June 20, 2012

Dinner Party Ideas

Who doesn't love a good dinner party?
I love them and I especially love them when I don't spend half the night in the kitchen cooking!
Champers or a good dry martini sets the mood for a soirée at the Bakers' house. Of course, there must be something super delicious to whet the palette before moving over to the table for dinner.

Home-made bread usually does the trick and if you serve it with a delicious dip, I find you usually have set the mood for a fabulous evening ahead.
I recently made a yummy eggplant dip that blew my mind along with those of our friends. It was simple, made the day before and looked impressive. Feast magazine provided me with this recipe and it is one I'll use again and again. The combination of smoky eggplant, grilled haloumi and pomegranate molasses is an absolute winner.
Once the martinis have dried up, the flat bread is all eaten and conversation flowing, we usually move over to the dining table, and this is when I like to make my first entry into the kitchen. I mean, if you can't sit down and enjoy the company of your guests with your first martini then when can you?

The entree will set the tone for the night's feast. If it is sparse then guest will wonder if they have to pick up KFC on the way home. If it's too heavy then they won't finish main course, and only pick at dessert, so in my opinion the entree has to taste fantastic making your guests wanting more!
On this occasion I decided to go with an old favourite of mine -- gnocchi. I hardly ever make it any more, hardly ever eat it out (I hate the disappointment of it being served all watery, or with a creamy sauce) and so I decided to make it to see if I still had the magic touch. I pan-seared the gnocchi in a little butter then portioned it up and melted Raclette cheese over the top and served it with a citrus, tomato and basil salsa.

Thankfully the potato gnocchi was fluffy, light and moreish! Having the citrus salsa with the buttery gnocchi really helps even out the richness of the dish. 
With wine flowing and conversation in full swing, this allows me time to pop into the kitchen and give the main course a bit of attention. I was serving pork fillet that I'd marinated in a chili, brown sugar and porcini mushroom rub. The pork fillets needed to be thrown on the grill while I reheated the baked Jerusalem artichokes and green beans. The pork is rich and sweet and the hit of chili really works well with the mushrooms. You know you have a winning dish on your hands when all you can hear is the background music!

At this stage of the evening everyone is feeling extremely good. The happy food fog is wrapped around everyone, a good debate is usually underway and that 3rd, 4th or 5th bottle of wine you saved just in case it was one of those 'fun' nights has just been opened. Really by this stage you could serve a bowl of seasonal fruit and everyone would be happy.....alas, you know everyone is really dying for a sweet little something and dessert is usually the course that everyone remembers when they wake up in the morning.
I love citrus so I like to keep dessert light, fun with a hint of tart. Small bites are also a great way to serve dessert after the previous three courses. To wrap this dinner party up I served a trio of citrus that started with a lemon mousse; pistachio shortcake with fresh strawberries and a lime curd and finished with a sherry glass of limoncello -- what isn't there to love about that?

Just before the boys went off to bed they whispered in my ear "can you please make sure there is some dessert left for us?" and I think I remember saying the same thing to my mum many moons ago!


Susie said...

Yum! I want to come to dinner. My one and only attempt at gnocchi was a disaster. They were fat, doughy, just awful! And I don't know what a Champers is, but I am certain I would enjoy that too! And my friend grows eggplant every summer, so I am going to try this dip, but I don't see the recipe on that page, is there a name for it? So impressive, all of it!

Camilla Baker said...

Hi Susie, Recipe will be sent your way. CHampers is champagne, Australians have a habit of shortening everything! As for gnocchi, my first 100 attemps were terrible, by the 150th go I started to get it so don't feel to bad, I'll just have to come and cook it for you!
Thanks for coming by x

Anonymous said...

Great advice as usual Camilla! We've hardly had any dinner parties since our 2nd was born nearly 3yrs ago, just casual dinners, please tell me it gets easier as they get older! It's certainly difficult getting the balance right between time with friends and time in the kitchen. You've inspired me yet again!
Gillian Kirby

Guru Uru said...

You are obviously the queen of dinner parties my friend, there are so many excellent tips here :D
Great post and foodie pics!