So I have a confession. I’ve always wanted to be a 1950s/60s housewife. I know, it’s a bit weird, especially coming from a British-born Chinese (BBC) girl. Why would I want the constrictions? Am I mad? But it’s because I love the idea of the glamour. I love the clothes. I love the sophistication. I love the Martinis. So when I saw the words ‘Luxury Dinner Party’ all I saw was ‘Mad Men’. What better way to relax and kick-back with friends than with a throwback to times of total sophistication?
Theme in mind, instructions sent to friends to dress up a la ‘Mad Men’/1960s/at-least-smart, I set about researching my menu. I needed something 60s, but that would require minimal effort because I was only going to have 2 hours on the day to prep and cook. I decided on aperitifs of Martinis (four parts gin to one part vermouth, place in cocktail shaker with ice, shake vigorously, pour into Martini glasses and top with a skewered olive/twist of lemon), Devilled Eggs (adapted slightly: used Colman’s spicy English mustard, no brown mustard, and no olives) and Pigs In Blanket, followed by Prawn Cocktail, Coq-Au-Vin (adapted slightly: used shallots which I brown braised a la Julia Child instead of frozen pearl onions, no carrot, used bacon lardons and threw them into the slow cooker on top of the chicken. Also used a lot more stock to cover and topped up with an extra cup of red wine when I got home, turned up to high and let cook for another hour and a bit) and parsley butter baby new potatoes (boil baby new potatoes, drain, throw in a knob of butter and chopped parsley), and finally Black Forest Gateau. Now maybe these dishes aren’t exactly new, but can you believe I’d never made any of them?
I’m a busy girl. I work 5 days a week at a baby shop (no, we don’t sell babies), have a catering job Mondays, and on my 1 day off spend it cooking, photographing, preparing for Monday, having meetings and trying to get my “career” off the ground, which also included the build and launch of my new blog (thank you, thank you, thank you for all your hard work David! Love! I’ll dedicate a proper post to this later in the week – what do you guys think?). I am busy, plain and simple. I am also, very clearly, mad. After a mid-week freak out I knew that for this dinner party to work I was going to need the help of two things: my slow cooker and my friends.
Friday night saw me up until 4am (fun when you have to work at 10am the next morning!) prepping the Coq-Au-Vin, rolling a million (it felt like) cocktail weenies in bacon, boiling and peeling eggs.
I cannot stress how brilliant slow cookers are. There is nothing better than being able to throw everything together, turn it on in the morning, and come home to a lovely hot meal (and discovering you haven’t even burnt your house down in the process). In these mad times what could be better? Before I rushed off to work Saturday morning I simply set the slow cooker to low and let it bubble away for 9 hours. By the time I got home all I had to do was add more wine, whack it up to high and let it do its thang.
My friends are wonderful. They know how little time I have free and so the 2 Js (Juliet & Jun), came over early to help. Yes, this means there were 3 Js, all cooking together in the kitchen, helping me lay the table (I even bought flowers!), bake, chop, prep Martinis (read: drink Martinis), laugh, chat, and all three of us dressed up and groovin’ to the soundtrack of the swinging 60s. Juliet and I were wearing pearls, and I was wearing heels. It was a wonderful sight.
The 3rd guest, Amali, arrived a little after 8pm and the 4th, Luke, texted to tell me that he was running very late. Devilled Eggs and Pigs In Blanket were scoffed, Martinis were sipped, olives were consumed, photos were taken, and by this point we were all hungry and decided: sorry Luke, we’re starting without you.
The Prawn Cocktail was a big hit and disappeared very quickly amongst stories, jokes and laughter. Success. Next up the Coq-Au-Vin.
By the time we got round to eating the Coq-Au-Vin not only was it chock-full of flavour but it was literally falling off the bone. We didn’t even need our knives. Conversation ceased. All you could hear were ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from my guests. Slow cooker for the win. Great success.
At this point guest #4, Luke, showed up, drenched from head-to-toe (it was pouring down outside), a little tipsy (how very Don Draper), full of apologies and hungry. He wolfed down a plate of Coq-Au-Vin and declared it the best meal he’d ever eaten. Success. I think.
On to Black Forest Gateau, then. Delicious, hit the spot, and oh-so-chocolatey. Amazing. Success.
Teas and coffees followed, but by this point everybody was so full and contented all they wanted to do was curl up on the sofas and fall asleep. We snapped some more photos and they each picked their favourite part of the meal (although Amali picked the Devilled Eggs, she actually only ate the yolk part because she doesn’t like egg whites!), and then everybody gradually weaved off into the night, relaying multiple thanks, hugs, kisses, compliments, and love.
And left me with piles and piles of washing up to do. Er. Not such great success. But y’know what? So totally worth it. But for now I decided to release my inner-Betty Draper, kick my heels off, lay out on the sofa and sip at my Martini. So what if I had to work the next day, had loads of washing up to do, photos to edit and a blog post to write? This moment was for me. I surveyed the damage and declared the evening a great success. Don Draper et al. would’ve been proud. I certainly was.
Voting opens on Monday! I’ll post a link when we get there! Hope you enjoyed a glimpse into my dinner party. Until next time, peace and love.