Many years ago before I bred the teenagers I had a job in the city working for a solicitor. Being childless I had a lot more time to myself and I filled this by hosting dinner parties where I tried out all the recipes I had seen in the latest Vogue Entertaining magazine.
Every Monday I used to bore the poor solicitor senseless with a re-cap on my weekend that included how long it had taken me to clean and prepare the house, where I sourced the recipes, how I was able to track down that rare but very necessary and vital ingredient, the menu, who came for dinner, who ended up staying the night and then, the clean-up.
Fortunately he was a very patient man who made the necessary utterances of, ‘Really?’ and ‘Wow’, and ‘Oh no’ and that was enough encouragement for me to keep going. What I didn’t realise was that he was in fact, actually listening and he would go home and tell his wife all about my kitchen heroics that probably I had grossly exaggerated.
One day the phone rang and it was his wife. She said, ‘Charlie, we are having a dinner party and as you know, I don’t cook. I’ve heard all about your cooking skills so can I employ you to cater for us?’ And my mouth has always been in gear ahead of my thought processes so I said, ‘Yes of course, I would love to’. And then I thought, ‘Why did I say that? I have no business being in their kitchen.’ Then she wanted to tell me how many for coming for dinner. I prayed, ‘Please say six, preferably four’.
She said, ‘Because we don’t entertain often, we’re having a few over so there will be 12 altogether. Is that okay?’
‘Yes, that’s fine’, I said, but really I was cringing. Twelve? My dinner parties consisted of one or two couples.
So with no clue as to what I was doing, I had our foray into the catering business. I do remember trying to be very professional and I offered ‘the client’ a piece of paper with ‘Menu Options’ written on it and she came back with her choices. I don’t recall the recipes I cooked but I do remember there were scallops to start off with, an angel’s hair pasta for the entree, an eye fillet of beef for the main course, fresh mangoes with raspberry coulis for dessert and I think I made some chocolates to serve with coffee.
On the day that was the birth of my new career it was very hot and I slaved away in my tiny kitchen preparing everything for 12 people and spent anxious moments trying to work out how much of everything I needed for 12 people. I had badgered Carl into coming with him and assured him he would make an excellent kitchen hand and waiter.
We served the scallops without issue and then it was time for the angel’s hair pasta. I reheated the cream and herb sauce and put a saucepan of water on to boil for the pasta. I didn’t want to overcook the pasta because for best presentation it needed to twirl onto the plates. Just as the pasta reached that critical moment where I had to strain it into the colander I picked up the saucepan and moved it to the sink only to find one of the guests standing right in front of it trying to decanter a very special and very expensive bottle of wine. Well the cork was old and soft and he didn’t want to risk breaking it so he was taking his time. And I was standing behind him with a very large pot of boiling pasta in my hands that combined with the heat was steaming my face nicely and I said, ‘Oh, excuse me’, and without looking around he said, ‘I won’t be long, this is very delicate, I’ve nearly got it.’ But he had no end of trouble with the cork and I couldn’t get to the sink and wicked thoughts entered my mind of straining it into the toilet but I resisted the urge and stood there thinking he would get that cork out any minute.
Finally the cork was out but he stood there for a moment longer admiring his work and then he did the decanting business, slowly, and so by the time I reached the sink the pasta was a bloated, gluggy and gluey mess. I was shattered. It couldn’t be separated let alone twirled. The only good news was that I didn’t have to carry the plates out to the dining room – I made Carl do that. Somehow they all ate it but they definitely wouldn’t have twirled it onto their forks.
If a business is built on referrals, well I didn’t get any that night. In fact, I believe that’s the last paid catering job I’ve ever had.
Somewhere in my many moves I’ve lost the Vogue magazine that had the recipe for the angel’s hair pasta but here I’ve tried to recreate it.
Angel’s Hair Pasta with a Cream and Herb Sauce
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: Very inexpensive
- 60gm butter
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 300ml pure cream
- 1 cup finely chopped mixed herbs like parsley, basil, chives, thyme and marjoram
- pinch of nutmeg
- 3 tbspns grated parmesan
- 400g angel’s hair pasta
In a small saucepan gently melt butter. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add cream and heat until warmed through, being careful not to boil. Add herbs and nutmeg and stir to combine. Add parmesan and season to taste.
In a large saucepan bring water to boil. Add 1 tspn of salt. Add pasta and cook according to directions on packet. Strain and return to saucepan. Pour in creamy herb sauce and mix to combine.
Serve on heated plates, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and enjoy with crusty bread, a crisp green salad and a glass of red wine.
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