The only thing that stresses me out is deciding what to cook. You need something that you can make ahead, and then just either reheat or finish. You don't want to be spending ages in the kitchen when people arrive, as that's the best bit, all the chatting and catching up! It is also where it can all fall apart because you're distracted, so giving yourself something complicated to do last minute is just added pressure and stress.
We had a dinner party the other day and I thought I would share my menu with you. I know one particular friend who is the Queen of dinner parties and she is always hunting for new ideas! So Siena, these next posts are for you.
I am also going to add that I am on a diet, I know I know blah blah, trust me I am NOT going to become one of those blogs. However, for those that are interested, I chose a truly scrumptious menu which could be low carb and I swapped out a few ingredients for low fat ones. Not the dessert though, I mean if you're going to eat dessert, just bloody eat it, yah feel?
So lets begin shall we? I shall start from the main course (as this is how I started cooking) and I chose a classic from the Skinner Household. I give you, Timmy Skin's Lemongrass Prawns.
For 4 you will need:
4 lemongrass stalks
2cm cube of ginger
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of brown sugar (palm sugar if you have it or just dark brown soft sugar)
Roughly 10 BIG Prawns - it's a main course remember
1 large Medium Chilli
200ml chicken stock
(I used double stock as I like more of a soupy sauce, remember recipes are a guideline not a set of rules)
1 sweetheart cabbage
I went to the lovely fishmongers in Muswell Hill Walter Purkis and Sons and picked up these bad boys. They have such a fantastic and reasonably priced selection I will certainly be going back. The lady also told me if I had any special requests or larger orders just to ring ahead so they could get it in as they go to Billingsgate every morning. Very helpful to know! (Also in Crouch End)
I peeled the bodies and left the heads and tails. I also added some Shitaki Mushrooms, just because I love the meaty flavour and texture of them.
Start with your marinade, bash the hard stems of the lemongrass. Give a big sniff as that delightful smell gets released. Then just chop it a little, it's all going in the blender so don't be precious. Dads uses a pestle and mortar instead but, sadly, I don't have one. I wish I did however the magimix is here to save the day.
Next peel your ginger, use a back of a teaspoon to get off the skin whilst leaving the flesh intact. Again, roughly chop.
Pop in the sugar, peeled garlic, lemongrass, ginger, chilli into the blender and...
Whiz! Lemongrass is a tough little guy so it does need a while. Whilst blending add in half the fish sauce, and if it needs it, a little stock. I also dobbed in a hard blob of coconut oil, because, well I just did.
Now scoop it all out and give your prawns a little massage.
Cover and leave in the fridge. As with any marinade the longer you leave it the better. I think mine was about 4 hours or so.
As I said above, you want to leave yourself as little to do as possible. So about an hour before Alex and Kay rocked up I got cooking. You can see I'm brandishing the coconut oil. This is not for health reasons, in fact i'm not even sure what it is meant to do, however I have discovered I do like using coconut oil when I'm cooking asian dishes.
Slice up your shallots, remaining chilli and mushrooms (if you're using them) and start off by softening the shallots.
Then chuck the rest in
Get the pan super hot and add the prawns. The idea here is to not cook them all the way through so as soon as they are blushed pink, pour in the stock and then using a slotted spoon remove the prawns and pop them to one side.
The idea is that the stock will wash off any excess marinade and then you can leave that behind to flavour the stock. The prawns are going back in but as you are cooking this ahead you don't want them to be over cooked.
Now add the sliced cabbage. Really you can use any veg here but we have always done it with cabbage. Now just clamp on your lid, turn off the heat and leave it alone.
Once your guests have arrived and you are ready to eat, all you have to do it turn on the gas and tip the prawns back in.
Voila! A dish to impress the mot discerning of guests and minimum effort if I do say so myself.
I served with jasmine rice, however the amount of cabbage in the dish means that you don't feel like you are missing out if you don't have it. So I went sans rice - see what I did there, tasty dish, low carb. I mean I can't really tell you from a definitive nutritional point if it is the best diet dish ever but it is tasty and it certainly got the thumbs up!
I've always loved this dish and can't believe I haven't thought of it before. It's a real winner!
You can also make this with chicken for those of you adverse to the sea, like my brother. Just follow the same steps, swapping out the prawns for chicken! Dads used to whip up two separate pots in order to cater for the fussier child.
Let me know how you get on or what changes you decide to make! I might actually try it with turkey mince next time...