Dinner No 25 hosted by Tanyah: March 2016

This dinner has been a long time coming. We have a changing of the guard with 3 members taking a break and getting a date in the diary has taken some months of planning!

New members for this round are Lucinda, whose divine creations I have missed. Niki who I’m sure will be serving up some creative and healthy choices for us and Harriet who is a fantastic cook. Can’t wait to eat my way through all their dinners.

My dinner party nemesis is starters. I am always scratching my head and it is definitely the slimmest section in my cookery file. So I have decided to tackle only starters for this round of the 8ate. I guess it will be like a tasting menu – that probably sounds better 🙂

I am starting with camembert with bacon breadsticks – this recipe has surely got to be a winner, an oozing camembert with a shaped bread baked around it, like an octopus with each tentacle wrapped in pancetta. Obviously baking a camembert is not that tricky! the challenge here for me is shaping the dough, as I have never made anything other than a normal loaf.

chicken liver and mushroom nests: I am intrigued by chicken livers as I tried a chicken liver parfait recently and thought I would hate it but loved it. i was going to go for making that but thought that I can probably do pate another time. This looks like an interesting recipe as the little cup which it is served in is made of bacon. Piggy overload for course one and two, I have just noticed.

chargrilled mackerel with sweet and sour beetroot: I have never done my own pickling – it looks pretty straightforward, fish is always a great thing to start with but I get stuck at variations of smoked salmon. I love mackerel, just need to make sure it is super fresh and properly boned!

cauliflower and chestnut soup: I love making soup but never use recipes – I want to force myself to use a recipe and I love the idea of cauliflower and chestnut together, I won’t serve any bread as I think with all the other courses it will be too filling.

thai minced pork and chicken salad: A bit nervous about this as I have a thai aficionado as a guest but hey ho. I picked this as I think with all the trimmings of lettuce, cucumber and beansprouts it will look prettier than just a spoonful of minced slop!!

macarons: not doing a pudding as such but I have wanted to brave having a go at these for so long. I am a huge fan of macarons and can’t stop eating them when I have the fortune to be offered them, I find them thoroughly addictive. Let’s see if I can pull of something graceful. I reckon my chances are slim on this one. Piping bags, precision.. these are things that are just not very me!



  1. Loved the camembert with breadsticks. It was straightforward to make and will definitely be doing this again. It looked rather ‘rustic’ ie an absolute mess!! here is the link if you want to have a go http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/baked-camembert-bacon-wrapped-breadsticks good luck getting it to look like the picture haha!

    The chicken liver thing was not as bad as I thought but not convinced. I will be taking the idea of a ‘bacon basket’ and just fill it with something else.

    I really enjoyed the mackerel, not convinced about pickling my own beetroot – really couldn’t tell the difference apart from it being more peppery. I like the crispy skin so you could eat the whole lot. I thought the combo of flavours was super. Too big for a starter? Not sure.

    Thought the soup was dreamy and luxurious but I over portioned, as if I was serving it as a lunch dish. Half the amount would have been more than sufficient. I would make parmesan crisps next time.

    I really enjoyed the pork/chicken salad, but there was hardly any eaten, not sure if people were stuffed or whether it wasn’t well received. Would be really interested for honest feedback on this one, because I don’t want to make it again if I am the only one enjoying it!! I really enjoyed all the fresh herbs and ‘trimmings’. I would make it spicier next time, I held back on the chilli.

    I was seriously chuffed with the reactions to my macarons which I had thought were a bit substandard! They were a faff to make and I am not convinced that I will be making them again unless it is for a very special occasion. We had fun with a blind tasting with 25p macarons from Lidl and £1.50 ones from maison blanc.

    I love the 8ate for playing with food – thank you ladies for such an enjoyable evening. The wine pairings add an element of interest for each course too, so thank you!!

  2. Firstly, thank you so much Tanyah for a fantastic evening with 8 fun ladies and delicious and interesting food. Such a great idea to create a tasting menu and experiment with lots of starters, I love a starter so was in heaven!

    Camembert with breadsticks – I felt like I had just come in off a mountain and if I had been sitting next to a roaring fire with snow outside I’d have been in heaven devouring this! I loved everything about it, hands on, eat as much as you want, tasty and moreish. I will definitely try and made this.

    Chicken Liver – Delicious! I really was not sure about chicken liver but the flavour was rich and warming and I loved the nuts. Not sure about it sitting on bacon as I am not a fan of bacon and it made it harder to eat.

    Mackerel and beetroot – YUMMY! The beetroots had a delicate flavour (lovely pickling!) that worked perfectly with the mackerel. I adore both these foods and thought that it would make a fantastic starter even with a bit of watercress too.

    Cauliflower and Chestnut – MMMMmmmmmm taste sensation, slipped down a treat. Rich, truffley and so smooth. I adored the combination of the melting parmesan with the soup. I will definitely make this.

    Pork and Chicken Salad – Had I still been hungry I think I would have enjoyed this but my zip was close to splitting so each mouthful was not as savored as the dish deserved. Loved the coriander and wrapping it up in the lettuce leaf but found the minced meat a bit crumbly, messy and dry.

    Macarons – I love the fact I now know the difference between a macaron and a macaroon! First batch were a taste sensation! Loved every mouthful, complete joy eating those all 4 of them in fact (hence why I couldn’t sleep last night). Second batch not as nice and preferred yours T over Lidl and Maison Blanc any day.

    All the wines were delicious and the pairing made each dish even more special, which I loved.

    Thank you so much Tanyah. I really enjoyed myself and feel very privileged and excited to be part of the core 4 this year and look forward to more tasty creations and girly gatherings throughout the year. x

  3. Firstly thank you lovely Nickster for inviting me as your honoured guest to my 2nd 8ateclub dinner. My first taste bud fandango was also at Tanyah’s so I knew what I was in for and there was no way I was going to miss this!

    Starters and more starters, I am a fan of this little and often melarky. Baked Octopussy you totally rocked! this is right up my my street, ripping off the tentacles before dive bombing into the gooey puss, de-licious! I will definitely be giving this a whirl.

    The next dish was a really lovely surprise. I was a little dubious about chicken liver but this had a delicious crunchy texture with the walnuts and tasty crispy bacon base. I thought this really worked, thumbs up here.

    Mackerel is one of my all time favourites so this went down brilliantly and the pickled vegetables were divine. Lovely, light, refreshing fodder!

    Cauliflower is so underrated and this cauli/chestnut ensemble was super tasty though I did find it a tad heavy towards the end.

    The wonderful mixed herbs in the the Minced Pork & Chicken Liver gave it a lovely fresh and light taste.

    By the time we took on the minced pork and chicken I was pretty beaten. It was light and summery in taste with a wonderful blend of herbs. I think for me it may have been better received higher up on the menu perhaps.

    And lastly, my first every macaron experience and it did not disappoint! Wow, Tanyah yours were incredibly yummy, the blind tasting was fun. I thought both the shop bought ones were pretty inedible by comparison. You should definitely make them again, however faffy, they were seriously good news.

    Super Job Tan, wonderful hosting as always, loved it x

  4. Lucinda

    Ok….. So this is actually my second comment as my first is flying around in the ether with everything else I have ever lost on the computer!!

    Firstly I would like to thank you Tanyah for a fabulously relaxed and fun evening of food and giggles, as usual you presented a beautiful and well thought through menu which I thoroughly enjoyed!

    I often find myself being so tempted by the starters on a menu that I don’t even reach the mains and go for two starters instead, it was a great theme for the evening Tanyah and right up my street as we got to try lots of dishes that I wouldn’t ordinarily have chosen in s restaurant.

    Camembert and bacon star. Well I think we all descended upon this like a pack of hungry hounds, it was deeelicious. I loved the rich creamy cheese with the salty bacon, the only thing that could have topped it was homemade bread …… Fabulous! Perfect way to tear and share at the beginning of the evening and perfect for drinks parties too, you’ll just have to make a few more than 1 though.

    Chicken liver and mushroom nest. I was a little guarded about this dish as I am not a big fan of liver per say but I was delighted that you stuck with it despite your doubts. The combination of rich liver and mushrooms with the salty bacon worked perfectly, liver can have a distinctive smooth texture to it which was avoided by having it chopped with crunchy walnuts which, for me, made it a really interesting dish. I can see that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I really enjoyed it.

    Chargrilled mackerel and sweet and sour beets. Amazingly I have hardly ever had fresh mackerel as I alway buy smoked, I have imagine fresh mackerel to be very fishy so have shied away from it in the past. I really enjoyed this dish, the beets on their own were quite punchy but with the mackerel were absolutely perfect and the mackerel wasn’t super fishy either. It just highlights what good food pairing does. It was quite a large dish so maybe good with a less substantial main dish if doing pud also.

    Cauliflower and chestnut soup. Soup is such a great starter to serve, prepared in advance and on,y needs a gently warm up at the right time. I loved the flavours here and really enjoyed the soup, there was too much for me to finish and I would probably have preferred it slightly thinner for a dinner party but it would be perfect for lunch as it was.

    Thai minced pork and chicken salad. This was wonderfully light and fragrant, I found it a bit tricky to eat but it was definitely worth chasing it around the dish!! This was a great dish to end on as it was very refreshing on the pallate.

    Macarons. What a fun idea to have a blind tasting and even better to unanimously vote that Tanyah’s Macarons beat Patisserie Valerie and Lidl (of course!). They were crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle (just like an armadillo I am told) and were the perfect way to finish a super starter menu, a little something sweet but not too much, you’ve got to make them again,

    Tanyah, thank you so much for treating us all to another fabulous culinary delight, I loved taking Layla as she was there for the very first one and loved having an evening of gorgeous food with wonderful girlie friends.

    Lou xxx

  5. Wow another delightful evening with lovely ladies and fabulous food. I was very excited to hear that the theme was starters, often my favourite part of a dinner meal. Thank you to Tanyah for cooking and hosting and to Lucinda for inviting me.

    Camembert – one of my favourite cheeses so no doubt that this was going to be delightful and it didn’t disappoint. I also liked the fact that is was a very social starter, everyone ripping and dipping, a great way to start the evening.

    Chicken liver – I initially had my reservations about this as am not a big fan of liver in general, however I was more than pleasantly surprised at how good this dish tasted. The liver blended very well with the other ingredients and because the liver pieces were small it didn’t dominate the dish!

    Chargrilled Mackerel – yum, I loved this combination, the fish was crunchy and paired very well with the pickled beetroot.

    Cauliflower soup – delicious, very smooth soup, as you mentioned Tanyah it was quite a big portion for a taster menu. Perfect portion as a starter on its own, it felt very luxurious……….

    Chicken salad – I have to say I was feeling full by this stage, the flavours worked well and definitely a lighter dish. I did find the meat kept falling off my fork so was a fiddly course, not my favourite (and not just because there were lots of greens!).

    Macarons – I think we all took some convincing that it wasn’t a typo on the menu and it was macarons we were eating not macaroons! I have never had these before and thoroughly enjoyed them, though one batch was definitely more tasty than the other. What fun the blind tasting was, definitely preferred the home made ones Tan to any of the shop bought ones!

    I went home feeling very full……thank you for a lovely, entertaining evening xx

  6. Thank you for a wonderful evening Tanyah and for the enormous variety of dishes you set before us which all required so much preparation and skill!

    We started with a visually impactful baked Camembert as the centre of a home made bread wrapped with pancetta. The saltiness of the pancetta set off the melted cheese to perfection and it didn’t last long with eight of us demolishing it.

    We sat down to a chicken liver basket. I’m a fan of liver but I think as it had several other strong ingredients, walnuts and bacon which took over the flavour.

    Next came chargrilled mackerel beautifully crisp and presented on a bed of pickled vegetables and beetroot. This for me was the outstanding dish of the night and I can still see and taste it now despite my lateness in writing this review. What must have been quite an effort of home pickling paid off as it was so fresh and delicious and the sharpness cut through the strength of the fish.

    Next came a cauliflower and chestnut soup. A delicious flavour but quite strong and rich for such a large portion. Perhaps serve just a small shot glass another time.

    Having lived in Thailand minced pork salad has always been one of my favourites and Tanyah’s definitely captured that crucial balance of sourness and freshness in her rendition. Very authentic.

    I passed on the macaroons but they looked beautiful and according to the others one batch tasted superior although they all looked perfect.

    Thanks again for a fun and inspiring evening. I’m always amazed how intricate your dishes are and that you are never tempted to short cut – it does come through in the taste.

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