Jamie and one of our Maps of the World place mats
I spent the hours between 5pm and 7pm on Friday of our first CDWM running around the flat like a blue-arsed fly. I was chopping and scrubbing and screeching and puffing and huffing and slicing and dicing and marinating and panicking basically. I would have been lost without Niall who set the table beautifully and made sure the flat was up to a CDWM level of cleanliness. I thanked him by shouting at him mostly so….sorry about that, babe. Thanks again.
I have a confession to make. My menu was almost entirely from Jamie At Home. Alan remarked to me at the end of the meal that my menu concentrated really well on flavours and he complimented me on choosing recipes that worked so well together. I nodded, feigning modesty while keeping my mouth shut about Jamie At Home and thinking to myself ‘So that’s what Jamie was thinking when he wrote the book’ I just picked the recipes because I thought the colours all matched. Hah!
The first guest John arrived at about 7.05, gracefully late, followed by Alan and Colette at around 7.10 with Joc appearing around 7.20. We started the night by saying cheers to some Strawberry Champagne. Made with Prosecco, you understand.
Aperitif: Strawberry Champagne
What you need for Jamie Oliver’s Strawberry Champagne for 6
a leaf of fresh mint
3 large handfuls of strawberries, hulled, washed and drained
a bottle of bubbly, Prosecco or Champagne
Place the mint leaf (which I obviously totally forgot about because I was totally flustered) and the strawberries in a sieve. Push the strawberries through the sieve into a bowl, using the back of a spoon. You want the juice, not the pulp.
Chill this juice until you’re ready to serve.
Divide the strawberry puree equally into six champagne glasses and carefully fill with bubbly.
Forgotten mint leaf aside, this was quite nice. My fridge is a crap person and refuses to actually chill things properly. So our Strawberry Champagnes were not as chilled as I would have liked. The only other problem was that the strawberry puree didn’t really blend with the Prosecco and so they were lots of gross looking bits floating around all over the gaffe. I think they were pretty tasty anyway and we had a nice toast to our group as well.
Starter: Strawberry Salad with Speck and Halloumi
What you need for Jamie’s Strawberry Salad for 4
300g strawberries, hulled and cut into 0.5 cm slices
Good balsamic vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
a few sprigs of fresh basil, leaves picked
250g halloumi cheese, cut into 8 thin slices
a few sprigs of fresh mint, leaves picked
a handful of mixed salad leaves, washed and spun dry
8 slices of speck (I couldn’t find speck but got the lovely Parma Ham in Fallon & Byrne so it was grand)
Drizzle the sliced strawberries with a good splash of balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and some extra virgin olive oil in a big bowl. Season with salt and pepper as this draws out the flavour of the strawberries.
Preheat a large frying pan to medium heat and add a bit of olive oil. Press a basil leaf on to each slice of halloumi. It should stick pretty good as the halloumi is quite moist. Put the slices, leaf side down, in the frying pan and for for a minute or two. Turn over carefully, so at not to misplace the basil leaf, and fry for another good while on the other side, until halloumi is lovely and golden and crisp.
Get plates and place a couple of pieces of the crispy halloumi on each. Put the mint, basil leaves and the salad leaves into the big bowl of strawberries and toss it all together.
Pile some of the strawberry mixture in the middle of each plate and drape the speck/parma ham over the top. Finish with more salad leaves. Drizzle some balsamic vinegar and olive oil over the top and serve it up!
I made this for 6 and it didn’t take too much difficult mathematics, even for a numerically dyslexic cook like myself. I was really happy with this dish. Everyone seemed to really love it and I have to admit that it tasted quite lovely. It’s a beautiful fresh salad, and totally perfect for this time of year as the strawberries are at their most juicy and tasty and lush. Yay!
Main: Fishy Leeky Mess with Creamy Mash and Roast Rosemary & Garlic Spuds
Jamie calls this dish Roasted White Fish and Leeks but I nicknamed it Fishy Leeky Mess. I made this for my sister and her fella a few weeks back and it was really good, and very very simple. I earmarked it for CDWM right after I had the first forkful of it in my gob.
What you need for Jamie’s Roasted White Fish and Leeks for 4
16 baby leeks, trimmed and washed (I couldn’t find baby leeks so I used half a big leek per person chopped into chunks)
4 x 200g fillets of nice white fish, off the bone, sscaled, skin on
1 large lemon cut into 8 thin wedges
4 sprigs of rosemary
8 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
for the marinade
a couple of sprigs each of fresh thume, rosemary and bay, leaves picked
salt and pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon
Jamie suggests using sustainable white fish like North Atlantic Cod, haddock, brill, turbot or pollock.
Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees C/gas mark 6 and place a baking tray in the oven to warm up.
To make your marinade, bash up the thyme, rosemary and bay leaves with a pinch of salt in a pestle and mortar until the salt turns green. Pour in 2 glugs of olive oil, add a ppinch of pepper and the lmeon juice and give it a stir.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and parboil the baby leeks for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and let them steam dry.
If you’re using regular leeks, boil them for around 8 minutes. I did this the first time in making this and they were perfectly cooked at the same time as the fish. Not so lucky this time around. In my state of panic, I only boiled them for around 3 minutes and so they took aaaaaages to cook. Which led to bloody well overcooked dry gross fish. Waaah!
Once your leeks (they should be soft enough at this stage) have dried off a bit, put them in a big bowl along with the fish, lemon and rosemary sprigs. Pour in the marinade and toss to cover everything in the flavours.
Place the fish, skin side down, into the preheated tray. It’ll sizzle a bit. Don’t worry for this is a good thing. Scoop the lemon, rosemary, leeks and marinade out of the bowl and place over and around the fish.
Place 2 rashers of bacon over each piece of fish and roast in the oven for around 15 minutes until the fish is just cooked and the bacon is lovely and crisp. In my first attempt, I was baking the lot for around 25 minutes and it was still really lovely.
Jamie advises that if your leeks are not ready after 15 minutes, remove everything else and keep them warm until you continue cooking leeks until they’re done. This sounds really fiddly to me and I think the trick may be to give the leeks a good headstart before getting anywhere near the fish.
Take everything out of the oven and pile the leeks on to a serving plate. Place the fish and bacon on top and drizzle with the delicious cooking juices. Serve with smooth mashed potatoes.
This was a bloody disaster for me. A disgrace to cooking and hosting dinner parties was I. It was the flippin’ leeks. Because of my slip up with the parboiling, they took aaaaaaages to cook. This led to three things: first of all the fish was unbelievably over cooked. It was as if I had put it in a microwave for 20 minutes. Just awful.
The second thing was that, because I had put my mash on farrrrr too early, the mash that I served up to my guest was the most revolting gloopy glue of a mash, which I did my very best to disguise under the tasty cooking juices from the fish. I think it was Alan again who described it as “really old fashioned mash”. I wondered to myself did he mean old-fashioned as in boarding school or Dickensian workhouse style old-fashioned. He wasn’t far off if that’s what he meant. Vile. Vile!
My roast spuds weren’t even as nice as they usually are. They suffered from sharing the oven with the fish, methinks.
Third thing was that I served the main course about an hour after we had finished our starter! Not good. Not good.
Anyway. The wine flowed as did the conversation so hopefully they didn’t notice the disaster too much.
Dessert: Muscovado Heaven
Thank heaven for Muscovado Heaven. This is the easiest dessert in the world to make and in fact, it’s the only dessert I currently know how to make.
Since we moved into our flat in January, I’d say I’ve made this dessert over ten times. And Niall and I still aren’t sick of it. It’s so lovely and light and easy to make that it has hindered me from moving on to more greener or let’s say, chocolatey dessert pastures.
The recipe is an adaptation of something my Mum found a few years back in Good Housekeeping magazine. Seriously, try this recipe. It’s your friend.
What you need for Pauline’s Muscovado Heaven for 6 portions
1 tub of Greek yoghurt
1 tub of Glenisk Natural Yoghurt
A bag of Muscovado Sugar
Some fresh berries (I always use blueberries but you could use strawberries or rasberries or any kind of nice fresh fruit or berries)
A great thing about this dessert is that it takes 15 minutes to make. You can prepare it at the very start of the evening and leave it in the fridge until you’re ready. It does well in the fridge for a couple of hours as the muscovada sugar needs to sink into the yoghurt.
Mix up the two types of yoghurt, equal measures of each. You can easily judge how much yoghurt you need depending on how many guests and what sizes your glasses are of course.
Pop a nice amount of berries at the bottom of your glasses and spoon in the yoghurt on top. Don’t fill it to the top completely coz it might spill all over the fridge. Maybe. Anyway, sprinkle a generous amount of Muscovado Sugar over the top so that the yoghurt is well covered. Don’t overdo it though. You’ll see that the sugar starts to melt into the yoghurt almost immediately. Totally yum.
As usual, I was really happy with this dessert. You just whip them out of the fridge, put them on a nice clean plate and serve with a little amaretti biccie and you’re away. We discovered that the amaretti biccies taste AMAZING if you crumble them over the top of the Muscovado Heaven. Which, of course, I knew all along which is why I served them in the first place *ahem*.
I was chuffed when Alan demanded I whip him up an extra dessert. I hadn’t made an extra batch but I whipped up a few more for the guests in about 20 minutes. I don’t think they were just being polite by asking for more. I think they were pretty lovely.
My thoughts on how the night went…
Besides my rubbish main course, which I had a hard enough time finishing myself, I think the night went pretty well. It was the first time that a few of the people had met each other and I think we all got on really well.
I’m confident about my scores for the starter and I think the dessert should be ok as well. I think the ambience was good too as it was relaxed and the conversation flowed. Presentation should be ok as we did our best with the space that we had. I personally love my old fashioned cutlery and mix and match charity shop plates. Hopefully the guests liked them too!
We did get through 12 bottles of wine sooooo….I’m not sure which way that will go for my scores!
In the interest of fairness, the scores will remain secret until the end of this food competition adventure. This is how the scores are working:
Marks out of ten for Starter
Marks out of ten for Main
Marks out of ten for Dessert
Marks out of ten for Ambience
Marks out of ten for Presentation
Our neutral score keeper Fintan passed on some choice anonymous quotes from my guests so we can get an initial inkling of what they may have thought.Initial impressions of menu – “It seemed light hearted and fun – and deliberately vague I suspect, since I already knew Aoife writes a food blog (even though I haven’t seen it yet…), so she must know what’s she’s doing. The suspense was building already – what was ‘Muscovado Heaven’, and just how messy would the main course be?”
Starter: “It had to be one of the most surprising combinations i’ve had in an age! Although I woulda liked just a little bit more strawberry!”
Main: “It was good food and flavours worked well together but it wasn’t to the standard of the starter. Reall nice fish though.”
Dessert - “‘Muscovado Heaven’ – Heavenly! This was so good that one of the diners demanded a second helping, despite the 30 minute wait time. The mix of juicy berries, yoghurt, and the aforementioned muscovado sugar was just gorgeous. Aoife shared the recipe afterwards, and I was really surprised at how simple it was – who needs complexity! (and I’m not even a big dessert person).”
Presentation – “the apartment was a little cramped, but if we’re being nice, lets just say intimate! We were restricted to the living room , balcony, and bathroom, so we didn’t get to be nosey like they do on the tv programme – but who wants that?! Despite the small space, the presentation was good. We were treated to a lovely glass (or two) of prosecco on arrival, the place mats were interesting maps of cities, and we were able to chill out on the balcony between courses”
Ambience: “Considering it was the first night I think everyone got on famously. Non stop banter over dinner. It was mighty craic in fact that even lead to secret drawer music and shapes being thrown. Our kidneys and liver may not have had fun but we sure did. Good times.”
Our next Come Dine With Me will probably be early September at this stage as getting all of us together is proving more difficult than you would have thought. Next up is Alan and Colette, who will be working as a team for the night while myself, Niall, Joc and John scrutinize every detail mwah mwah mwah.
I’m looking forward to drinking another 12 bottles of wine and hopefully leading to another dance off like this one wherein my hair is styled ‘Drunk’, Alan’s singing his heart out and the camera man Niall is obviously as locked as we are!