Prunella’s Kitchen – The Dinner Party

Prunella teaches you how to cook like a toff!

The nemesis of all right-thinking women. But sadly unavoidable. You can dig your heels in all you like, you can even have a lovely plebeian tantrum, but in the end you are going to have to buckle down.
The Hon. Rodney, or your own equivalent thereto, is almost bound to have a whole slew of exceedingly wealthy clients who choose his services above others because he’s a posh boy.
There’s no way to avoid it. Being the daughter of an impoverished Scottish Earl carries with it a certain cachet, and every so often one’s indecently wealthy (but infinitely less well-connected) spouse is going to want to take advantage of a lineage that stretches back to Macbeth and Duncan. In this house we have a bargain. Twice a year I will dust off his mater’s exceedingly ugly diamonds, and remember to smile while explaining that the Hon. Rodney won’t become a Lord until his pater (currently residing in a kindly home for the terminally bewildered, where he has a lovely time shouting at the television and only addressing his carers in Latin) shuffles off this mortal coil.
However. To the meat of this dissertation. What to feed the philistine hordes.
Keep it simple, hearty and wholesome. The men will scoff it and their thin, overproduced, wives will be able to feel superior.

To begin. Soup. Potato and leek (or tinned tomato) with grated sharp cheddar on top and bread rolls. NB. Do make sure the butter is at room temperature – there is little as annoying as trying to spread an iceberg of yellow dairy product.

Main course. Something that cooks very slowly and can be prepared a long time in advance. My own go to is beef in booze. Which is prepared the evening before the shindig.

You need.
(Serves 8)
3lb-ish beef skirt cut in about half-inch cubes (By weight about 12oz per person.)
6 large mild onions peeled and finely sliced
6 trimmed leeks also sliced finely
250ml passatta
2lb peeled chopped tomatoes (or the equivalent of canned)
2lb button mushrooms
4 large red bell peppers sliced
2 cooking apples peeled and chopped
4 large potatoes peeled and cut into small cubes
6 large juicy cloves of garlic
2 litres cheap red wine
1 can stout
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Dijon mustard

You will also need a large casserole dish with a very tight fitting lid. Grandmother’s for preference or something French, cast iron, and eye-wateringly expensive.

Brown the beef and bung in the bottom of the casserole, fry the onion until darkly caramelised and put atop beef. Throw the leeks, mushrooms, peppers, apples, potatoes, passatta and chopped tomatoes in on top. Mix crushed garlic, stout, oregano, soy, and mustard and pour over beef etc. Finish with wine. Clamp lid on tight and shove in the slow oven of the Aga. Leave severely alone until lunchtime next day. Remove from oven. Check seasoning. Add more wine if gravy level looks low. Shove back in oven until it’s time to serve. (If necessary, gravy can be thickened with cornflour mixed to a paste with cooking brandy.)
Serve with mashed potatoes and peas.

Alternative main course – slow cooked lamb shanks from your nearest German supermarket, which you shove in your own casserole dish with extra wine and give another couple of hours cook. Same accompaniments.

Pudding: either Eton Mess or some sort of steamed sticky with custard. Or it can be glossed over altogether by providing a humongous cheese board and some of the Hon. Rodney’s aged port (or, better still, cheapo port in a pretty decanter or three).

Look out for more tips on how to cook like a toff next week!

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