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I have been practicing what I have been preaching.

Kind of.

The Great Dinner Party Challenge continues. But it’s showcasing my failings – notably, to allow enough time in the kitchen to attempt new recipes. I’m guessing this is due to the fact that familiar recipes from favourite chefs (not that I wish to be overfamiliar with my attentions, you understand) take longer for me to work my way through, or to translate in my mind, or for me just to grasp.

Not that this is a bad thing. I think I have become over-dependent on Delia. I suspect this may be a recognizable condition.

So, Meal One.

Of course, what you want to do when you have a fellow foodie blogger to dinner for the first time is to try a new recipe. What you don’t want to do is to think that you can complete a new recipe in an hour, and end up answering the door with your hands covered in goo, no make up on and your hair looking like a bird nested in it. And then have to ask said lovely guest to get their own drink as you’re too busy piling ricotta and mushrooms into layers.

Dinner turned out ok in the end though.  In fact, a bit more than ok. I made Yotam Ottolenghi’s mushroom lasagne and frankly, it was bloody gorgeous. And I forgot to take a photo of it because I could have eaten my own arms off by the time it came out of the oven. But it did look amazing. It was gooey and delicious and downright indecently fabulous. I’ll definitely make this again. Although it does not freeze terribly well – so make sure you can eat it all (either in one go or over a couple of days, depending on your oinkish tendancies). It wasn’t hard to make, more a matter of juggling and layering.  I wish I’d left a bit more time to do it though, a good hour would have taken the pressure off. 45 minutes wasn’t enough.

Meal Two

This time, I went for dessert. I got off to a flying start by buying the Wrong Kind of Apples.  In my defense, I wasn’t concentrating and hadn’t read the recipe before I went out shopping. That’s the problem with seeing something on the telebox and figuring out that you can just do it by osmosis. For Sunday lunch with friends I created Michel Roux Junior’s Tarte aux Pommes.  I say created – I actually mean part cremated.

The Tarte to end all Tartes!

Pre-Oven Perfection

Because the darn thing would not caramelize. THIS IS WHY I NEED A BURNY TORCH THING. And then in frustration I whacked the oven up for ten minutes, because after fifteen minutes longer than the recipe said, it was still looking doughy and dodgy, so I went off to do my hair and put my face on (I’m seeing a theme here).  Le Pomme had to do a dash downstairs to turn the oven off otherwise my eyeliner would have been wonky. Because whilst there weren’t flames, there was most definitely charring. And a landslide to the left. Which I managed to fix with the help of a fish slice and lashings of icing sugar. I think I got away with it – I should have left a slightly bigger edge, or used less compote.

Apple Tart

C’est fini! It didn’t taste too burnt…

It was remarkably easy and fun to do, especially once I’d figured out that by cutting the apples from the outside in rather than vice versa meant they wouldn’t break.

I stewed 4 cooking apples with sugar and a smidge of water to create the compote – I could probably have gotten away with 3, but would rather have left overs – and used 4 Braeburn ‘eating’ apples for the sliced top.   I’m not sure if I could have used the cooking apples to do the topping?

I’m now on the hunt for another dessert for Meal Three. I have a wonderful friend coming to stay this weekend who is very knowledgeable about food and wine. I’m sticking to an old faithful for mains, but want something unexpected and spectacular for dessert. I’d best start reading through those cookbooks…