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My 3 Favourite Easy Dinner Party Courses

✨ MELANIE FULLBROOK



Two years ago I found myself at the end of a very difficult personal journey through some big life events and I wanted to do something to mark it and celebrate. I decided I wanted to take a month out of my working life to go down to Devon and do a Level 2 professional chefs training at Ashburton Cookery School. I spent my days in full chef whites learning butchery, pastry and sauces and spent my weekends and evenings going to gym classes and exploring the wonders of the Dartmoor countryside. It couldn’t have been a better experience and I am so glad I took the risk and went and did it. Since then, cooking has continued to be an obsession and below is one of my favourite three course menus for a dinner party - easy to do after a hard day at work with only a little prep time needed .




STARTER: Grilled peaches, Mozzarella & Prosciutto salad with grilled sourdough croutons and a chilli mint lemon dressing


Shopping list: serves 4 


- 1 red chilli of your desired spice level

- Bunch of mint 

- 1 lemon

- Nice olive oil 

- 4 ripe peaches or nectarines (more if you want bigger portions)

- one ball of burrata or mozzarella 

- 1 pack of prosciutto / Parma Ham slices 

- a few slices of nice chunky bread (sourdough works well) 

- salt and pepper 


This starter couldn’t be easier or more delicious. 


Ahead of time:


Make the dressing: de-seed and chop the chilli finely, grate the lemon zest and chop the mint finely into a bowl. Add the juice of the lemon (roll it hard on your worktop before cutting it open for maximum juice) and add 4tbsp of good olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. 


To serve: 


Cut the peaches into quarters and gently cook on the hob cut side down to get nice charring lines (if you don't have a griddle pan with lines then a regular saucepan will do you just won't get the lines obviously)


At the same time make the croutons; either toast the slices then oil season and rip into croutons OR rip, oil and season the slices then put them under the grill until golden and crisped.


Rip the mozzarella and scatter over plates.


Rip prosciutto and scatter over plates.


Place 4 slices of peach per person on their plate.


Add some croutons placed nicely to even the plate out.


Drizzle over a generous amount of the dressing making sure to get lots of yummy bits on each portion.



✨ MAIN COURSE: Hake steaks, brown shrimp & samphire cream sauce, parsley mash and mixed spring greens 


Shopping list (serves 4): 


- 4 hake steaks (bone in) 

- generous splash of double cream

- 1 lemon

- 200g brown shrimp

- 200g samphire

- 2 shallots

- splash of white wine (optional)

- 500g potatoes (floury ones are best - Maris Piper or Yukon gold)

- 50g butter

- generous splash of milk

- bunch of flat leaf parsley

- one pack of frozen peas

- one pack of french beans

- one pack of asparagus

- salt and pepper

- olive oil or butter for frying


Ahead of time:


Peel and quarter the potatoes then boil in salted water until soft enough for a knife to go through (10 mins ish). Drain the water then leave to dry a little before adding back to the pan still warm and mash with the butter, milk, salt and pepper to taste and desired texture. If you want to be healthy just mash with a little olive oil and seasoning.


Make the sauce by dicing the shallots finely and cooking them off in a little butter before adding a healthy splash of white wine. Let the wine cook off for a few minutes at a high heat then add the samphire and brown shrimp and cook for a few more minutes. Once the samphire is soft enough to taste, add a good dash of cream, a squeeze of lemon juice and season. 


To serve: 


Cook the hake steaks - season them on both sides then cook in a hot pan for 3 minutes on each side in a generous amount of oil or butter. At the last minute add a squeeze of lemon over them. 


Gently steam or boil the asparagus and french beans in some salted water (5 mins ish) then add the frozen peas just to defrost them. Drain, season (and if you want add some gently roasted flaked almonds it can add a nice crunch).


Chop a handful of parsley and mix it through the mash.



✨PUDDING: Plum and rosemary tart with cinnamon crème fraîche


Shopping list (serves 4): 

- 1 pack of jus roll puff pastry 

- 75g soft brown sugar (any type) 

- One punnet of plums (400g) 

- Fresh rosemary sprigs

- 2 tsp ground cinnamon 

- One tub of crème fraîche (you can serve with greek yoghurt or ice-cream if you fancy)


This also couldn’t be easier.


Ahead of time:


Slice the plums into halves and de stone.


Mix the sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and a few finely chopped rosemary sprigs in a bowl.


Get out your pastry sheet (keep it on the greaseproof paper it comes on) and lay it on a baking tray. Add the plums skin up in rows down the centre leaving 2 inches of pastry all around. Fold over the border so it’s now a one inch folded rim. Pour over the sugar mix and then scatter over some larger rosemary sprigs.


Mix the creme fraiche with 1tsp of cinnamon and leave in the fridge.


To serve:


Put the tart in the oven at 200 degrees for 20-30 minutes until pastry is nice and golden.


Serve with a dollop of the creme fraiche mix. It can often be nice to take the tart to the table whole and cut it in front of guests.





Bon Appetite! If cooking for yourself feels like just too much on a working night, we have just the ticket for you and your guests. Come and enjoy an evening of pure luxury - champagne, canapés and theatre in our THEATRE IN THE CLOUDS season at THE SHANGRI LA HOTEL.





Top photo credit: Keith McNally and 6sqft.com

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