After a few NYE celebratory disasters, I opted to host dinner last night. It was a great excuse to dust down the cookery books and make some of those dishes that really are meant for a special occasion. I actually love the ritual of preparing for just such an evening especially when your friends are so receptive and last night was no exception.

After much planning, shopping, prepping and fussing, the menu was:

roasted beetroot and ricotta salad with caramelised pecans

coulibiac with saffron rice, baked fennel & green beans

butterscotch budino with caramel sauce and rosemary pine nut cookies

The starter was conceived around M’s wonderful fresh buffalo milk ricotta cheese which she brought with her direct from the dairy. What better way to celebrate something so special that to match with earthy freshly baked beetroot and the crunch of sweet pecan nuts? I added peppery rocket and a simple sherry vinegar and olive oil dressing. I also found some wonderful fresh red wine and fig sourdough bread at Gail’s bakery which was a perfect match.


The Coulibiac is one of those dishes that I wheel out when I have time to make it. I have to admit that my first thought was to do my roast duck dish with quince sauce (a stalwart Moro recipe that is always a hit), but when I rang Richard Waller to order one of his fabulous Aylesbury ducks, his wife told me they had sold out after a manic build up to Christmas so they were taking a break and next ducks would only be available in February. Who knew duck was getting to be so popular as an alternative Christmas centrepiece?

My Coulibiac recipe is one of those paper copies that sit in the back of my recipe scrapbook from years gone by. I can’t for the life of me remember how I got it, but it is a Michel Roux version that has many elements and is 4 pages long, so I am not going to replicate it here. I have to admit that I immediately bypass the brioche dough element and buy all butter puff pastry, but after that I am true to the recipe, preparing the rice, onion, mushroom, pancake, egg and fish elements the day before so that it is a simple compilation job on the day.


As for dessert, well this one was inspired by Nancy Silverton and her wonderful LA restaurant, Pizzeria Mozza. Ever since I tasted this dessert in LA some 5 years ago, I have wanted to try it out at home. Once again, it is a recipe of many parts most of which can be made up in advance but with two layers on the biscuit and three layers in the dessert, the preparation takes time… but it’s worth it!


The evening closed with a New Year tip from my wonderful Spanish friend. She told me it was tradition as the clock strikes twelve to eat a grape for each strike, so you have to gobble twelve grapes in time to Big Ben and then make a wish. After a not so fun 2013, I hope she is right and that all our wishes will come true.

Merry 2014 everyone.