On Saturday night I turned my conservatory into a Provence for my annual dinner party I throw for my best school friends. Basically, you have to have either sat with us for lunch or dinner in the school dining room, or be dating someone who did in order to get an invite! Every year I like to throw it with a theme (two years ago Southern California, last year Ottolenghi) and I was in the mood for a whole load of food that goes perfectly with a nice chilled glass of rose. Or four. It was a great excuse to get sunflowers for the table, too!
Shall we talk about the food? I swear I have been getting progressively lazy every single year; this year nothing was hot and it could all be served at room temperature. This meant that I could work ahead and be totally ready, and dressed just before the first of my guests arrived! This potato salad may look a little different, but it is actually my Simple Potato Salad, just made with floury potatoes so they broke up into the sauce a little. You can see the Quiche Lorraine in the above picture, which I posted the recipe for quite recently.
This Egg and White Bean Salad was something new I tried out of a really old book of my Mother's on regional French cooking. A little retro, but totally delicious. It is pretty easy to throw together, actually. Mix together two drained tins of white beans, a orange and a yellow pepper chopped and two cloves of garlic to a large bowl. Whisk together 2 tbsp red wine vinegar and 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil with some salt and pepper, and mix into the beans. Boil 4 large eggs for 8 mins then plunge in cold water to stop them cooking and set aside. Leave for a few hours for the flavours to meld. When you're ready to eat, chop 4 large tomatoes and add to the bowl, and check the seasoning. Top with the eggs, sliced.
I do plan to blog this tomato salad eventually, so I won't give you the recipe now, but it is super simple with spring onions and a jam jar dressing you can make ahead and store in the fridge. You can actually find it in Rick Stein's French Odyssey book, though I play around with it a bit depending on what I happen to have growing in the herb pots by the kitchen door at any given moment.
Finally in the main course, and the star of the show, the Pissaladière. A traditional French tart topped with caramelised onions, anchovies, black olives and thyme. It was a joy to make, so simple and delicious and everyone snapped it up pretty quick, and it was the most popular thing for seconds! The sweetness of the onions and the saltiness of the anchovies balance each other out perfectly, and the base is the most amazing dough. You can serve it warm or like I did at room temperature, and the recipe should be up here on the blog soon!
Now, those of you who have clicked that I've served up a cheese board, and I can't eat cheese, yes I cheated. If I were in London and wanted to serve up a cheese board (I was not originally planning on it, but it kind of went with the theme!) I would head to my favourite dairy, Neal's Yard and ask them to put something together for me. However, in the countryside as I was, I crossed my fingers and headed to Waitrose. And do you know what? Their £6 cheese board selection is not too shabby!
I did not have to use my imagination for the desserts, because Edward requested both of them. First, he'd spied the last time I'd made a classic Tarte Au Fraise on Instagram, and put in his request. Sorry there are not many more photos, but while it tasted amazing, the creme patisserie did not quite set this time. Totally not my fault, it was pushing near 30 degrees the end of last week, if you remember! Also, we had my (and my Mothers) signature Hazelnut Meringue Gateaux with Strawberry Sauce (I was so obsessed with it as a kid I used to drink it straight from the jug). Sorry, this is one recipe I'll never be sharing. I might be persuaded, but it is my Mother's secret too. Edward is literally the only person we've ever given it to!
It was a lovely evening all around, and I really wish that I had the time to entertain more, though I think I might try and make it a new years resolution. I know this post, while food related is something a bit different, so I hope you all enjoyed it; when I've mentioned to people over the last few weeks that I was planning another dinner party, they all hoped that I would be posting about it here. But seriously for more of a take away from this post, rather than it just being a sneak peek into my weekend (we went for a pub lunch then watched Bridesmades over at Kathryn's house the next day) here it is: a Summer dinner party, family style where everything is room temperature is one of the easiest entertaining set ups I've ever done. I'd recommend it wholeheartedly! I've got some more entertaining ideas in last years post too, if you're interested.