It always surprises me the number of people who have friends around and do not put music on. Even if you are the worst host on the planet, everyone must know by now that music creates instant atmosphere. Rule number #1.
It is also surprising how many people seem more worried about their furniture than ensuring their guests feel comfortable. I would suggest to offer plates to your guests so that they won't need to use napkins or,even worse, their hands with the increased risk of dropping crumbs or sauces. Rule number #2.
Finally, and I know that this is very controversial among Brits, I just cannot stand having to remove my shoes. Especially if I have forgotten to wear the clean and holes-free-socks. (My granny always said you had to make sure you have clean underwear and new socks in case you get run over by a bus and are taken to the morgue...not too sure I would be that bothered at that point...).
Of course if your guests have just stepped from a muddy garden, shoes will be abandoned at the entrance. But in that case you hope you have sensible and polite enough friends who don't need to be told. Rule number #3.
Of course the same amount of basic rules exist also for guests. But this will be covered in one of my next blogs.
I do not want to pride myself as being the *perfect* host but it seems to me that these are basic rules that everyone ought to observe, even those who hate having people around, those who go nuts and get into real panic at the mere thought.
It is true that I do love "entertaining". But I think the secret is to invite enough close friends whom you can ask to bring a dish and contribute to the buffet - especially those you know love cooking. Your job will be a lot easier! Cunning eh?
Last Saturday we had most of our best friends at home. I thought of trying a triumphal cake which wasn't too Christmassy but celebratory enough. Sophie Dahl made in her "Celebratory" mood a flour-less chocolate cake. I have modified it a bit to suit my tooth better (less sweet and less buttery). And served it with fresh fruit. I know, I did say that I would never buy strawberries in December. I can call to my defence that it wasn't me who bought them!!...you can replace them with the more seasonal cranberries or any other berries you find in season.
The photo is not the best I could have done but I had a pressing crowd behind wanting to tuck its spoon in it...
Dark chocolate cake
300g dark chocolate
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coffee powder
150ml hot water
1 tab of creme fraiche
mixed fresh fruit
1. Cut the chocolate in medium pieces and place them in the mixer. Add to the mixer the sugar and blitz to turn the chocolate into chips. Add the butter and blend more.
2. Transfer the chocolate into a large bowl. Add the water and mix well. By doing this you make sure that there are some bits of chocolate in the final product rather than being a smooth paste as otherwise you can melt it on a pan.
3. Add the vanilla extract, the coffee powder, and the yolks of the 6 eggs mixing in between.
4. Beat the egg whites until they form firm peaks and then slowly and carefully add them to the rest of the mix using a metal spoon.
5. Cook in two Victoria sponge tins (aka sandwich tins) for 40minutes at C180.
6. Let the cakes cool for at least 2 hours.
7. When time of serving comes, remove the cakes from the tins and tear them apart making them in medium/small pieces which you will arrange on a cake stand forming almost a small mountain. Pour on top, very casually, the creme fraiche, and the berries scattered on top. Sprinkle the icing sugar to give it a fairy tale effect.
Everyone loved it.