Wednesday, 17 May 2017

lunch is served

The lunch happened.  The food seemed to go down very well, and unless I hear of a mass outbreak of poisoning in the next twenty-four hours I shall count it a success.  Not that I ever have poisoned anybody that I know of, but scaling up cooking seems to result in things sitting in the kitchen at room temperature awaiting their turn in the oven or on the stove for longer than they would normally.  The friend who roped me into the society in the first place recounted how in her young days she cooked fish for a dinner party, only she had previously done the recipe for just two people, herself and her husband.  Fish and vegetables were all duly served and it looked very promising until they discovered that most of the fish was not nearly cooked after being packed so many together in the cooking pot.  The vegetables had to go back in the serving dishes and the fish back in the oven, and the rest of the party is a blur in her memory, though whether from shame or because they had all drunk so much by the time dinner was finally served I am not sure.

There were a few last minute drop-outs, the saddest being the person who thought she was going to have to go with her husband to the vet to have their dog put down.  He adores the dog and will be bereft without it.  There was also at least one drop-in as somebody appeared whose name definitely wasn't on the list.  There again, the chairman hadn't remembered to sign the list, but I deduced she was coming.

The village hall kitchen was splendid.  It was refurbished only last year and was resplendent with hygienic stainless steel counters and enough space to put everything down, and a huge fridge. Some of the puddings involved cream and I wasn't sure if we were going to need the third flan, so it was handy being able to keep them at a proper hygienic food storage temperature until wanted, and to be able to keep the wine cool while we had the lecture before lunch.  Not that most people were drinking, but it's nice for those who fancy a glass to be able to have one, and it was chilled when I left home so I was pleased to be able to keep it that way.  There are a few club members who have grumbled about meeting in village halls instead of members' houses, but as the outgoing chairman pointed out at the last AGM, as they downshift from their family home into smaller houses they are running out of members with enough space to host, and village halls have lovely big car parks and spare the hostess from spending the previous day humping sofas about.

I had done two made salads, one with black eyed beans and mixed vegetables that evolved from the useful bean stew I've mentioned before, and a Holiday Vegetable Salad.  I love the Holiday salad, which is a recipe out of a 1970s vegetarian cookery book by a Polish American.  It has everything in it, salad potatoes and apple and cooked carrot and peas and mushrooms and chopped hard boiled eggs.  The mushrooms are marinaded in spiced vinegar and you add sliced gherkins and cocktail onions, so that the whole thing has a slightly spicy, pickled edge to it, offset by mayonnaise made with sour cream and more hard boiled egg.  You decorate the top with fresh red pepper and radishes, and the recipe makes a quite enormous amount.  It looks and tastes like something from another century and another continent (which it is) but most people seem to like it when they try it.

The flans were mushroom and leek, from Jane Grigson.  They would have been best warm and fresh from the oven, which is how the book says to serve them, but they are nice cold, and I have done them often enough that I was fairly sure they were going to work.  My friend sliced the first one into eight pieces and worried they were too big, so cut it into sixteen pieces which were probably rather small, and what with that and the drop-outs, and the fact that I hadn't expected to use all of all three anyway but two might not have been enough, we ended up with one untouched, which went home with her as she is expecting visitors tomorrow and it solved the problem of what to feed them.

Volunteers had brought green salad and bread by prior arrangement, which I was grateful for as I don't know when I'd have had time to go and buy either, and it was very superior bread with cheese on it.  Other volunteers had done chocolate puddings and lemon biscuit pudding, and I'd made an Eton mess because I didn't know how big the lemon thing was going to be, and the great thing about Eton mess is that you can do the meringue part a couple of days beforehand and then the final assembly is really quick.  And as it stopped pouring before I went out I had picked some flowers from the garden, which another volunteer arranged in small vases.  And somebody else had brought tablecloths to help make the village hall look less institutional.

Tomorrow I will have to work out roughly what it all cost and make my report to the Treasurer, allowing for all the ingredients where I didn't need the whole packet, and the leftovers.  It was quite fun.  I like cooking, only next time I would not spend half the day garden visiting.  And I forgot to take a milk jug.

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