Dinner No 6 hosted by Ellie: November 2011

so we are on to round number 2, and the challenge is back to me to create a unique and interesting 5 course meal for 8 girls. i get to follow tanyah which was, of course, a superb evening, no pressure then!
so to create my menu i have tried to focus on the main idea of the 8ate club. what foods have i never cooked before, and what would challenge me? so here we go….
canape
pumpkin pea and pancetta tartlet.
i have never cooked with pumpkin before, and have never made pastry before. i always really enjoy a warm canape, hopefully i can prepare this the night before, something that is important to me when looking after 3 little monkeys.
starter
pan-fried scallops with butternut squash two ways.
i have never cooked scallops, and the warm salad that accompanies this looks lovely. hopefully a meaty but light starter.
main
slow roasted duck leg with braised lentils and pan fried chicory.
a dish that looks lovely ( in the photos!) i wanted to choose a main that would basically cook itself after the initial preparation, as i want to enjoy the wine and gossip of the evening! and i have never cooked duck before, always thought it is a challenging meat, i aim not to make it too dry, and keep the flavours in the lentils.
dessert
i have chosen several desserts, and cant make my mind up, but the current winner is coffee zabaglione with tuiles biscuits. i feel we need a light dessert after the richness of the duck, but intense flavour is okay in small portions! i have never cooked a cream or mousse style dessert, should be a challenge!
petit fours
baklava and fresh mint tea.
i have ALWAYS wanted an excuse to make baklava after so enjoying it when we were travelling  many years ago. looks challenging but again hopefully i can prepare some of it the night before!
so as last time im sure i will have a momentary panic the day before, but am actually really looking forward to my night, my goal being to produce lovely food that everyone enjoys, and create a relaxed evening of wine and chat, without waking the monkeys!

                                                  Pumpkin, pea and pancetta tartlet

                                                    Scallops with butternut squash two ways

                                                                   Gin and tonic sorbet

                                                  Duck leg with puy lentils and chicory

                                                         Zabaglione with tuile biscuit

                                                                                 Baclava

                                                                Menu by Sophie, age 6

                                                                  Emma, Niki, Ellie, Ellen

                                                            Jo, Lucinda, Tanyah, Sarah

  1. Anonymous

    so i just wanted to post to share how i thought my menu went!
    canapes, lovely, will definately make them again, prepared in advance, very easy, only prob was too much chatting when they were warming meant they were much browner than intended!
    starter and main all went to plan very pleased ( only i found the neatly chopped bowls of fresh herbs to garnish each one in the fridge this morning, doh!)

    dessert, tasted good but abit of a disaster in that it didnt set AT ALL. may have to invest in some proper electric whisks. shame but still pleased i tried something new.
    the baklava was much easier than it looked and was great, made masses ive been eating it all day!
    and lastly my suprise course of gin and tonic sorbet, what a winner. so pleased i made this.
    really hope all you lovely ladies enjoyed yourselves, looking forward to reading the feedback!

  2. Anonymous

    What a divine evening. I was invited as Tanyahs guest, and was warmly welcomed into this lovely culinary talent stretching club. Introductions over lovely canapes set the scene and ensured everyones guest was welcomed into the core before the starter. Starter, lovely, perfectly cooked, Fab G and T sorbet focussed the taste buds and created a wow, main, lovely, and really tasty, lovely light and tasty dessert, with fab mint tea and baklava, which I have nibbled selfishly on my own all day…no sharing of that in this house! What a lovely idea. A great way to release the mental chains and push kitchen boundaries. It really was lovely and I think Ellie you did a fantastic job. I felt so warm and cosy and settled I was late for the sitter. I am going to try making some of your dishes as you put me to shame. Thank you Tanyah and Ellie and to you all. Ellen xx

  3. T

    Tanyah here.

    Firstly I have to say I had a preview of the menu and was really looking forward to it, without exception it looked stunning. As ever Ellie is the consummate hostess and is a virtuoso at making people feel welcome in her home.

    The canape was overdone by a little which is a shame only because you did not get *all* the flavours coming through. As a whole it was delicious and I was scavenging for more! Having made something similar and feeling the same (about the lack of individual flavours) I think if I was to make a tartlet again as a canape I would just have one flavour in there and maybe a herb as the rest seems to get lost.

    The starter was stunning to look at, 3 was a perfect number of scallops. I loved the caper mix – not something I have tried before as scallops are so often paired with bacon (or black pudding, yuk!. I thought it was perfect. Capers are easy to overdo as they are such a strong flavour but for me it was superb. Personally I think scallops look nicer when they have been griddled or have some colour on them, but cooking 24 scallops and serving them warm is challenge enough.

    The gin and tonic sorbet was a TRIUMPH. So moreish, I could have had a pint of it. Definitely something to have on hand in the freezer to dish up in the Summer as a stand alone drink.

    I loved the duck dish. It may have looked otherwise as I didn't finish it but I wanted to pace myself with all the dishes. I have only ever cooked duck breast and the leg had so much more going on, it had a real depth of flavour and matched up with the puy lentils really well. The photo does not do it justice at all. The chicory was tasty too and presented well with everything else. Just the kind of dish you would hope for in a Country gastro-pub in front of a lovely log fire!

    Ellie, you need a proper whisk! I think the non-setting of pudding was purely down to lack of electrical help, but all the flavours were there and the tuile biscuits were presented so cutely in the little cups and lovely and buttery.

    It's so funny the picture of the baclava makes them look enormous! I think as a petit four normally it would be too much but as the pudding had been a modest size we all coped admirably… I will definitely have a go at making these myself now I know what can be achieved, although I think I would just crush the pistachios a bit more to aid the holding together aspect of them.

    Ellie is a wonderful cook, and such a natural hostess. What I really enjoyed seeing was (I think) she has grown in confidence looking at the menu which was more challenging than last time, and that is what this is all about.

    Can't wait for the next one 😀

  4. Lucinda

    Ellie this was another stunning evening with gorgeous food and company! You have an amazing ability of being a calm, welcoming and attentive hostess which is a skill i constantly strive to achieve but always end up not quite managing it – well done!!
    On to the dinner:

    Canapes
    These were light and tasty and I thought your pastry, despite being a little browner than it ought to have been was very good. I agree that sometimes flavours can get lost in something so small, especially if they are delicate like a pea but the overall taste sensation was delicious ans I had no qualms about pouncing on a second one!.

    palate clenser:
    The Gin and Tonic sorbet was fantastic and I think we are all going to be seeing that a lot next summer as we all want to serve it at the first gimmer of sun.

    Main:
    I really enjoyed the duck leg, it was beautifully cooked with crisp skin that wasn't too fatty and the actual leg was so tender and dare I say the word 'moist'!! I never cook lentils but really enjoy them and these were well cooked and had a lovey delicate flavour. The chicory was a juicy addition again with a light flavour. The only thing I would have added would have been a bit of colour but without distrupting the flavour.

    Desert:
    The images of the preparation of this dish make me smile every time i recall the evening! You definitely need to invest in more power or we are going to notice a change in the size of your right foream!! The desert was very tasty although a little sweet for my taste, maybe that would have been different if it had set but the presentation of the desert was great. The tuille was delicious and clearly a challenge to get them shaped – well done!

    Petit Fours:
    I must be honest and say that I would never order this in a resaurant, Greek or otherwise, but I was very pleasantly surprised with your gorgeous baklava! I loved the spices and the moistness (now I cant stop using the word!) and will definitely make these as they are Robert's favourite and I think they will be great on Christmas day!!

    Well done Ellie, I am feeling the pressure and am also nervous as I dont have an inkling of what I'd like to do yet! xx

  5. Anonymous

    Lucky Guest Jo here
    What a really fab concept 8ate is & what a really lovely evening. Ellie you have a gorgeous house & played the perfect, calm, welcoming, fun, master-chef hostess. Goodness only knows how you do it all with a smile on your face with three little ones, job & hubby!
    Lucinda had briefed me & I was very much looking forward to catching up & being one of the eight lucky ladies for a feast mid week & a girlie giggle. Having a warm welcome & a glass of pink fizz thrust into my hand on arrival before meeting everyone and my taste buds & voice box exercised was a great start! So here’s my ‘feedback’ on the evening’s delightful menu:
    Pumpkin Pea & Pancetta Tartlet
    I felt for you having slightly browner canapés than expected. Nevertheless the pastry & filling was light & lovely seasonal offering. I’m sure they were extremely moreish when they were a little less cook, but super kick off to the night & nice to have a warm canapé.
    Scallops with butternut squash two ways
    Squash two ways – very Michelin star! Really light tasty starter, scallops were soft & delicious, I tend to like mine slightly more caramelised on the outside – meeting the tartlet brown somewhere in the middle! – but it worked really well with the squash. In fact I thought the ‘cubed’ squash would be a lovely addition to lots of recipes.
    G&T sorbet
    O.M.G. I’ve been talking about this to everyone! What an inspired idea & simply delicious. I think we’ll all be serving this up from now!! I may try a sloe gin one for Christmas! Loved that it was dedicated to your uncle too.
    Duck leg with puy lentils & chicory
    Pallet nicely cleansed, hostess Ellie managing to stay at the table almost all the time amazingly rather than slaving over a hot stove (clever menu choices), main course was served. I’ve never cooked duck before, frightened of serving up either a greasy mess or a dry offering, this was neither, delicious leg & although not normally a fan of puy lentils or chicory the dish changed my mind & happily ate both. I do agree that perhaps a jus may have been a nice way to finish off the dish as an extra touch.
    Coffee Zabaglione with Tuiles biscuits
    Can’t believe you manage to be such a super chef without an electric whisk! (Although not a chicken wing to be seen so there may be advantages!). It was a shame that it didn’t set, but the flavour was fantastic & I could have scoffed a huge portion! Completely delicious & beautifully served. The tulie biscuit was also scrummy & I’ve no idea how you managed to find the time to make them along with everything else.
    Baklava
    Like Lucinda, not normally a fan of this at all & have managed to get thru’ 38 years without eating but yours changed my mind, it was a tasty sweet delight to round off the evening with fresh mint tea. I also can’t quite believe it was as easy to make as you swore it was!
    Thank you for a completely delicious, well balanced, innovative menu. BIG respect for pulling it all together over only 24 hours, alongside normal life & hosting such a relaxed, memorable evening with a lovely bunch of Girlies. I hope you’re still dipping into the large ice mountain of G&T sorbet after a hectic day! If any chef drops out one night then I’d happily try & step up to the mark of the 8ate club, though not convinced I’d be quite as calm & under control as Chef Ellie!

  6. Anonymous

    Emma here. Sorry for posting these comments a bit late, blame The Rare Brand Christmas Market!! Congratulations Ellie, like everyone else has said so far you were and are a wonderful relaxed welcoming and warm host. So your style in this department created a lovely atmosphere and enabled us all to get into the evening and enjoy ourselves.
    Canapes: I had 3, so they must have been good!! wholesome and hearty rather than delicate, and despite your worries about over-cooking, they still very very tasty. I say drink more wine and get distracted at critical culinary moments in the future!!
    Starter: Delicious. Light but so flavoursome, and the capers capped it off! Such a refreshing start to the meal.
    Sorbet: ADORABLE – if life hands you lemons then find G&T!! Thank goodness for your uncle, what a tribute to him!! he would be proud.
    Main: You have totally converted me to slow roasted duck, I have never had such a tasty roasted bit of game…..bin the boring chicken I say. Those lentils were dreamy too, they almost tasted naughty but they were so healthy…..and paired with the duck it was a match made in heaven. The chicory looked gorgeous but I personally did not like the bitterness.
    Dessert: It tasted divine despite being technically flawed. I could have drunk another glass neat! The biscuit was lovely too, perhaps a bit too chewy?
    BAKLAVA: – stiil dreaming of it! and the goofy bag for patient mark was eaten in seconds, please make some more and bring with you to Mumbaba!!
    Well done Ellie – a huge success.
    Oh dear it's me soon…..the pressure is mounting! xx

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