It has only been in the last year or so that we realised how much we enjoy entertaining. As anti-social creatures by nature, who prefer to stay at home drinking hot chocolate with an episode of Lewis, the revelation took us by surprise. But I suppose that it the beauty of food. It is always its best when shared.
As first morsels brush lips, whether at home or in a restaurant, I wait with eyes down for those noises and exclamations of relish (some of which come from myself); when the whole group concurs that it's a bloody good sauce, and we all love scallops. It feels good to instigate that kind of pleasure through your own cooking.
Entertaining is fun in the summer, but there's something romantic and distinctly "hygge" (yes, I went there) about inviting friends in from the cold on moody winter evenings, to a candle-lit dinner table, handing them a G&T, and feeding them up. What better way to beat the so-called 'winter blues' than to eat, drink, and howl with laughter? I whole-heartedly believe that if everyone made time to do this semi-regularly through winter, and not just in December, we'd all be much happier during those gloomy, grey days.
We got together with friends a lot over the last few months of 2016. In December, of course the occasions were coined as 'Christmas gatherings', but there were others, too. Here's a sample of one such occasion where we cooked for six of us.
Artichoke velouté with a smoked bacon mousse and artichoke chips
Joseph Drouhin Rully Premier Cru 2014
Lamb chops, pumpkin pureé and glazed pickled beetroot, served with gratin savoyard
Knipser Kalkmergel Spätburgunder 2012
Sticky toffee pudding with homemade whisky ice-cream
St Stephan's Crown Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos 2007
As is M's habit for "fancy" home entertaining, he invented most of the dishes himself, to include ingredients we'd obtained recently and wanted to experiment with. The artichokes were from his mum's garden; the cheese in the savoyard our recent favourite, Westcombe cheddar; and the pumpkin from my hoard of supermarket freebees. It was my first time making a sticky toffee pudding, but this James Martin recipe worked like a dream.