Dinner No 11 hosted by Ellie: November 2012

So it’s back to me and I have been so looking forward to this meal, having collected quite a pile of recipes that I want to try out. The tricky thing, as always, is narrowing it down to courses that complement each other, are seasonal, and that I think I can actually cook!

Cannelloni of carrot and crab, and of courgette and mozzarella.
These were fiddly to prepare but well worth the effort as they looked good on the plate, and were light and refreshing tasting, i love crab and would definitely make these again.

Tea smoked mackerel with apple jelly.
I have never smoked fish before so this posed a challenge, but it was interesting cooking something so differently, and actually very easy once I had everything assembled in my giant foil tee-pee! The jelly was tricky to make as it didn’t set the first time round, but I was pleased with the finished plate, nice colours and very tasty!

Lemon and elderflower sorbet with prosecco.
I have made a sorbet before, but this recipe was different, and I have to say easier than last time. A really tasty, light and sharp palate cleanser. Think I made too much as there’s stacks in the freezer, good for some festive entertaining!

Open lasagna of roasted butternut squash and mushrooms with a sage butter.
Making pasta was a big challenge, but I was really thrilled with how it turned out. IT was light and delicate, and I will definitely make this course again. The only problem was that plating up so many plates , and it’s very fiddly to plate up the layers, meant some were not that hot when served. The combination of sQuash and mushrooms in cream was great and very filling, good for a veggie main.

Caramelised walnut tart with amaretto cream
I was so pleased with these tarts. I always try and choose a dessert that can be made the day before, because by the end of the meal you really just want to sit and chat, not get up and start cooking again! I very rarely make pastry, but this time it was a big success, and the filling dense and not too sweet. I also tried sugar baskets which were easy and looked great.

Lemon macaroons.
I have never made macaroons before, but they were easy and good fun to pipe out, helped as always by 6 small hands who were desperate to squirt the piping bag! They were chewy and crispy, and very light with the lemon curd filling. The recipe is for 12 pairs, but I have a housefull of macaroons, going to be eating them all weekend, and that’s no bad thing!

I was treated to some lovely wine from my fellow 8ate club members, all expertly chosen, and deliciously paired to the food.
A great evening thanks to lovely guests, so pleased I could treat you all to a lovely meal, and looking forward to your feedback!


                                     Jo, Kathryn, Ellie, Tanyah


                                      Trish, Lucinda, Alice, Catherine

               Cannelloni of carrot and crab, and of courgette and mozzarella

Tea smoked mackerel with apple jelly

Lemon and elderflower sorbet with prosecco

                                   Chef with Chef’s helper 🙂

 Open lasagna of roasted butternut squash and mushrooms with a sage butter


                          Caramelised walnut tart with amaretto cream

                                                Lemon macaroons

  1. T

    Well, An absolute triumph. I may run out of superlatives for this meal.

    The canapes – I LOVED the carrot and crab roll-ups. I am not keen on crab but the pickled carrot meant that the crab was really subtle. If I liked crab this would not be a good thing but as it was I ate more than my fair share. I could have eaten the whole plate very happily – so nice to have a canape that is so light, I would totally serve this at a drinks party instead of something pastry based ~ I have been trying to think what I could roll up in there instead of crab!

    the courgette rolls were lovely too, although probably didn't stand up to the robust flavour of the other canape. I would probably go for mint with this to pick it up a bit – but they looked so pretty on the plate. It totally gets you fired up for the meal to come.

    Mackerel – I was so impressed! home smoking, I thought it was beautiful, really gentle flavour and not the heavy smoking of commercially done fish. I thought the apple jelly was so cute too. (I could have done with 2 fillets ~ greedy Tanyah!)

    The sorbet was lush. LUSH. I thought it was a bit big to start with but then I looked down and it was all gone. Hahaa! It was gorgeous. The sorbet is becoming your signature thing 🙂

    I loved, loved, loved the open lasagna ~ so many wonderful flavours and really autumnal, the mushrooms with the sweet butternut squash and I love squash with sage. A faff to prepare though with it being created at the point of eating. Not sure how you could get round that ~ hot plates would have kept it warmer, but for me it did not mar the experience at all. I could have eaten the same again!
    A word on the pasta. This is without a doubt the nicest pasta I have ever eaten. I have had 'homemade' pasta at restaurants but nothing has come close to this. just soft and light and melt in the mouth. It is definitely my turn to make pasta now.

    I am really happy that the earlier courses were modestly sized becasue it meant that I could scoff the entire pudding happily. I am not a fan of walnuts but all the bitterness was balanced by the sweetness of the toffee. I loved the pastry. I loved the filling. I loved the cream and the caramel basket was very impressive.

    I can't think of anything to say except AMAZING. The whole meal was so up my street. Every single course. Brilliantly executed.

    Can you come and make my next meal please 😀

    And as ever a warm, welcoming and relaxed hostess.

  2. From Catherine: What an amazing night – I'm so impressed with the girls for having the ingenuity and drive to set up the 8ate club, and I'm very happy to have been invited to Ellie's dinner!

    From the warm welcome into the home of a complete stranger to being poured into Jo's car sometime around midnight, it was a really novel and very enjoyable experience.

    Honestly when I think of the skills Ellie used to put this together, my jaw drops… to name a few: handmade pasta, caramel, pastry, caramel basket thingies, sorbet, apple jelly, and home smoked fish! I have only tried a couple of these skills, ever, and the idea of attempting to use them all in one meal fries my head.

    Having said that, the meal was so much more than a collection of showpieces, the menu as a whole was a really well-considered combination of flavours and textures. Clearly a lot of thought had gone into creating a really autumnal feel whilst avoiding the heaviness you sometimes get with wintry food.

    The highlights for me were:
    – the home smoked mackerel was a revelation – a world away from in-your-face supermarket smoked mackerel.
    – the super-light pasta – I've just come back from Italy and I'm sure Ellie could give the Italian mamas a run for their money.
    – The macarooms – I thought I was too full, but then suddenly changed my mind and had two!

    And of course, the delightful menu and place names made by Ellie's daughter – so cute I brought my place name home.

    But the thing I enjoyed equally to the food was the opportunity have a fun evening with a group of interesting, sparky women I'd never met before.

    Finally I'd just like to say – huge thanks to Ellie, and good luck topping that Jo, rather you than me!

  3. From the other Kathryn:
    Firstly, very impressed with Tanya writing her comment at 6.30 the morning after!
    It was an evening of being thoroughly spoilt, meeting new, interesting people and fine dining in a warm, relaxed environment.
    Our host Ellie had clearly put a huge amount of effort into the evening, yet with forward planning also managed to be with us at the table for much of the time- genius!
    The portions were the perfect size and enabled us to sample all the dishes without feeling overly full.
    Food highlights for me were the caramelised walnut tarts with Amaretto cream- heavenly! And the lemon prosecco sorbet, which was rather cleverly fluffy rather than densely icy.
    Presentation was very Ellie- vintage tableware and tealights, and all courses were presented to look enticing and colourful. Attention was given to the smallest detail.
    Living only a few doors away meant I could indulge in the accompanying wine. The selection was perfectly matched to each course (please can I have the name of the wine we had with the mackerel?) and was the icing on the macaroon of this wonderful evening.
    Thankyou, Ellie, for inviting me- what a privilege! And to all the girls for being so warm and welcoming.
    x Kathryn

  4. Trish

    As a guest to the 8ate club I felt very privileged to be invited and after reading some of the blogs from previous meals I can see how much effort goes in to preparing these extravaganzas. I take my hat off to these ladies for their ingenuity and expertise – I get nervous cooking for large groups at the best of times.
    So, to the lovely Ellie and her divine menu. I think I am not alone in saying the canapés were gorgeous and looked so pretty on the plate. I too, particularly loved the carrot and crab cannelloni. The tanginess of the pickled crab and the fresh crisp carrot was definitely a winner for me.
    Next up was the home smoked mackerel which I loved. The mackerel was very light and the flavours from the tea were very gentle, which was pleasing, since often shop prepared mackerel is very oily and quite overpowering. I would certainly try this one at home as I love fish and this is just a little out of the ordinary. The apple jellies were a great contrast to the mackerel. I would never think to do that combination but it worked beautifully.
    Our palate cleanser was a cheeky, citrus lemon and elderflower sorbet with a dash, well ok, more like a glug of prosecco. It reminded me of popping candy because the prosecco fizzed on the tongue and definitely got the taste buds going!
    The open lasagne was a triumph. The pasta was melt in the mouth and I adore the combination of butternut squash and sage. The sage was slightly crispy too which just added to the contrast of the soft butternut squash. I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms but there were lots of different types and just enough for the taste but not overpowering. I think they were a good addition as the butternut is such a strong taste and it balanced the dish.
    I thought the little caramel baskets on the pudding were wonderful. It was quite a rich dessert but I have a sweet tooth (and wine-gums according to my son) so it was absolutely up my street. Anyone who makes their own pastry is a star in my books.
    By this stage I didn’t think there could possibly be any more food but out came the macaroons which were great. I have always meant to try making them after seeing Lorraine Pascale make them on TV. I think now I will have to give them a go although I am not sure mine will be as successful.
    As discussed on the evening, the pairing of the wine to dishes was a nice touch and especially as the other three hosts tried to match it to the food. Great idea.
    So, all in all a 5 star evening. Thank you to Tanyah who invited me and to all the ladies who made it a really enjoyable evening and of course our host Ellie. I wish you all luck in your future dinners and expect to see you on Masterchef sometime soon!

  5. Lucinda

    Ellis this was a wonderful evening! We always enjoy meeting eachother's guests and Thursday was no exception, however the food was fabulous and every mouthful was a joy to eat!

    The canapés were lovely and colourful (even though I was late and missed the first viewing – sorry). The carrot and crab were my favouirite, not being a big fan of crab I was surprised how much I liked it. I think the pickled carrot was a more dominant flavour which suited me but if you we're a crab lover you might have preferred the crab to come through a little more?! The courgette and mozzarella was very light and summery, both canapés were great tasters for the beginning of the evening.

    I loved the fact that you home smoked the mackerel for your starter and did it so well! I have tried home smoking a couple of times and found it challenging to get the balance right between cooking it through and smoking it to the right intensity, your mackerel had a very delicate flavour and it was complimented wonderfully by the very light apple jelly! I wasn't sure whether the salad needed a small dressing though? I think you we're right not to serve bread with this course as the meal was perfectly balanced by the end.

    The sorbet was delicious and I enjoyed the fizz that came with it, shame I was driving as I would have had more!

    The main course was undoubtedly my favourite. The overall flavour was simply delicious, the combo of ingredients worked really well and I loved the influence of the sage. The pasta was fabulous, perfectly cooked and although, as you mentioned, it was not piping hot due to assembly time I am sure that another pair of hands putting it all together would get around that problem!

    I don't often finish a desert but I really enjoyed the caramelised walnut tart. The pastry was light, crisp and buttery and the walnuts with the caramel were scrummy. I am not very keen on amaretto, as Tanyah knows, so the cream was not for me. The baskets looked very pretty but I wasn't sure that you really needed any extra sweetness for this desert. The macaroons were also gorgeous and I loved the lemon curd filling, these were the perfect size for a petit four and the lemon definitely gave the sweetness a zing leaving your palate more refreshed!

    Well done Ellie, a great meal and another wonderful evening chez 31 walnut avenue!!

    Lou xx

  6. Dear Ellie and the 8ate Club and guests,

    Firstly, thank you so much for inviting me as a guest, I was made to feel very welcome and it was a truly interesting and inspiring experience.

    Having never been to any sort of 'culinary club' before it was great to hear how it started and the dedication to making it a success that all the members go to for their dinner parties.

    I was particularly impressed by the attention to detail over such a number of courses that each host prepares and simultaneously presents and shares – this must be HARD WORK, but Ellie was amazing, it was seamless and she managed to both cook, introduce and engage with her guests on a really charming and intimate level.

    Okay, now for the food….Canapes were elegant, very summery, light and fresh. Super with a glass of fizz and lovely colours together on the plate.

    The home tea smoked mackerel was impressive – I had no idea it was even possible to smoke your own fish! I loved the apple jelly and it was a subtle balance of flavours that worked well together. Personally, I thought this delicate introduction was brilliant after the canapes.

    Consequently the sorbet was a delight, and led the palate along ready for the main course.

    WOW! Home made 'lasagna' with the sweetness of the squash and buttery mushrooms was absolutely divine. I have 'stolen' the idea since (on a much more basic level I might add) and its perfect for the time of year and very pretty to look at too.

    The walnut tart was super. Rounded off the meal after the roasted tastes in the course before, but adding an autumnal sweet and chewy nuttiness.

    Macaroons were delicious, just adding that citrus zing to freshen up at the end.

    Ellie, your meal was beautifully thought out, the table was elegant and pretty and your hosting was gentle and impeccably executed. I thought the wines were very well matched to each course and it was great to hear about each course and each wine as part of it. This slightly formal aspect was a revelation – I'll be involving this little chat next time I entertain as it gives the guests time to really taste everything and think about it.

    Thank you Ellie and well done, it really was a great night.

    Alice x x x x

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