We decided to host two dinners working on the theory that several of our "regulars" would want to celebrate with us and so we could have more interest that we could have accommodated on one night.
On Friday we hosted 8 guests, one lady returning for the second time (with a friend in tow this time!) and 7 newbies. Saturday we were full with 10 guests. This time we had 4 newbies, the rest being returning guests.
Our first course was our "Butternut Cups". I peeled and cut a butternut squash, sprinkled over chopped rosemary (fresh from our garden) and thyme (from the windowsill), plenty of sea salt, and tossed it all in olive oil. It roasted for about an hour after which I pureed the flesh and added a splash of lemon juice and some black pepper.
Just before guests arrived I crumbled in some gorgeous Kentish Blue cheese - after I'd removed a portion of the puree to save for our dairy free guest (Saturday). The Blue is ideal not just for its taste but also because it is a vegetarian blue cheese and we had two vegetarian guests join us on Friday.
Earlier in the day I had cut out some small circles of gluten free bread, soaked them in olive oil then pressed them into my Pampered Chef mini muffin tin and then baked them in a hot oven for 15 minutes.
These little "cups" were full of the flavour of the extra virgin olive oil and were perfect to stuff with the butternut squash puree.
We served them with a small bowl of onion relish - made to my normal onion "jam" recipe but the onions had retained more bite and sharpness than usual which complemented the sweet squash perfectly.
Next was a pasta course. I'd served pasta before at Annie's using the pasta recipe from Shauna Ahern's The Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef book. The pasta tastes lovely but I hadn't managed to get it thinner than a "3" setting on my pasta machine.
I'd been inspired to see all the gorgeous pasta recipes in the recent Gluten Free Ratio Rally (see list of recipes at the bottom of this page). I read through them all, looked through my army of gluten free flours, and worked out a new recipe.
I was very excited - the dough was soft, pliable and *dramatic drum roll sound effect* I managed to roll it out to a "1" on the machine! I could even read my supperclub prep timetable through it!
It seemed an ideal time to use my new ravioli tray.
The filling for the ravioli was one that I had used last November for larger ravioli. I sauteed onion and garlic, added chestnuts and diced apple, parsley and seasoning. In a separate pan I rendered some pancetta, letting it get very crispy. I mixed the filling in my battered 20 year old Masterchef Moulinex mixer (*hint* anyone want to give me some lovely shiny mixer to review?!) and removed some for my vegetarian ravioli. I then added pancetta to the rest and blended it again.
It only took half a teaspoon of filling to fill the ravioli (I had plenty left over lol). The pasta dough behaved beautifully and I had no trouble getting the raviolo out of the tray.
I put the finished ravioli onto a tray covered with cling film and put them into the fridge until service.
I forgot to add the freshly chopped basil to the plates - a shame because the green would have added something to the picture if nothing else!
For our main course we had given guests a choice of Halibut or Steak. I was surprised at how many people chose the fish!
The halibut steaks were individually poached in olive oil, in a very low oven, for about 40 minutes. Lemon slices, lemon smoked salt and capers gently flavoured the fish. Despite being cooked in the oil the fish doesn't come out at all oily. On Friday a timing error meant that (to my tastes) the fish was slightly over but all the guests said it was good. The fish was accompanied by sauteed Pink Fir Apple potatoes from our own kitchen garden.
The fillet steaks were HUGE! The smallest ones were 6oz and the largest 10oz. With hindsight I should most certainly have trimmed them - but in my defence a) I'm a carnivore who firmly believes there is no such thing as too much steak and b) I'm used to serving teenagers with appetites like horses! I may have to invest in some Annie's branded doggy bags...
I served the steaks in the style of a Tournedos Rossini - on a fried crouton and topped with home made chicken liver pate. I explained to guests that whilst my palate may appreciate the splendour of fois gras I cannot support the methods used to obtain it. I prefer therefore to use chicken liver pate as a topping.
My dauphinoise style potatoes have become a bit of a signature dish and were served as a (very rich!) accompaniment to the steaks. On Friday the potatoes were PERFECT and a very very big hit with our diners. Sadly on Saturday I had every chef's nightmare when the oven appeared to malfunction resulting in underdone potatoes. I tried my best to rescue them and guests were keen to convince me that they tasted great but *I* was extremely distressed. It didn't help that I had an ex-fine dining head chef at the table that night - NOT the night to screw up!
All the meals were served with Petits Pois à la Française. I hope to add some photos later on from guests as (as usual) I failed to get a photo of the main courses!
Due to licensing laws we are unable to offer alcohol to our guests (although diners made a donation for their food because money changes hands offering alcohol still counts as "passing off"). In order to be able to celebrate our anniversary in style therefore we served a lovely Champagne Sorbet! They were served in individual tasting glass jars which we did rather cram full! Miscommunication between front of house and chef meant that our guests on Friday were offered their desserts before they had finished the generous portion of sorbet - we sorted that for Saturday!
Desserts were a choice of either caramel and honeycomb ice cream served "Jenga" style or our double chocolate steamed pudding with chocolate sauce. Our dairy free guest on Saturday had a duo of ice creams - a cashew nut ice cream and a dairy free kulfi (made for our Asian Dinner!).
Dark chocolates were filled with a home made gooseberry soft pastille, white chocolates filled with a blueberry pastille and another dark chocolate flavoured with peppermint.
We had a lovely weekend and made some great new friends. It was good to meet the people behind several twitter friendships!
With our Christmas dates selling out fast, we've also added another date to our European Dinner weekend.
We are looking forward to our final 6 events of 2011 and are already well into planning next year - including Valentines Day! If you are a coeliac or your partner is, why not book in early to ensure you can join us for our 10 course tasting menu and celebrate Valentine's Day in style AND without fear :-)