Last weekend I was chatting to my friend after church and spontaneously invited her to come for dinner this weekend, when my dad and Gill were visiting. I enjoy cooking for several people, even though I have a tendency to get flustered at the last minute, and I thought it would be a fun evening. I was delighted when she said yes, and began thinking about what we’d eat.
And then I got home and remembered that I only own two folding stools and my flat isn’t big enough to fold out the whole table and sit around it. Oops.
There were several options: reschedule for a weekend when I didn’t have family visiting, relocate the dinner to my dad’s motorhome (which has a more practical table but a much less practical kitchen), or improvise. Naturally I went for improvisation.
In the event it was pretty successful! I rapidly cleaned and tidied the flat and we hauled the table to the end of the bed, which completely blocked the room but meant that two people could sit on the end of the bed and the other two could take the stools. I had carefully planned what I would cook and scheduled our day to leave plenty of time for the task, but like all well-laid plans it went a little awry when we got stuck in the city centre waiting for a very delayed train, and then spent longer than anticipated in the supermarket looking for breadcrumbs (in the end we used a 15p box of sage and onion stuffing).
It wasn’t restaurant-standard presentation but I was pleased with the end result of the food. We had mushroom pate en croute, with roast swede and steamed broccoli. I had planned on roast potatoes, garlic, onion and red pepper as well as the swede but my vegetable box arrived entirely devoid of potatoes or onion, and I forgot about the red pepper until it was too late. Another time! Gill very kindly made an apple crumble while I plaited pastry strands and wished time would stop moving forward. By some miracle everything was ready at the same time, and at the time I’d hoped we would be ready to eat, but it was a close call!
Mushroom pate en croute isn’t a complicated dish but it is a bit fiddly and not the cheapest in ingredients. I don’t have a coffee grinder, which the recipe suggests is the best way to powder cashews, so Gill hit the packet with the back of my paddle hairbrush until most of the nuts were crumbled into dust and then I mixed the whole thing with my stick blender. See, improvisation! Fortunately I buy my almonds already ground (much cheaper that way for a start). I missed out the yeast extract and terragon because the breadcrumb-replacement stuffing was flavoured, and it worked out fine. I remember having this dish as the centrepiece of our Christmas dinner a few times, it’s got the right sort of feel to it and goes well with all the traditional Christmas vegetables.
Somehow this week I seem to have ended up overrun by fruit, so I will have to make an effort to use it up. Perhaps another apple crumble is in order, or maybe applesauce. I’m getting a bit sick of soup and my freezer is heaving with the stuff so I’ll be hunting round for more interesting ways to use up the vegetables as well! Next week I’ll be carb loading in preparation for my half marathon next Sunday, so pasta sauces are likely to be the order of the day.