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The Essential Extra Ingredient

The Essential Extra Ingredient

The Art of the Friday Night Dinner: 

Eleanor Steafel has been writing a recipe column for the Daily Telegraph for a year and reflects on the lessons she's learned in this article about the Friday night dinner. published on 28th February 2020

Her article  is full of sensible advice about the pleasure of cooking for friends at the end of the working week; a joy, rather than a chore.  And we couldn't agree more with the simple guidelines that structure the piece; don't cook more than one course; `sprinkly-dippy bits are key (oh, so true); everyone is in it for the carbs (if they say otherwise, believe us, they are lying); if you are going to do pudding, really do pudding (because, why wouldn't you?)

These are such fundamentally good ideas that you can put them into practice any day of the week, although we think we may skip her clementine and bay sbagliato cocktail on a school night and reserve one, or possibly two, for the weekend.

However, what struck us most, was the list of Essential Ingredients for Making it a Night to Remember (and if you now have the Shalamar track stuck in your head, we're sorry)

Top of the list is a Netherton Foundry frying pan

and naturally, we agree that this is indeed a kitchen essential nad really comes into its own when cooking for a crowd. Ours come out every night and as chef Sam Bryant kindly out it are a "Mon-Sun essential"

Versatility is the key - all our cookware is designed to be as multi functional as your imagination allows; each iece can be used in so many ways.

You can see the article and try Eleanor's recipes here:

I was eight when I held my first Friday night dinner party. (You are forgiven for thinking that the most precocious sentence you’ve ever read.) The guests were my parents, siblings and our neighbours, the menu – proudly handwritten – “mini pizzas”, penne with tomato sauce, and chocolate ice cream. I absolutely stand by this as a cracking line up that I would serve today in a heartbeat… possibly minus the mini pizzas. I can still remember the sheer pride of presenting a meal I’d cooked myself. It’s a high I’ve been chasing ever since.

I like to think I love hosting because I am a natural feeder, who loves getting her nearest and dearest together over good food. This is all true – there is nothing I love more than the sound of friends howling with laughter over clattering plates and clinking glasses. But if I’m really honest? It’s because I am a huge control freak, and the kitchen is the perfect place for my guilty secret to breed.

I host because it puts me in charge of the evening. I get to decide the menu, curate the company, the candlelight and the music. I’ve always been this way. As a teenager, when my friends wanted to spend Friday nights trying to get served at the local pub or using our fake IDs to sneak into clubs on the Kings Road, I would hope the plan flopped so I could casually suggest we all decamp to my parents’ house and raid their wine supply while I cooked everyone spaghetti carbonara.

These days, it doesn’t take much persuading to get them round for a lengthy, meandering meal on a Friday night. And after a year of writing this column I still think it is, unequivocally, the best night of the week.

What I learned about hosting from a year of Friday night dinners…

Don’t cook more than one course

This is honestly the key to enjoying your own dinner party. Don’t slave over three perfect plates, just pick a great main and let everything else be an assembly job. I don’t like to seat everyone for a three-course sit down. Instead, I cleave more towards a meal that lets people stand, chat and graze with a drink in their hand before sitting down to something hearty. I like to load the table with nice bits for people to munch on while they sink the first couple of drinks – the most I’ll do is assemble a salad for people to pile onto hunks of good bread and eat with their fingers; sliced oranges, with torn mint and mozzarella, dressed with good oil, is lovely. Crisp radishes with butter and smoked salt. A few pickles and some nice tinned anchovies. A hunk of aged Parmesan for people to hack away at. Remember people appreciate you thoughtfully picking out delicious things just as much as if you’d cooked every element yourself. 

 

Sprinkly dippy bits are key

I am almost incapable of creating a meal which doesn’t involve finishing it with a dollop of something creamy and fresh, a handful of herbs, a few pickles or a sprinkle of something cheesy. My friends will actually refer to a dish as “a bit of a Steafel” if it comes with a sprinkle on the side. They just make everything better. A fairly simple bowl of pasta becomes something altogether more exciting with a bowl of finely chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest. The extras are also often the best shortcut to umami saltiness – most things can be improved with anchovy breadcrumbs, feta or Parmesan. So, even if it’s just some well chosen condiments, I like everyone to end up cross-armed passing around little bowls of goodies.

Everyone is in it for the carb

Bread. Pasta. Potatoes. It’s all any of us really wants so don’t be afraid to go bold with the carbs. Make a mound of crispy roasted new potatoes the centrepiece, with a simple roast chicken and a bowl of salsa verde. Or just make a mound of really, really good toast or even fried bread to accompany your main dish. It’s all about a little crunch and something to mop up any sauciness.

If you’re going to do pudding, really do pudding

My friend Lara and I were listing our top ten puddings the other day (no, you need to get a life) and at the top of both of our lists were tiramisu, ice cream sundaes and chocolate mousse. Essentially, puddings for people with no teeth. I truly believe you don’t need to serve pudding at a dinner party – a cracking cheeseboard wins over dessert any day. But if you’re going to do it, make it simple to make and indulgent to eat. I want it to be camp, messy and piled high, with as much cream, custard and ice cream as I can legitimately fit in the bowl. I think in another life I must have been a dairy farmer. Bring me clotted, Jersey, chantilly; crème anglaise or a jug of Birds, and don’t even get me started on ice cream. I don’t understand the question: "would you like cream, ice cream or custard with that?” Obviously the answer is all three, and leave the jug. I also firmly believe we are all essentially seven year olds pretending to be grown ups. Let everyone make their own knickerbocker glory and they will be beside themselves with joy.

Clementine and bay sbagliato. Kick off with a proper cocktail 

SERVES 6

INGREDIENTS

  • Plenty of ice
  • 120ml Campari
  • 240ml sweet vermouth
  • 1 clementine, cut into wedges
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 700ml Prosecco or another sparkling wine  

METHOD

  1. Put plenty of ice cubes in six large gin glasses. Add 20ml Campari and 40ml sweet vermouth to each glass and stir once.
  2. Add a wedge of clementine to each glass. Tear each bay leaf slightly and scrunch to release the fragrance. Add to the glass too. Top with Prosecco and serve.

Chicken thighs with anchovy breadcrumbs, sour cream and charred red onion

SERVES 6

INGREDIENTS

For the sour cream and charred onion

  • 2 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp harissa
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 300ml sour cream

Stir the browned red onions and harissa oil through the sour cream  

For the chicken

  • 12 chicken thighs (or a mix of thighs and drumsticks)
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 1 small bunch parsley, roughly chopped

For the crumbs

  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 50g tinned anchovies
  • 1 garlic clove, bashed
  • 250g breadcrumbs, use stale sourdough if you can

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC/gas 7.
  2. Put the onion wedges in a small roasting tin, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 20 minutes.
  3. Mix the tomato puree, harissa and lemon juice and set aside. Once the onions have had 20 minutes, take them out, toss in the harissa mixture and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
  4. While the onions get started, you can get on with the chicken. Place the thighs in a large roasting tin. Don’t overcrowd the tin - make sure the thighs sit comfortably in one layer.
  5. Mix the paprika, fennel, garlic and olive oil with about a teaspoon of coarse salt. Stir to make a loose paste, then pour over the chicken and use your hands to make sure each piece is well coated. Tuck the halved lemons in among the chicken. Pop in the oven alongside the onions. Turn the temperature down to 200ºC/gas 6 once you’ve taken the onions out.
  6. Roast the chicken for just under an hour, or until the skin is golden and the flesh juicy.
  7. While the chicken is cooking, fry the breadcrumbs. Set a large frying pan over a medium heat and add plenty of oil. Fry the anchovies until they have melted, then add the garlic and swirl the pan. Pour in the crumbs and toss in the hot oil. Fry until golden, then tip out onto a plate lined with kitchen paper.
  8. When you’re ready to serve, roughly chop the onions and stir through the sour cream along with plenty of black pepper.
  9. Transfer the chicken and its juices onto a large warmed platter and scatter with crumbs and parsley.

Tiramisu sundae with salted pine nut brittle

Tiramisu sundae fusion with added crunch from the pine nut brittle - which tastes like buttered popcorn  

SERVES 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 300ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp muscovado sugar
  • 2 tbsp crème fraîche
  • 125g pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp salted butter
  • 1½ tbsp caster sugar
  • 200g madeira cake (or another plainish sponge)
  • 180ml strong coffee
  • 120ml Marsala
  • 6 scoops salted caramel ice cream (coffee or vanilla would all be good too)
  • 50g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • Flakey salt, to serve

METHOD

  1. Whip the cream and muscovado into soft peaks. Then fold in the crème fraîche. Set aside.
  2. Set a small frying pan over a low-medium heat. Melt the butter. Add the pine nuts and toss in the hot butter for a few seconds. Then sprinkle over the caster sugar. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the nuts are beginning to brown but crucially aren’t burnt. Pour out onto a piece of baking parchment and leave to cool and firm up a little.
  3. Cut the cake into 12 thick batons about the size of a thumb. Put two hunks of cake at the bottom of six sundae glasses. Spoon coffee and marsala over the sponge - two or three dessert spoonfuls over each, or more if you like it boozy.
  4. To serve, top the sponge with a scoop of ice cream, a healthy dollop of cream, the pine nut brittle and a little chopped chocolate. Finish with a sprinkle of flakey salt.

 

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