Three crowd-pleasing dishes for a memorable winter dinner

A seasonal three-course feast that is easy to make and can be prepared in advance

The showstopping main: sticky duck, date and potato cake

The showstopping main: sticky duck, date and potato cake

 

I love cooking at home for people who love food. There’s pleasure in the planning and the preparation and even in the shopping; it’s a process. The number of people you are cooking for will determine the menu. That and the time of year – and the pandemic restrictions. If it’s in the depths of winter, you’re not going to be giving them a tomato salad. If it’s a hot summer’s day, you won’t be cooking stew.

There are other considerations too: age and gender both matter. Unless Grandad is hip and enlightened, you might not give him cous cous. Indeed, no teeth, no steak. Something soft and melting will keep him sweet. A gang of ladies might not be into Fergus Henderson’s roasted bone marrow. Okay, that’s an extreme but you get my drift.

The lads can be diverse too. We have the metrosexuals or the country boys. I am friends with a combination of both. There’s a menu for all. Food is kaleidoscopic in its options. I realise all these generalisations could be considered risqué these days. Sometimes I wonder have we lost our sense of humour along with a couple of years of our lives.

Here’s my menu for a dinner family and friends will love. The soup is old fashioned and delicious. The sherry lifts the mushrooms to new heights, but it’s optional. It will still be lovely without.

Delicious starter: chestnut mushroom, parsnip and sherry soup
Delicious starter: chestnut mushroom, parsnip and sherry soup

The duck pie is a showstopper. It’s a two-part process. The sticky duck filling resonates of gentle Moroccan flavours and the potato mixture holds everything together. Once they are prepared, the rest is easy. It’s just a question of assembly. It can even be made the day before you need it and baked the next day. I love to eat this with some simply done cabbage, tenderstem broccoli or a lovely green salad.

Festive dessert: orange pannacotta , roasted figs, plums and thyme
Festive dessert: orange panna cotta , roasted figs, plums and thyme

I’m a fan of roasted winter fruit. Syrupy cooked figs and plums are an almost Christmassy joy when they come out of the oven. I’ve used some spice and herbs to add to the complexity. They nestle on a silky cushion of a brown sugar panna cotta. The whole thing is as delightful as a Wibbly Wobbly Wonder.

Recipe: Sticky duck, date and potato cake 
Recipe: Chestnut mushroom, parsnip and sherry soup  
Recipe: Orange panna cotta , roasted figs, plums and thyme

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