Prunella teaches you how to cook like a toff!
The biggest test of any woman’s cookery skills (as well as her patience and tolerance for alcohol) is luncheon for a group of her own sex.
The best advice, honestly, is to never allow oneself to be inveighed into hosting what can only be accurately described as a bitchfest.
Should you be foolish enough I have a few words of consolation.
However badly the occasion falls out there will always be worse in living memory – with the proviso that you remember the three golden rules.
Never serve chicken (by some intervention of Beelzebub it will always be raw in the middle)
Never run out of booze
Never allow your husband/offspring/brothers within shouting distance (they will find it terribly funny to cause mayhem and leave you apologise for them)
So, ladies, to our muttons. Now might indeed be a good time to break out your finishing school cookery. Or it might not. Perfect salmon en croute may be the normal order of the day for you, but with fifteen arch-critics at the door, failure is guaranteed. Burned pastry with raw fish inside is the best you can expect. Do. Not. Attempt. Anything complicated. If you must show off your culinary talents I strongly suggest a casserole which can be perfected the day before and merely heated on the day.
But. Having, unbeknownst to me, been made a member of a group of ‘ladies who lunch’ (I believe my unlamented mother-in-law to have been responsible) I have developed a coping mechanism which I am prepared to share here.
Tapas. Consisting of whatever you can find at your nearest German supermarket (not Waitrose, or Samantha, Lucinda et al will even be au fait with the price). Shove your purchases onto the best Coalport serving platters and smile your best humbly self-satisfied smile.
Unlimited amounts of sangria and/or Agua de Valencia. Shakes head at puzzled young women. These drinks are both ironic and carefully lethal.
Mix as follows.
2 litres red wine
1 litre Fundador or similar sherry-based brandy
2 tablespoons muscovado sugar
2 large oranges sliced
1 large lemon sliced
2 punnets strawberries
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1 litre lemonade
Mix all ingredients except lemonade in large jugs at least three hours prior to luncheon. Add lemonade at the last minute.
Agua de Valencia
2 litres orange juice
4 sliced oranges (blood oranges for preference)
1 bottle cheap gin
1 bottle cheap vodka
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 bottles cava
Mix all ingredients except cava beforehand. Add cava just before the wenches descend
And there you have it. A no-fail luncheon for your natural enemies.
Just one last thing. Make no attempt to hide the supermarket packaging the food came in. If you do, your husband’s ex-girlfriend will seek it out and parade it about the room. Which bitchery there is no point to if you leave the packets in a neat pile on the kitchen worktop. Benefit two of this strategy is that when a mildly intoxicated young woman demands to know if the king prawns were prepared to Mary Berry’s recipe or Nigella’s you can recommend her to go and read the packet.
Look out for more tips on how to cook like a toff next week!