Winter Dinner Dates #4

We've been so lucky with the weather this past week with temperatures reaching up to 27 degrees, & this dinner date fell at the end of a warm balmy day, so instead of a toasty fire, we had the doors open & could enjoy the lights in the garden.

This weeks guests were our very good friend Megan, beautifully pregnant Carol and her hubby Luca. It was a relaxed, happy evening & I was so pleased with how the food turned out.

I'd seen Jamie Oliver make the main dish on TV and despite going off Jamie's food due to the enourmous amount of different ingredients you need to make his meals, had been dying to try it out. In terms of the list of ingredients required, this was no exception, but we had a lot of the spices in the cupboard & on this occasion it was worth it  - I'll definitely be making it again. The dessert included one of Nigella's personal favorites - licorice with salt pudding. I have never enjoyed aniseed type flavors, but the way she made this & sumptuously ate it on TV was enough to encourage me to try something new & I have to say it was suprisingly delicately delicious & I really enjoyed it!

The Menu

* Rosemary/garlic & Thyme infused baked Camembert with Pita bread crisps. See recipe here

* Empire Roast Chicken with Bombay Potatoes and salsa. See recipe here.

* Trio of licorice, Salted Caramel macaroon & mini cup-cake with chocolate icing

We started making the desserts in the afternoon, so that the liquorice puddings could set & there'd be time to decorate the mini cup-cakes. The macaroons were a cheat I'm afraid & bought from Daniela's - I could never compete with theirs!

Liquorice Dessert

2 tsps liquorice pellets
120ml water
4 tbsp brown sugar
350ml cream
4 tsp cornflour
2 tbsp milk
Maldon salt!

Put the liquorice & water in a small pan & bring to the boil, whisking to helt the liquorice melt. Once it's bubbling, turn off the heat & leave for 5 mins, stirring every so often.
Turn the heat back on, whisk in the sugar, then the cream & bring back to a bubble. Remove from the heat.
Spon the cornflour into a little bowl & mix with the milk until you have a smooth paste.
Pour this in to the liquorice mixture, bring back to a bubble & whisk until thickened (about 30 seconds)
Divide in to serving glasses (I used espresso shot glasses which were the perfect size) and cover with a little moistend baking paper or clingfilm to prevent a skin forming & pop in the fridge to set.
Let the puddings come to room temperature before serving & sprinkle with a little Maldon salt.
It's like a smooth, delicate custard infused with a hint of licorice.

I looked up which flavours compliment the unique flavour of liqourice, and caramel, chocolate, coffee & butterscotch seemed to be the favorites, hence the salted caramel macaroon & chocolate topped cup cake I served them with.

Perfect Macaroons
For the cup cakes I used a very simple vanilla cup cake recipe and as our mixer recently died, I used one that replaces butter with oil making hand beating a whole lot easier! 

Mini Cup Cakes

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence

Start by combining your dry ingredients

Beat in the 2 eggs & mix in the milk & oil until combined

(Look cool at all times & wear the right gear)

Divide the mixture in to paper cases (we used mini silicone ones).
Pop in a pre-heated oven for 15 mins @ 180 degrees

And then the fun part. I used an Ina Paarman's all-in-one chocolate icing kit, which conveniently comes complete with icing bag & nozzle. Decorate with glitter, sprinkles & anything else to make them pretty.
Sweet buttery yumminess.

For the table decor I was inspired by a piece of botanical fabric I had & used some aloes from the garden in glass jars long with a couple of cute ornaments & tea-lights.

We collected the dead leaves from one of our Aloes last year as the spiky twisted shapes are so organic & sculptural & interesting. But I wasn't quite sure whether to spray paint them or what to do with them. 
This time I took a few & tied them with twine which was quite pretty for the table.

Our wonderful friends <3
Baked Camembert
Baked Pita Bread Crisps
Empire Chicken
Bombay Potatoes
Dessert Trio
Liquorice Pudding topped with salt

The Playlist:

* Rey & Kjavik
* Monster in Paris soundtrack
* Lana del Ray

Another wonderfully chilled evening with friends & great leftovers for today!


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