Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Saturday's Dinner Party

We had friends come for the weekend, so I wanted Saturday dinner to be special. Having said that, I was critically short of time this week. Added to this was the fact that these are friends I have cooked for on dozens of occasions (and who have done the same for me) so I wanted to cook something I either had not made for them before or something I had made so long ago they might have forgotten it!

After much deliberation I decided to dispense with the starter entirely. As I often do, I served Kir Royale as an apertif and scattered some bowls of nuts around for people to pick at instead.

For the main course I served Beef Stroganoff on a bed of Basmati rice. I used Nigella Lawson's recipe from her fabulous first book "How to Eat". It's easy and it tastes so good! I highly recommend that recipe, and indeed the book. It's one I think everyone should have. The only variation I made was to throw some frozen peas into the stroganoff at the last minute so I did not have to worry about serving a separate vegetable. They tasted lovely and gave the dish a nice colour.

(I must admit I rarely have any other rice except Basmati in the house anymore. It has so much more flavour than ordinary rice, and is no more difficult to cook. I do, of course, keep Arborio rice for risotto. )

I served the main course with a lovely Shiraz.

For the pudding, I made Pear Tart, an old favourite. It's one of the recipes in the book handmade by Guy and his sister when they were little that was given to me years ago. I must admit, I have fiddled with the recipe over the years. I do like the bits I've tweaked though, so I'll include my version at the end of this entry. I served the pudding with Brown Brothers 2006 Orange Muscat and Flora, a lovely dessert wine that everyone seems to like.

And of course there was cheese and Port to finish!

Pear Tart

For the pastry:
250 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
125 grams soft butter (unsalted for preference)
2 to 3 tablespoons cold milk
Pinch of salt

For the filling:

100 grams of granulated white sugar
90 grams ground almonds
10 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
40 grams butter, melted
3 tablespoons double (heavy) cream
1 teaspoon almond flavouring
1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur
1 medium tin of pear halves in juice or syrup, drained
(You want about six to eight pear halves)
2 tablespoons Demerera sugar

You need a 20 cm (8 inch) flan dish. You can use a slightly smaller one if you don’t have this size, but be careful the filling does go over the edges.

Cut the flour and butter together in a bowl. I use a food processor - much easier! Add the pinch of salt. Gradually add the milk until a soft, pliable consistency is reached (you may need more or less milk than specified). Work the pastry into a ball. Press it into the flan dish (using some flour on your fingers to keep it from sticking if necessary). Be sure to work it up the sides of the dish so that you have a proper crust. Set aside.

For the filling, mix the sugar, almonds, flour, eggs, melted butter, cream, almond flavouring and Amaretto together until blended. Pour this mixture over the pastry base. Arrange the pear halves on top. Sprinkle with the Demerera sugar.

Bake in a 325ºF (160ºC) oven for 20 to 25 minutes, watching carefully during the last ten minutes. You want this tart to be lightly browned, with the filling set. Cool in the pan. May be served warm or cold, and is delicious with cream or ice cream.

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