If you’ve ever visited Karen Dudley’s Woodstock restaurant, The Kitchen, you’ll know she’s a natural-born hostess. In her latest book, Set a Table, she shares her top entertaining recipes.
This salad (see recipe opposite)is such good value – you can really just do the beans or the carrots. It uses tiny cannellini beans, which are the most accessible beans – you don’t have to make a big beany commitment. Roast the carrots as single file as you can, with their crusty spice rub. We serve it with lamb, but it’s also great with pork and fish.
One of my other favourites from the book is Mr Hong’s crispy brinjal with fragrant Asian sauce. I don’t like to choose between my children, but this child needs talking about! It’s a battered, fried brinjal baton, layered with a slightly sticky Asian sauce, to make this amazeballs tower. It’s inspired by Dan Hong’s Mr Hong, but I’ve made it more accessible. I also love the mi-so nice cabbage and greens and the pumpkin pangrattato. It’s a sort of tomatoey fennel braise with citrusy, buttery crumbs.
People usually think of lamb for Easter, but I also think fish is amazing. There’s a sea bass recipe with spiced almond butter and velvet tomatoes. It looks very dramatic – with black rice – and it’s pretty complete. You could just do beans or peas on the side. I’d finish with the îles flottantes (floating islands) or a dense, fruity cake. The squidgy date cake is perfect; it has a whisky sauce poured over it. I made it with apricot fool, but you could also serve it with ginger ice cream.
Things do go wrong at dinner parties, and the thing to do is smile and bring out the cheese! One very ambitious New Year’s party, I attempted to make those old-fashioned seventies moulds with alcohol in the jelly. It affects the way the jelly sets and they were all mushy! You just have to remember to laugh and smile. People just want to be together. It doesn’t matter if things go wrong.
The best thing for me is when my friends connect around my table; when someone says to me they met someone at my house and they have both been through the same thing. They found a connection because I facilitated it. That’s a deep joy for me.
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