Food: Executive Relief, May 2001

Easy posh dinners for people who value their time. This menu from Laurel Carr.

Virginia Hume

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If you love good food and entertaining, but have better things to do than pore over recipe books, make lists, and then spend half a day in the kitchen with cooker, children, and smoke alarm competing for your attention, then you might be in need of Executive Relief.

Executive Relief will feature dinner party menus, with simple recipes designed to take minimal time and effort – while reaching the standard you would expect from a good restaurant.

You are invited to share your own dinner menus with spiked readers. The best, as judged by my dinner guests, will get a bottle of champagne. To take part, see the rules at the end.

This menu comes from spiked reader Laurel Carr:

Ricotta, Parmesan and Capers

Duck, Peaches and Spinach

Raspberries with White Chocolate Sauce

Ricotta, Parmesan and Capers

Serves 4

‘This is very rich – be sparing’.

400g ricotta; 100g parmesan; 5 tbsp good olive oil; zest of 1 lemon and 1 tbsp lemon juice; 1 garlic clove, crushed by knife blade; 1 and a half tbsp capers, washed; handful cut parsley; black pepper; ciabatta bread

In a shallow dish, make four clumps of cheese, alternating pieces of ricotta, cut about 1cm thick, with parmesan shavings. (Aim for about four mouthfuls per person.) Whisk the olive oil into the lemon juice, half a tablespoon-full at a time. Then add the garlic, lemon zest, capers and parsley to the mix, blending together well. Pour over the cheese and cover. Store it somewhere cool until dinner. Add pepper just before serving. Leave ciabatta on the table.

Wine suggestion – Sancerre

Duck, Peaches and Spinach

Serves 4

‘A very good dish with a sublime sauce (thank you, Gordon Ramsay).’

3 barbary duck breasts; 400ml chicken stock; 200ml port; 100ml Madeira; 1 tsp sherry vinegar; 6 shallots, chopped; 1 tsp five-spice powder; 85g butter; 2 peaches, halved and stoned; 1 tsp honey; 1 tsp icing sugar; 300g baby spinach leaves; sea salt; black pepper

Sauce: Melt a third of the butter in a pan, then add shallots, honey and half a teaspoon of five-spice powder. Gently cook until the shallots are softened and caramelising – six or seven minutes. Add vinegar and stir until evaporated. Then add port and Madeira, boiling until reduced by two thirds. Then add the stock and boil until reduced by half – 15 minutes or so. Strain through a fine sieve and keep warm. Bring to the boil again when ready to serve.

Duck: Preheat the oven to 220C. Score the skin of the duck breasts. Put on a smoking hot griddle for three minutes, skin side down for the first two. Then place in the oven covered in buttered greaseproof paper for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for three minutes.

Peaches: While the duck is cooking, sprinkle the peaches with the icing sugar and the rest of the five-spice powder, and cook gently in a third of the butter. Remove peaches from the pan. Keep the pan juices.

Spinach: While the duck is resting, cook the spinach in a little water and the remaining butter for 40 seconds. Drain and pat dry in a cloth.

To serve: Put a mound of spinach on each plate. Cut the duck into centimetre-wide slices and arrange around the spinach. Pour the hot sauce over the duck. Slice the warm peach halves into four or five pieces and add to the dish, drizzling the pan juices over them.

Wine suggestion – Tokay Pinot Gris

Raspberries with White Chocolate Basil Sauce

Serves 4

‘Double pleasure: the basil-infused sauce and the Muscat.’

130ml double cream; 30g basil leaves; 200g good white chocolate, broken into pieces; 25g raspberries

Slowly bring the double cream to the boil in a pan. Remove from heat and add almost all the basil leaves, stirring in well. Cover and stand for 10 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a new pan. Store somewhere cool until ready to use. Just before serving, gently melt the white chocolate into the cream mix – a few minutes. Remove from heat, stir, pour a small pool of sauce on to each plate, and pile raspberries on top. Garnish with a sprig of basil.

Wine suggestion – Rutherglen Muscat

Shopping List

400g ricotta

100g parmesan

small bottle good olive oil

1 lemon

garlic

small jar capers

fresh parsley

ciabatta bread

3 barbary duck breasts

400ml good chicken stock

sherry vinegar

6 shallots

small packet five-spice powder

85g butter

2 peaches

small jar good honey

small packet icing sugar

300g baby spinach leaves

sea salt

black pepper

130ml double cream

30g basil leaves

200g good white chocolate

125g raspberries

200ml port

100ml Madeira

Sancerre

Tokay Pinot Gris

Rutherglen Muscat

Executive Relief: The rules

You are invited to share your dinner menus with spiked readers. The recipes do not have to be original – they just have to be good. Simply follow the rules below, and send your recipes to: virginia@vhume.demon.co.uk.

1) There should be at least three courses, only one of which needs to be cooked on the day of the dinner.

2) It should not be too fiddly or difficult – nothing that requires balloons, spun sugar or blowtorches.

3) You should suggest a wine for each course.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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