Hosting an Autumnal Dinner Party

Ok, so I am going to have to give myself an out and explain that I very seldom throw lavish dinner parties, however we do have friends and their families over most Sundays or we go to them; so I thought that I would pull together some of my favourite quick and easy Autumnal recipes that would work great as a formal dinner party or equally as well in a relaxed setting.

Butternut Squash Soup

I know, it’s a seasonal classic but, they are seasonal for a reason! Butternut is great this time of year and I make a huge vat of it so that I can take some to work on Monday.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 Medium Butternut squash

1 Onion

3 Garlic cloves

1 Pint Vegetable or chicken stock

Olive Oil

Small tub Double Cream

A couple of days old Crusty Bread or rolls for croutons

Method
  • Preheat your oven to 160 degrees.
  • Cut crusty bread into crouton sized squares.
  • Cut up your butternut squash evenly and place on a baking tray with the garlic and the bread croutons and drizzle with oil. Season and place in the oven for 30- 40 mins until the croutons have browned and the butternut is cooked through.
  • Cut up the onion finely and sauté on a medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan until browned.
  • Remove the butternut etc out of the oven and add to the saucepan (making sure to scrape everything out of the baking tray) with the stock and simmer for 20 mins (make sure to try the soup and add more seasoning to taste after simmering for a while as the stock could be quite salty.)
  • Take off the heat and cool a bit before using a handheld blender to blitz until smooth (for an extra smooth soup, pass through a sieve.)
  • Serve by swirling a tablespoon of cream over the top of the soup and add some croutons.
Coq Au Vin

I love this because it can be left to cook for hours on a low heat in the oven or Aga and is cooked in one pot so saves on washing up.

Ingredients

4 chicken legs ( if you prefer you could cut up a whole chicken into pieces)

20 shallots, peeled but whole

3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm slices

2 celery stalks cut into 1cm slices

20 button mushrooms cleaned

12 slices streaky bacon diced

1 bottle full-bodied red wine *

½ pint chicken stock

Bouquet Garni (parsley stalks, 2 bay leaves and 6 sprigs thyme tied together)

Olive oil

1 tbsp plain flour

Method
  • Preheat the oven to 160 degrees.
  • In a heavy-based casserole dish on a high heat, add olive oil and colour the chicken pieces (should take about 5 mins) remove with a slatted spoon and set aside.
  • Reduce the heat and add the bacon and brown for a few minutes until lightly coloured. Next, add the vegetables and cook for about 5 mins, it should all have a nice golden colour.
  • Add a tablespoon of flour and stir in until a bit pasty, next gradually add the bottle of wine in thirds whisking as you add to incorporate the flour into a sauce and add the stock and bouquet garni.
  • Put the chicken back into the casserole dish, season well and place in the oven for 2hours, check after about an hour and add more stock if needed.
  • Remove the bouquet garni and serve over buttery mashed potato and garnish with parsley.*

*For a really rich version of this recipe, reduce the wine by half before using by simmering on a high heat to remove the alcohol and create a more concentrated wine to add. When ready to serve, remove the chicken and vegetables again and reduce the sauce down further until it is a really rich gravy.

Passionfruit Pavlova
Ingredients

4 egg whites

250g Castor sugar

½ tsp cream of tartar

1 large tub double cream

1 split vanilla pod and seeds removed

6 Passionfruit

Method
  • Preheat your oven to 150 degrees.
  • If you have a mixer, add the egg whites to the bowl and turn to full power for about 5 mins or until the egg whites form stiff peaks. If not use a handheld or balloon whisk to get the same consistency.
  • Turn down the speed to medium and add the sugar one tablespoon at a time with the cream of tartar until thick, glossy and no longer grainy.
  • Take some baking parchment and draw around a large dinner plate and stick to a baking tray with a small splodge of meringue in the 4 corners.
  • Using a large metal spoon, spoon around the outside of the circle drawn on the parchment then fill in the centre but not as high as the sides to create a well.
  • Place the baking sheet into the oven for 1 hour and then turn off the oven and leave until cold (overnight if wanted.)
  • Whisk the double cream and vanilla seeds until thick and then place into the well created in the centre of the meringue.
  • Cut the passionfruit in half and with a teaspoon and spoon the seeds and juice onto the cream then serve.

Yes, there is some preparation involved in doing this as a whole dinner, however, it can all be prepared the day before and put in the fridge, or in one fell swoop the afternoon of the party. Then you can sit back and enjoy being with your guests.

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