Confession No. 1

Confession.  As much as I love to cook, preparing a meal for anyone other than my nearest and dearest freaks me out.  Think it’s because everyone knows that I spend the vast majority of my free time in the kitchen and I worry that the food I prepare will be thought mediocre.  Or undercooked.  Or overcooked.  Or just plain crap. 

Thankfully, in the same way my fear of flying does not deter me from travelling, my dinner party jitters do not stop me inviting people over for a meal.  I just make sure I am really really REALLY well prepared.  And I always cook a tried and tested recipe.  Last weekend, for example, D’s sister and brother-in-law came for dinner.  I laid on a tapas-esque spread for them: Spanish tortillaaubergine salad, roasted peppers, tapanade, paprika chicken, baby leeks in jamón and some crusty bread to mop the juices up.  Everything dish could be prepared in advance and each dish was something I was very confident tasted great.  Perfect, right? 

Right.

Then why do I feel like I copped out?  Would be interested to know what you guys cook when guests come to dinner.

The baby leeks recipe I mentioned is a winner.  Hugely simply, unbelievable tasty.  Works as a starter or a side or, as above, part of a tapas selection.

 Baby Leeks in Jamón

(serves 4 as a tapas)

12 baby leeks, washed well and trimmed

6 slices of jamón or other cured meat (Parma ham would be fine), cut in half length-ways

Pepper

Olive oil

  • Simply wrap the leeks in half a slice of jamon and rub with a little olive oil and pepper.
  • Roast in a preheated oven (180oC) for 20 minutes until the leeks are soft and the ham is crispy.

Vegetarians – Baby leeks are delicious roasted without the ham too.  :)

19 thoughts on “Confession No. 1

  1. Everyone feels like that. You want your company to be well fed and have a great time while visiting. That makes you a good hostess. Your dinner sounds so good and they probably appreciated your effort…not to worry :)

  2. Your menu definitely does not sound like a copout. I would be very proud if I were you! I know all about the pressure of inviting people, though. I try to allow myself plenty of time – there is nothing worse than feeling rushed or panicky when you’re entertaining.

  3. I don’t know if this is true for you, but I think that because I love food and cooking, I can get a bit perfectionistic when it comes to serving it to others. But I’ve learnt through the years not to worry so much because any meal cooked with sincerity and fresh ingredients can’t seriously go wrong. And I usually keep it simple. My problem is that I like to try new recipes when I have a dinner party and that adds a level of stress/excitement. It makes it fun for me and if it doesn’t quite work out, I can say, oh it’s a new recipe, blah blah blah. ;-)

    Your dinner sounds wonderful and this leek dish looks so elegant.

  4. Wendy your menu is definitely not a cop-out. I generally make things that I am comfortable and familiar with and then at least one other dish that’s new but one that I’ve tried making before.

  5. Tapas! What a treat! Everyone loves them, they’re not as easy to find as they should be, and what you made sounds splendid. Baby leeks–so sweet–against the salty ham sounds like such a delicious nibble. I’m sure your guests were more than satisfied.

    I don’t follow the rule to “cook what you know” when I have people over, unless it is people I don’t know at all. When it’s folks I am confident will love me even if the dinner is a flop, I use them as guinea pigs.

    Two weekends ago I made my friends wait three hours for me to finish making homemade pasta raviolis stuffed with wild greens and an egg yolk. They were lovely, but not worth the hours of nonstop work on them. And even after the long wait, my friends ate them, complimented them profusely, and still enjoyed their meal; because, when it really comes down to it, the meal isn’t about how wonderful (or not) the food is, it is about with whom you you spend that time.

  6. What Christina said.

    I always make something new when old friends are coming; otherwise its braised fennel with wine glazed lentils, followed by home made cinnamon ice cream. So predictable, but I can do them with my eyes closed now!

    Tapas is a wonderful idea – and pre-prepared is the only way to go for company!

  7. Doesn’t sound at all like a cop out!!! Sounds rather nice and if someone were to fix that for me I would be excited about it.
    I usually only cook for hubby and my self, but when I do cook for my stepson and partner then I try something new for them. Which is an added challenge as he is dairy intolerant. So can be quite challenging. Hubby will eat just about everything I put in front of him. And for my friend and her kids when they drop by sometimes I fix Amercian foods for them as they love that sort of stuff. Next on the menu for them will be meatloaf as they have never had that. So it isn’t a cop out it is an adventure you go on with your friends.

  8. It’s not a cop-out, Wendy! Although I sometimes cook something novel for my friends, then usually I opt for something I know will look and taste good, and won’t stress me out too much. There’s so much to do when entertaining anyway, so I’m not keen on being nervous about how a new recipe turns out anyway..
    And furthermore – tapas like spread makes for great and casual entertaining. I’m hoping to try your baby leeks in Jamón (or some local substitute) soon..

  9. the menu sounds great, wendy

    but i know how you feel. i get like this sometimes too. i feel people just expect too much. i don’t want to fulfil expectations, i want to surprise, and thrill! :) that’s why i don’t tell everyone about my food blog, and my cooking passion. the truth is, i’m still learning, and i have a long way to go.

    hug

  10. Maryann – Thanks for the kind words!

    Rosa – Think you’re right about time being key…

    Nora – I can be a bit of a perfectionist. When I think about the meals I eat at other people’s houses Im always just delighted at the effort that’s been made.

    Meg – Thank you so much!

    Cynthia – Do you have a tried and trusted meal that you fall back on?

    Christina – Everyone does love tapas, it’s true. :) Love the ravioli story!

    Lucy – Have you blogged the ice-cream recipe? If not, do!

    Pat – It’s a whole other ball game when you add dietary requirements and kids! Well done you.

    Anh – Thank you!

    Pille – I do much the same. Don’t mind a bit of stress so long as it is before the guests arrive!

    Maninas – You sound very similar to me. :) Though my partner keeps outing me on the food blog front!

  11. Well, being a mother of a chef, I really get nervous. I always think that the company expects “wonders” from my kitchen and that puts a bunch of pressure on me. Even though I love to cook and no one has ever left much food on their plate, I still feel…like I am not up to par with the kid. But, like you, that does not stop me from entertaining. I love to have folks over to eat. So, I always make something that I know I can do well. Another thing is that I try to make a dish that can be prepared ahead of time, like a stew. That way all I have to do is heat the main dish. I do appetizers like you…very simple as you can see on my post today. So with an easy appetizer, main dish finsihed, all I need to do is add bread and a salad. Then I can relax with a glass of wine with my guests!

  12. For lunch guests – spicy lentils with tomatoes (a la Nigel Slater) + home-made bread of the bungy brown seeded variety.
    For dinner, if I love them lots, rare venison fillet with pureed celeriac+potatoes and oven roasted carrots, parsnips etc.
    Your tapas menu sounds great!

  13. I am so there! I love cooking, but also freak out when cooking for family and think, what will they like? I end up making something very simple and then think, why didn’t I try something new or different?

  14. I hear you – I fret over it too, then think heck, they’re here for the company – they’ll wait for the food if they have to!

    What I cook very much depends on the company, but I try to mix it so I have a couple of things I know are good and I know how to make with a couple new things I want to try making – that way, I’m pretty confident something edible will end up on the table, eventually.

    Actual things: anything from risotto with a salad on the side to braised lamb shanks over the big tex-mex or Asian feast. And dessert, almost always cake of some kind. And if all else fails, I have a great pizzaria down the street. That’s a real comfort :-)

  15. Deb – The cooking skills must be in his genes! ;) Funny you mention stews as I was just thinking today how I don’t get as worried about winter meals. Hurrah for stews!

    Chris – Loving the sound of the lentil dish and I adore venison. Especially rare. Some of my family members are squeamish about that though…

    Holler – It’s a fine balance, I think. The comments here have definitely encouraged me to relax and enjoy rather than be such a perfectionist!

    Zarah Maria – Risotto is my fail-safe too! The pizzeria idea reminded me of a section in one of Bill Granger’s books. He suggests ways to tart up takeaway meals. Great idea, I think!

  16. God, what a gorgeous recipe! I know what you mean – you missed the “big reveal” of something out of the oven. I always look for stuff I can make ahead of time b/c our stupid NYC apartment stove doesn’t have a fan. If I can make things before people arrive, then I have an outside chance of not roasting/ sweating everyone to death.

  17. Amanda – It’s one of my current favourites. So very easy! My oven has a fan but still churns heat out into the room. Luckily I can close the door to where my guests are. :)

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