With the start of a new year, making resolutions and planning year-long project seem de rigueur. One of the many initiatives on my 2013 calendar is to become more comfortable with entertaining at home. I love to invite friends over for brunch, lunch, tea, or dinner but the challenge has always been getting multiple dishes ready on time. I want to enjoy the company of my friends, not stuck cooking away in the kitchen! The desire to practice entertaining struck a chord among my food loving friends. That is how our monthly supper club came to be.
Every month one of us takes turn hosting a gathering. The format is entirely up to the host/hostess. The key is we’re among friends and it is a great opportunity to practice hosting. I kicked off with a January Fit & Healthy dinner for eight (because I only have eight matching place settings) last Saturday. Here is my menu, served family style:
- Warm Eggplant Jam with Barbari Flatbread
- Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Salad
- Savoury Farro Ricotta Tart with Black Olives & Feta
- Whole Roasted Tandoori Cauliflower with Mint and Mango Chutney
- Lentil, Mushroom, and Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie
- Kabocha Vanilla Chai Ice Cream Pie
- Persimmon Pie
If there is one thing I learn about entertaining, it is that even the most well laid out plan does not go exactly as anticipated. The last hour of preparation is always the most stressful for me. The guests are mingling, the doorbell rings every five minutes with the arrival of more guests, and every dish seems to need my immediate attention. Recipes? I better know them off the top of my head because there is simply no time to reference my computer or cookbooks.
As you can see from my menu, I tried to work around these challenges by avoiding dishes that require last minute cooking attention. Working my way backwards, the two pies were made entirely ahead of time. I only needed to move the ice cream pie from freezer to fridge 30 minutes before serving to get the right consistency for slicing. The two hot dishes, roasted cauliflower and lentil shepherd’s pie, required approximately the same baking time and temperature in the oven. While they were cooking, we enjoyed carrot salad, farro ricotta tart, and eggplant jam with flatbread. All three dishes were best served at room temperature anyway.
I am quite happy with my vegetarian menu. The farro tart, carrot salad, and kabocha ice cream pie were standouts. I would gladly make those dishes again. I am a little disappointed with the persimmon pie given the amount of work that went into it. It was soggy and not particularly attractive. I would have been better off making a loaf of persimmon bread instead.
Overall, I consider the party to be a success. Obviously there’s always room for improvement. Next time, I want to pay more attention to variety and availability of beverages. In my haste to get all the food on the table, I at times neglected to make sure the glasses were filled. Of course I wanted to be more “in the moment” with my friends. Once we sat down for dinner, I was more relaxed and immensely enjoyed the conversations. If only I could do that while the guests were arriving too! It is not necessarily a bad thing but I prepared too much food. I had enough leftovers to repeat the same menu for a casual dinner for three! The January edition of our supper club is off to a great start and we are all enthusiastic about the upcoming gatherings. I cannot wait to see everyone again next month!