. Dot with butter and pour over the olive oil. Season well, cover and bake for 40 minutes. Then remove the cover and continue baking for a further hour, basting every 15 minutes, until the cloves are soft, golden and sweet.
2. Meanwhile, remove the rind of the goats’ cheese, if it has any, and mash together (or blend) with the yoghurt and herbs. If you are doing it by hand it will remain quite lumpy, but it doesn’t matter.
3. To eat, squeeze out the garlic cloves and spread, along with the herb cheese, onto fresh sourdough or other peasanty bread.
PS: Please vote for my recipe in the latest issue of Crush, featured on the 'Rate your recipe' page. I could win a natty camera!