JD’s Guide to the Perfect Midweek Dinner Party

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So this week I stopped by at a friend of mine Zoe’s for dinner, as per usual when I go to someone’s for dinner I was doing the cooking :0)!

Midweek dinner party’s are always an interesting one, you need something that’s minimal fuss while obviously still be interesting and tasty. Zoe has been a frequent commenter on my foodie photos since we met so I was keen to make sure the food was up to scratch. Added to the mix Zoe invited her friend Harini, a passionate foodie and lover of whisky. A new friend for life has been made!

To the food, after some consideration I went for a menu of tuna tartar, reisling coq au vin and a desert of pear and cinnamon tart tatin. The benefit of this menu was the cheats and short cuts that save time and don’t compromise the flavour.

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For the tuna tartar it’s straight out of the book from Michel Roux Jnr. Start by removing and discarding any dark parts from the bloodline of the tuna. Finely dice the remaining tuna and place in a large bowl. Stand the bowl on ice to keep chilled. Add the spring onions, chilli and ginger to the tuna and mix well. In a separate bowl mix together the honey, soy sauce, lime juice, sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds. Toast the slices of ciabatta on a griddle pan. To serve, press the tuna tartare into a 7cm/3in chef’s ring on each serving plate. Carefully remove the ring, arrange the toast and lime wedges around the tartare.

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Before you have even done the starter prepare and get the coq au vin going, unlike the red wine version this lighter white wine dish requires no marinating and is almost completely made in one roasting tray. Ideal for midweek meals.

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The recipe for the coq au vin comes from Aussie chef Bill Granger. Not as widely known in the UK but his food is great and has some very interesting ideas.

For the coq au vin, preheat the oven to 220C/430F/Gas 7. Arrange the chicken pieces in a large roasting tin and scatter with the bacon, shallots, thyme, rosemary and chilli flakes. Season, to taste, with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle the contents of the roasting tray with two tablespoons of the olive oil and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. When the chicken has been roasted, add the wine to the tin and cook for another 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven. Heat the butter and remaining tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. When the butter is foaming, add the mushrooms and garlic and fry for 3-5 minutes. Tip the mushrooms and garlic into the tin and scatter with the parsley. Meanwhile, for the crème fraîche mash, boil the potatoes in a pan of salted water until tender. Remove from the heat, drain well and return to the hot pan. Mash the potatoes until smooth. Heat the milk and butter in a small pan over a medium heat, until the butter has melted (do not allow the mixture to boil). Beat the hot butter and milk into the potatoes, then fold in the crème fraîche or cream. Season, to taste, with sea salt. To serve, pile some of the crème fraîche mash onto each of four serving plates and spoon the coq au vin on top.

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Onto desert, tart tatin is a favourite of mine. I would normally go down the usual route of apples, but it’s autumn and pears are at their best just now. The recipe for this is one of James Martins, it along with the rest can all be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/food. 8. Meanwhile, for the pear tatin, get the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Place the pears, 25g/1oz of the sugar and all of the lemon zest and vanilla seeds into a saucepan. Fill the saucepan with enough water to just cover the pears. Heat the pears over a gentle heat until the mixture is simmering. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the pears are just tender.

Drain the pears and pat dry. Heat the remaining 85g/3oz of sugar in a 24cm/9½in ovenproof frying pan over a low heat until is has caramelised. Add the butter, cream, star anise and cinnamon to the pan and heat gently until the mixture forms a smooth caramel. Discard the star anise. Place the pears into the caramel, cut-side up. Roll the chilled pastry out onto a floured surface to a 0.5cm/¼in thickness. Cut the pastry into a circle slightly larger than the frying pan. Place the pastry circle over the pears, tucking the edges of the pastry inside the pan to surround the pears. Transfer to the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is risen and golden-brown and cooked through. Once cooked, remove the pear tatin from the oven and set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes. To serve, invert the tarte tatin onto a serving plate. Slice the tatin into wedges and place a slice onto each of 4 serving plates. Top each slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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What made the night really great was spending it with two people who share my love of food and wine. On top of that my love of jazz and whisky, sharing this and some great conversation and it was a better than average Thursday night!

Dinner party’s are highly JD Recommended!

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