This week I thought I would do something a little different on the blog. I have been meaning to host a dinner party for the girls from school since I came back from my ski season a few months ago and decided to take the advantage of having an empty house by finally doing it. Having done the whole rebellious house party thing in sixth form (which my parents found out about it before they even left due to my lack of stealth and tact), I decided this time I would keep things a bit more civilised. In spite of the slight gin-induced hangover the next day, it was lovely to see everyone and have a good catchup.
But enough about the drink, onto the food. Through channelling my inner chalet girl I managed to come up with an American themed menu that was simple, tasty and fairly quick in terms of prep. Since I had work both the day of the party and the day before, I had to squeeze all my prep into the evenings, so unlike my other posts I decided to play things safe and avoid anything that would cause too much concern. Therefore I decided to go for a starter that doubled as nibbles and went for a trio of ‘nachos’, then moved onto a main of pulled chicken burgers with sweet potato wedges and salad, and finished with an amarula and chocolate swirl cheesecake. However, being me I had to throw in a few added extras just in case I fancied adding a little more stress into the equation. And, even without those, the stress levels were pretty high.
Putting aside my leaving the shopping list at work, nearly slicing off a few fingers with a mandolin and realising I didn’t have enough bbq sauce 15 minutes before I needed to go to work, the prep went pretty well. For the trio of ‘nachos’ I initially decided to go for a plate of regular nachos with salsa, guacamole, jalapenos etc., a plate of sweet potato crisps with homemade harissa hummus, cumin roasted chickpeas and feta, and thyme roasted beetroot crisps with melted goats cheese. However, this is the course that did not go to plan. I decided to make my own beetroot and sweet potato crisps by tossing them in some olive oil, salt and pepper and cooking them on a low heat for about half an hour. While the sweet potato crisps could actually be classed as crisps, they shrivelled up quite a lot in the oven meaning it looked more like I was a bit peckish and only left the crumbs at the end of the bag! However, using the thinnest setting of the mandolin meant they did actually crisp up well and they had a lovely flavour. And, if nothing else, the brand I bought from the supermarket to bulk them out looked like they had had the same issue with size, so I ended with a bowl of small but tasty sweet potato crisps. However, the beetroot crisps became my token burn victims of the day after turning the oven up. Carbon may be good for your skin, but not for flavour, so I decided a bag of veg crisps might be a safer option. Unfortunately I have no photos to offer in this case as we inhaled half the plate before I realised, but you can easily make them yourselves and, if you feel like it, add whatever extras you fancy.
While the main was perhaps slightly more complicated, it actually caused me fewer issues than the crisps! I used a pulled chicken recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen and, I’m not going to lie, I was extremely sceptical. Having regularly used slow cookers when I was away, I had doubts about using expensive cuts of meat (i.e. chicken breasts) and adding them raw. Normally I would sear cheaper cuts of meat to make the dish more flavoursome, but the recipe was simple, quick in terms of prep and had loads of good reviews. So I put my reservations aside and gave it a shot; it is safe to say I wasn’t disappointed! I decided to cook it on low for 6 hours and, while some parts began to dry out a little where they weren’t submerged in the sauce, most of it was tender, sweet and smokey even with my makeshift sauce substitute! So turns out I was eating my words as well as my chicken. I also decided to make my own brioche buns in order to practice working with enriched dough. The recipe I stuck to worked well, but to save time it is obviously a lot easier to buy your own. For sides I simply roasted some sweet potato wedges in some cumin and paprika and made a mixed salad to try and bring in something healthy.
However, this healthiness was quickly eliminated through dessert. I have made baked cheesecake once before and absolutely loved the flavour. I prefer it in some ways to cheesecake that is set with gelatine. Although it is not as creamy, it definitely has a sweeter flavour and a softer texture. I decided to use a Mary Berry recipe from the BBC as, again, it was simple and seemed to minimise ingredients. However, I added a cheeky twist by adding some amarula to the half of the mix without the chocolate. I discovered amarula during my season when one of the girls on my team brought a bottle from home. Made from the marula fruit which is more commonly used in southern parts of Africa, the liqueur has a deliciously sweet flavour not too dissimilar to Baileys. But while my friend braved hers in a hipflask for the slopes, I popped mine in a pudding. And, I have to say, it was fairly tasty. The Amarula did make the mix a lot runnier than the chocolate, but I simply cooked it for a little longer to compensate. I possibly baked mine for slightly too long, but the flavours still worked really well and the whole thing was deliciously smooth.
On the whole it was therefore a fairly successful evening in spite of all the slight mishaps! Since I am fairly self critical I personally spotted a lot of things that could have been better, but I took the silent approach and prayed nobody noticed. From a positive outlook everyone seemed to have a lovely time and enjoyed the food, and if nothing else it was a great chance to catch up with some extremely polite friends! I have given links to a few recipes if anyone is interested and apologise for the lack of good photos, but otherwise let me know if you have any questions! Either way, I hope you enjoy!