Dinner parties – oohhh there is something about it that draws me. The planning of the menu, the excuse to cook up some special dishes, the inviting of the guests, the beautifying (read: tidying up) of the house, the surprise dish or gift that the guests turn up with, and of course, the enjoyment of company and homecooked food, all under one roof.
I did not really understand the fun of dinner parties until I moved here to Melbourne. Back in Singapore, dinner parties usually meant using the function room in our condominium block or renting one, and the food is usually catered. There is no notion of planning beforehand of what the guests would like to eat, or cooking with some love, or even having a cosy gathering in the privacy of your home. The idea was that it would be organised in the most convenient way possible, and with minimal effort required i.e. no cooking before and no cleaning up after! I guess that’s just our way of life and thinking in such a fast-paced society!
But after moving to Melbourne, I guess I got influenced by the foodie culture here, and I got inspired by the fresh produce so readily available here. And of course, the numerous cooking shows on TV (Jamie Oliver, Masterchef etc.) got the wheels in my brain turning. So when I got to live in my own apartment, I thought I would try hosting a few dinner parties!
So for one of my dinner parties, I thought up of this menu:
Entrée – French Onion Soup (Shannon Bennett’s Recipe)
Main – Grilled fillet steak with creamy white beans & leeks (Jamie Oliver’s Recipe)
Side – Perfect Roast Potatoes (Jamie Oliver’s Recipe)
Dessert – Guest’s choice*!
*Haha I’m not very good with desserts so I usually ask my guests to bring something 😛
As for the guests, I asked Ms JQ, Ms RK (who has since moved back to Singapore 😦 ) and Ms Ann (who little did I know would become my future housemate… hehe) 🙂
And being good sisters that they are, they insisted on helping me in the kitchen so they came over right after our church activities and the evening fun started a little earlier!
As you can see in the above pic, too many cooks can spoil the broth so I suggested to Ms Ann to take a step back from the kitchen and go snap-happy instead. She made dessert for the night anyway so I thought she should take a break!
I had made the French Onion Soup the day before already (yes, lots of tears were shed) so we just needed to focus on the steak. Here are the prepped steaks:
We seasoned them with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Mmmm…
So to start grilling the steaks, I pulled out the brand new griddle pan that Ms Slim got me for my birthday (thanks Ms Slim!). I guess it was a special enough occasion to use the pan!
Now I must confess that I wasn’t very confident cooking the steak, as I had this innate fear that I would overcook it. So I was actually quite thankful that the girls were there to help me. Ms RK, in particular, gave very good advice about cooking steak – ‘It takes about 3minutes to cook each side. So just sing a song and when you’re done, flip to the other side!’ Hahaha…
I was actually quite kan cheong (anxious) about the steak and wanted to flip them earlier. But Ms RK kept nagging, ‘Waaaaiiiitttttt… Nooooooo listen to meeeee…’ Haha did it pay off for me to listen to her? Well, we shall see!
In the meantime, we made sure to pop those potatoes in the oven!
I decided to try duck fat instead of olive oil, in attempt to get crispier potatoes, but much to the horror of the ever health-conscious Ms RK (once in awhile lah hor… hehe). And for the seasoning, I used balsamic vinegar, rosemary, salt and pepper, and popped in some garlic cloves.
As for the leeks and white beans, I pan-fried them quickly with the other ingredients stated in the recipe. I don’t really eat leeks and never had white beans before so I was curious as to how they would turn out!
So with many hands in the kitchen, it was not long before we could settle down for our dinner!
So first up, the French Onion Soup…
Haha I realised that I should have sieved out the onions and garlic for a more restaurant-look. But flavour-wise, the girls really enjoyed it. It was a combination of sweetness and savouriness, with a hint of bitterness. The cheesy croutons (although I’m aware they are a little too big!) also added a crunch factor to the soup… yum! Ms RK asked for the recipe and replicated it successfully which shows that this recipe is quite fool-proof!
And the steak we’ve been waiting for…
And yes, Ms RK was right – the steak turned out nicely medium-rare! 🙂
I thought the combination of the flavours were wonderful – the white beans and leeks were sweet with a sourish zing from the yoghurt, with a hint of bitterness as well. The vegetables helped to make the steak less heavy.
The roast potatoes also turned out crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside – yay! I love the sourness of the balsamic vinegar paired with the saltiness of the potatoes. Mmmmm.. So yup, score for Jamie Oliver’s recipes!!!
And for dessert, Ms Ann’s contribution!
Ms Ann made a crumble with oats, apples, butter and honey. She came up with this without a recipe and it turned out quite well! And we had it with a scoop of Bulla Cookies & Cream ice cream… yum!
It was a very memorable night, as we shared about our spiritual walks, and had many laughs over the table, mainly due to the finding out of Ms Ann’s biggest secret. Hahaha.. And because we were so comfortable, our conversation dragged waayyy beyond it should – whoops! But I guess it’s even more memorable now that I don’t live in that apartment anymore and now that Ms RK is no longer here in Melbourne… such memories are precious!
And I guess that’s the draw of dinner parties for me – to be able to have that special meal that can’t be bought elsewhere with a few close friends, in the comfort of your own home. And to create that memorable night, I guess the effort before and after is worth it!