Save the best ’till last – NYE 2014

Posted on Jan 6, 2015

Save the best ’till last – NYE 2014

I always try and save the best ’till last and 2014 was no exception.  2014 was largely a year of hard graft and no holidays so we celebrated its passing in style with a big get together in in the rural setting of Gloucestershire with 20 of our friends and it was quite a foodie endeavour.

My friend Star, ever the organiser, booked us into 2 houses near the Forest of Dean for 4 nights and split us into groups, each group taking care of brunch, dinner and all the clearing up on their allocated day.  I volunteered to do a big food shop online complimented by supplies from my favourite local shops and this was no mean feat.  5 hours or so later I had formed the online order, thinking hard about what would keep everyone happy and trying to interpret their menus.  Some of them chose classic beef stew with stilton dumplings and crusty white bread, whilst others suggested hot and sour oriental soup for brunch which was a welcome wake up on New Year’s day.  A special mention must go to Rippon Cheese in Pimlico for supplying me with the most impressive selection of artisan cheese (if you haven’t discovered them yet do so with urgency!).

I chose to cook the New Year’s Eve feast and wanted to create something special but equally not overly complicated (my friends will laugh at this) and hearty.  We had some dietary requirements too: gluten free, vegetarian, pescatarian and “no slimy vegetables” (you know who you are).  So this is what we cooked:

A couple of bites to keep the wolves at bay;

Potato rostis with smoked mackerel and horseradish creme fraiche (this is becoming a bit of a thing of mine!)

Polenta rounds topped with Baigan Choka (you what? – it’s an aubergine dip like Baba Ganoush only it’s from Trinidad – try and say it though!)

Steam baked balsamic beetroot with Rosary goat’s cheese and capers

Slow roast and pulled ras-el-hanout lamb leg with layered potato cake;  lentils, roast garlic and butternut squash and braised lettuce and peas

Vegetarian: Slow roast vegetables on griddled aubergine with tahini dressing

Pescatarian: Salmon fillet with herby creme fraiche sauce

For pudding my young assistant Scarlett and I made a rich dark chocolate and olive oil cake which happened to be gluten and dairy free too, though I served it with creme fraiche (of course).

My aim with any meal I cook is for everyone around the table to be able to enjoy it equally and for people with dietaries to be amply catered for, this means not giving them a totally different dish just because it’s easier.  I felt happy that this menu satisfied everyone and even encouraged some to enjoy previously disliked foods.  The main challenge was getting everything cooked in an “Everhot” (read “neverhot”) Aga style oven but actually it was perfect for the slow roasting.

Besides the food it was a lot of laughs, silly dancing around the kitchen table into the early hours, muddy dog walks, cooking with the kids (Scarlett gets a particular mention for managing to fit her face in a chocolate covered mixing bowl) and catching up on the year’s news with old friends.  Let’s hope 2015 has a lot more fun like this (let’s not wait ’till the end of the year this time)…