My dinner party in review

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Published on: July 30, 2012

So now that the guests have finished eating, I’ve finished cooking and all the pans have been washed (several times over), all that’s left to do is write-up all the recipes.  Before I do that, I’m going to go through the menu and how it all went.  Firstly, I decided to add an additional soup course.  Three courses didn’t sound like enough work and I had initially planned to make a Langoustine & Coconut Bisque with pan-fried Monkfish.  But due to a last-minute let down, I couldn’t get any Langoustine and I spent over an hour searching for an alternative when I should have been cooking.  As I also forgot to make my chocolate mousse the previous night, I had thrown my entire plan out by over an hour.  In the end I spent a good 11 hours cooking and serving dinner but the result was worth it.  As a reminder (and a little plug to each recipe – which I will add with time), here was the full menu:


Amuse Bouche: Lemon Sole & Avocado Ceviche.

Starter: Pan fried Scallops & Chorizo in a White Wine Jus with a Wild Rocket and Pomodorino Tomato salad, dressed in English Black Truffle oil.

Soup: Prawn & Monkfish Coconut Bisque with Chilli and Lemongrass.

Main: Pork Roulade filled with Avocado, Baby Fennel, Basil and Orange, on a Polenta Fritter, topped with Pepperoni sauce and served with a Broccoli Puree and charred Yellow peppers.

Dessert: Dark Chocolate Mousse topped with a Raspberry and Limoncello Granita.


Planning a dinner party menu can be quite a challenge.  In this case I was forced to go a certain way because my dishes had to be both lactose and gluten free.  So I didn’t need to make up a theme of any kind.  I did however, plan out how I wanted my dishes to “flow”.  Initially I had planned on going from a seafood dish to surf and turf to a meat dish, but then I added a soup course which was more or less just seafood.  But even then, I still wanted to go from subtle, refreshing flavours to big, strong flavours towards the end.  I opened with my ceviche, which was light and refreshing (and served it with a glass of Prosecco) and that setup the rest of the meal.  I then had the starter, which was sweet, subtle but had a bit of a kick from the salad.  Then the soup, which was creamy and a little sweet but it had the asian aromatic flavours as well.  Then the main course was a much stronger dish, plenty of aniseed from the fennel but still giving a bit of sweetness along with the salty spice from the pepperoni sauce.  Then lastly I had the rich, dark chocolate mousse contrasted with the sharp raspberry and limoncello but it still had a lasting sweetness from the granita’s syrup.  I thought the whole menu ended up being nicely balanced.

The feedback from the guests was good – great in fact (and that’s the most important thing).  The only negative I got was the black truffle oil dressing was too strong and that seemed largely down to people not liking black truffles!  Personally I think you need a strong dressing to go with wild rocket, otherwise you just won’t taste it.   I can live with that as a criticism.  The ceviche, pepperoni sauce and granita seemed to get special praise.  It’s nice when people pick highlights to a meal, it gives me more confidence than just “everything was good” which sounds like polite code for “well I didn’t hate it but…”.

Personally I had two issues with the meal.  The first was the chorizo in the starter, it was too smoky, too strong.  The feedback I got was that it provided a really nice contrast to the scallops.  But I felt that they overpowered the scallops and I could still taste them until I got to my soup course, I didn’t really like that lingering smoky aftertaste.  It was the first time I had bought this type of chorizo, I normally use one bought in the supermarket or one by a brand called “Bath Pig” (which is really good) but this time I got them from the Limoncello deli and I wasn’t that happy with them.  The other issue I had was with the bisque.  It wasn’t creamy enough, but to be fair to myself, it wasn’t the dish I had planned and I ended up improvising. I had no complaints about it, but I didn’t feel like it was as good as it probably should have been.  Those two minor issues aside, I really enjoyed the meal and I loved making it and coming with the menu.  What I thought was going to be a real challenge – the lactose and gluten free requirement, actually helped in the end.  The inspiration for my bisque came from being forced to use coconut milk instead of cream.  As soon as I had sweet fish meat and coconut, I immediately thought of a Thai green curry.  So I had a lot of fun with it, I enjoyed putting the whole meal together and I’m happy to say that my guests enjoyed it as well.

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