It was half term and my sister was coming to stay for a few days and to celebrate this, we decided to have our very own ‘Come dine with me challenge’. Now this is a programme I don’t see very often (honest), but I have seen it and it’s usually pretty good car crash telly where people get drunk, eat bad food and slag each other off behind their backs.
We thought our version would be much more sophisticated than that – and it was, but only just!
We decided that Gill (sister) would cook on the Monday night, Phil (hubby) would cook on Tuesday and Julie (wife) would cook on the Wednesday. My sister is a vegetarian and we thought it would be cool if all three meals were veggie to add an extra level of difficulty and frisson of danger (ie it’s not something we cook tons of, given my meaty outlook).
We each devised a menu and we were to cook a starter or main or main and dessert, thinking a full three course would be just too extreme. There was more than a whiff of comeptition in the air with lots furtive delves into Delia, Jamie and Nigel. The pressure was definitely on….and here’s what we cooked:
Baked Halloumi with mango chutney on crispy poppadoms with endive salad and apple raita
Red lentil dhal on an aubergine andspinach stack
These were absolutely delicious and the time and effort to put these together was plain to see and taste. All of the indian spices had been prepared from scratch and you could tell, with bright and fresh flavours everywhere. Although I’m not a huge fan of vegetarian Indian food, the flavours and textures blew me away. This was right out of the top drawer and we cleaned our plates enthusiastically.
Potato and Fennel Soup with home baked spelt focaccia bread
Jerusalem Artichoke and Spinach gratin
Leaning very heavily on Hugh’s River Cottage Everyday, I went for soothing comfort food to combat the gloomy weather we’ve been having. I wanted my meal to soothe and restore. I was also way out of my comfort zone, making soup for the first time (really) and bread. Both of which turned out pretty good I think. The gratin was particularly good too and using ingredients we wouldn’t normally eat. Unfortunately, the food I served could have been hotter – I felt sure that it would cost me valuable marks!
Lemon and Asparagus risotto
Plum tart tatin with sweet Bay ice cream
Julie showed off her not insubstantial dessert prowess by making not just one dish, but two. She had intended to make the cheesecake from Jamie’s US book, but was concerened I would reduce her mark as I’ve had it before (I wouldn’t have, honest …!).
The plum tart was also served with an incredible home made ice cream using fresh bay leaves from the garden. It was lovely. Risotto is never easy but it was cooked to perfection, with the only downside being just a little bit too lemony.
Each meal was scored immediately with Georgia doing the scores on the doors (that’s a different show). The winner was set to receive a bottle of bubbly – the stakes were very high indeed.
After the scores were totted up, it emerged that I was the winner by a single point with a tie for second. It was a very close call and there is already talk of a rematch! It was all really good fun and we cooked and ate food that we wouldn’t have normally gone for, which was a real bonus. We also made far too much and it’s now being reheated and frozen as necessary to make sure nothing goes to waste.