It’s been such a nice day in my life today. I’ve plucked up all my courage and jumped back into the murky pool of entertaining. It’s been a year or so since we last invited anyone other than family into our home (Colin counts as family and the meal I prepared for Ray was a light lunch rather than a full-on dinner party) – Mat and Mand were our last two house guests in May last year. Prior to then it had been one of the greatest pleasures of my life. Cooking for friends is such a rewarding and fulfilling experience, I just love it.
We stopped firstly because of the building work in the kitchen going on – nearly six months of building went on to get things just how we wanted them and in truth it’s still not quite finished – some woodwork still needs painting. Later that year I had my confidence badly knocked and so decided to walk away from this thing that I so loved doing.
Anyway, a few weeks ago I plucked up courage to ask Beth, my dear friend and ex-colleague and her boyfriend Sabino to come and share our table. Yesterday was the day. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the planning for such events – I mulled for ages over what to cook and how to prepare.
When Beth and Sab arrived, I insisted on trying out my portrait skills on them and this is one of the resulting photos. I think they will be pleased with the set of them – I will be putting up a gallery of them a bit later today.
We’d not met Sab before but he seemed to be at home with us straight away – Rosie now thinks she has kept goal for a famous Real Madrid centre-forward as Sab spent ages shooting a tennis ball through a doorway for her to catch. He also asked lots of questions about the food and I love that. He asked what the ingredients were, how I’d cooked the dishes and for the recipes. What a complete darling – I was absolutely in my element.
I’d decided to cook dishes with a Mediterranean feel because Sab is Spanish and I thought he’d appreciate it. Then while I was cooking I lost my confidence again in case by cooking Mediterranean dishes he would find out what a fraud I am and that even though I can ‘talk the talk’ about food, I’d not be able to carry it off. Seemingly that wasn’t the case. Phew. I’d decided to cook really simple dishes, with a small number of ingredients that took little time to prepare but a long time to cook. Personally I think that a few flavours that are well defined and developed through slow cooking are so good that over the years I’ve moved away from elaborate meals in favour of this type of cooking. So, the menu was roasted Ramiro peppers, stuffed with tomatoes, garlic, basil and black pepper, drizzled with chilli oil and roasted for three quarters of an hour until the peppers were as sweet as sweet could be. Then homemade pasta ‘puttanesca’ – a hot sauce with olives and capers, again cooked slowly for more than an hour to steep all those flavours together. Finally, chocolate mousse ice cream – just about the easiest dish in the world and so sexy it’s not true. I knew Beth would love that, she has a huge chocolate thing.
It was so wonderful to see Beth – although in the grand scheme of things she and I have not known each other long (I think 2-3 years only), we have become such firm friends. In fact, this is the first time I’ve seen her since she left the company towards the end of last year. She has such a nice way of seeing life. It’s just a real pleasure to be in her company. Towards then end of the evening she just seemed to be sparkling with radiance. I’m not sure I’m expressing that well but that’s how it seemed to me.
Only one little fly in our ointment was that we were having so much fun that we didn’t notice the taxi pull up to take them back to the station and they missed the train they’d been planning to catch. I really hope they caught their later train OK.
So, I’m back into it now….another guest coming in a couple of weeks and I’m just about to fill our diary with as many of our friends as I can. I’ve some catching up to do.