I love entertaining and inviting friends to a dinner party is one of my most favourite things to do. But sometimes the night doesn’t go as planned.
I’ve had people arrive early. The doorbell rings and you get that immediate panic attack. I’ll turn to Carl and say, ‘That can’t be them can it?’ And I’ll survey the scene. I’m wearing a tracksuit and looking like I’m about dig ditches, the table hasn’t been set, lounge room is still a mess, there’s no music playing, the candles haven’t been lit and I still have to prepare the entree and finish the dessert.
On this night, Carl opened the door and sure enough it was our guests. I emerged from the kitchen and said, ‘We said seven, not six’. And they replied with beaming smiles, ‘I know, but we just couldn’t wait to see you.’
And then I gave a very strained smile and said, ‘Oh, that’s nice. Come on in then. I’ll be in the kitchen if you don’t mind, just finishing a few things off.’ And of course the first thing I did was pour myself a tumbler of wine.
Then I’ve had guests arrive an hour late (not their fault at all, their flight was delayed) but being oblivious to their flight schedule I went ahead and cooked the beef anyway so by the time we sat down to eat, it was dry beyond belief.
Then I’ve planned the ultimate dinner party for eight only to have one couple turn up with their four children, all unfed. And along with everything else there is to do when you have eight for dinner, I then had to rummage through the fridge and find something to feed these four starving children.
But I think the biggest entertaining faux pas I’ve ever had is the day Carl and I arrived home to find a couple standing on our doorstep. Yes, we’d spoken during the week about the possibility of getting together on the Saturday night but I thought it was only going ahead if I confirmed it with them. There’d been no confirmation so we weren’t expecting them. Not knowing what to do we just pretended all was well and apologised for not being home when they arrived. While Carl entertained them in the lounge, I quickly scoured the fridge and pantry for inspiration. I threw Carl a bag of crisps to keep them going while I whipped up a hummingbird cake and while that was in the oven I made some sort of a chicken dish with rice. When that was ready the cake was due to come out of the oven so I put it on a wire rack to cool, sat down to the stir-fry, leapt up to make cream cheese frosting, iced the cake, served it with whipped cream and finally began to relax. As we went to bed that night I asked Carl, ‘Do you think we got away with it?’ And he said, ‘I’m pretty sure we did.’
And so even with the best of intentions the night you’ve visualised can turn into something else.
Have you had any entertaining disasters?
As tomorrow is Australia Day, I’ve cooked something that is associated with Australian cuisine. Meringues! And the passionfruit curd they are served with takes me back to my childhood where almost all of my friends had a passionfruit vine growing over one of the dividing fences.
Vanilla Meringues with Passionfruit Curd
Makes: 24 (12 joined together with passionfruit curd)
Cost: Inexpensive and a great way to use up leftover egg whites
- 4 eggwhites
- 1 1/4 cups caster sugar
- 1 tbspn cornflour
- 1 tspn white vinegar
- 1 tspn vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 120C. In a clean bowl whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar a tbspn at a time beating well after each addition. Fold in cornflour, vinegar and vanilla.
Line a baking tray with baking paper and draw 5cm circles on the paper. Put meringue mixture into a piping bag with a wide nozzle and pipe meringues inside the circles.
Bake in the oven for 1 hr then turn the oven off and leave the meringues to cool completely in the oven.
Sandwich meringues together with passionfruit curd and whipped cream.
- 100gms butter
- 175gms sugar
- 3 eggs lightly beaten
- 6 passionfruit
In a bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water (being careful to make sure the water is not touching the bowl) stir the butter and sugar until smooth. Remove from heat and add the eggs, stirring constantly. Add passionfruit and continue to stir. Place the mixture in a small saucepan and place over a low heat and stir constantly until thickened (about 10 minutes). Place in a container and put in the fridge to cool where it will set more firmly.