Last night, M-D’s daughter (Muriel), son-in-law (Vincent) and their children (Clémence and Eléonore) came over so we could have a joint birthday celebration for M-D and Clémence (M-D’s was a few days ago and, while Clémence’s was in February. We weren’t here in France to celebrate it, so decided to have an evening together to mark the two birthdays!)
Naturally (as you do) we kicked off with a couple of bottles of fine Vranken Champagne Demoiselle Brut Premium Cuvée (it helps wash down the apperitif biscuits and olives!!)
Unfortunately we had had a bad shock during the afternoon. Down in the cellar are several bottles of 1989 Chateau de Cayrou – one of the very finest Bordeaux wines you will ever taste. We brought some bottles up and opened them to let them breathe and discovered to our horror that they had maderized (the wine acquires a rather bitter sherry-like character). In the end, we opened some 2002 Chateau Martet (one of the Grands Vins of Bordeaux) but I confess there was some residual disappointment about the Chateau de Cayrou. We have a few bottles of 1990 vintage… I guess we should open one of those and find out what’s happening with it.
Anyway – on with the meal! We started with a lovely simple recipe, Monk Fish in Bacon with Parsley Cream. Not only did this work like a dream but Vincent (son-in-law) who really enjoys and savours his food and wine, declared that it was “one hundred percent”, and christened me “The New Gordon Ramsey”! Well, I don’t know about that, maybe it was the Champagne and the Chateau Martet speaking, but for sure the fish was cooked to perfection (moist and tender) and the marriage between the succulent fish and the crisp, salty bacon was divine.
So, The New Gordon Ramsey went back in the kitchen and emerged moments later with the main course – Rich Gravy Leg of Lamb. In terms of the recipe, this is identical to my Rich Gravy Lamb Shanks recipe, except that I replaced the lamb shanks with a 2kg leg of lamb and increased the other ingredients by about 50%. I served it with a few simple vegetables and then, as we ate, we played the guessing game … what’s the secret ingredient in the sauce? It took a lot of clues from us and lots of guesses by our guests before Clémence suggested anchovies (the correct answer)!
Well, the Rich Gravy Leg of Lamb was an absolute hit with everyone (2kg of lamb disappeared in minutes) and Vincent was, again, effusive in his praise! I know we already have a new Pope, but being elevated from The New Gordon Ramsey to The New Pope was fine by me! And the two secrets that made an evening of entertaining seem effortless were nothing more than:
- Simple recipes that either don’t have many ingredients or can be prepared well in advance
- Recipes that work alongside each other in the kitchen (I never changed the oven temperature from the monkfish starter right through to the desert)
Our guests were ecstatic (we lumbered our way through cheese and a warm apricot and almond desert before Vincent dozed off on the settee with a contented smile on his face!). So entertaining (and being elevated to Pope) doesn’t have to be complicated. I used two very straightforward recipes that kept kitchen time to a minimum yet produced outstanding results. And, before you ask, there were a total of five empty wine/champagne bottles this morning, which is, perhaps, a little excessive for four adults, but then it’s not every day one becomes Pope!