I'm hosting a dinner party for 14 guests in my house for my birthday. I was thinking of making individual vegetable tarts as a starter but I'm struggling to think of a sophisticated main course that won't be too stressful or difficult to make but will also look elegant when served. I'll most likely do one meat dish and another vegetarian/fish one. What would you recommend? It's in September so I'd like to try and keep the menu seasonal as well. Thank you!
When hosting guests it is important to consider how much time and oven capacity you have and how this will be used in the time available. You may like to listen to Nigella's ideas for entertaining on her SUMMER SOUNDBITES podcasts on Nigella.com. If you are making vegetable tarts as a starter then you may need to use the oven for these at the last minute so look for dishes that can be cooked or reheated on the stove top, or can be cooked and left to stand for a while. Plating 14 individual dishes is also time consuming (and the food tends to get cold if it is a domestic kitchen) so it helps to consider recipes that can be served on large platters or bowls, so that they look generous and so that your guests can help themselves and try a little of each, if they like. The side dishes should be able to accompany both main courses, to save extra cooking.
Nigella's Warm Shredded Lamb Salad With Mint And Pomegranate (from NIGELLA BITES) looks gorgeous on a large platter, strewn with jewel-like pomegranate seeds and fresh mint. The lamb takes about 5 hours to cook but can be removed from the oven and left to rest for an hour before serving. Lamb is still in season in September in the UK and the dish serves up to 8 people which should be about enough if you are presenting two options. For the second main dish we would suggest Nigella's Keralan Fish Curry (from NIGELLA SUMMER). This can be made using any seasonal firm, white fish and as the recipe serves 4 to 6 we would suggest making a double quantity, which is easy to do if you have a large saucepan or casserole dish. You can make the curry base (without the fish) a day in advance and cool and refrigerate it within 2 hours of making. The day of serving reheat the sauce to boiling point then turn down the heat, add the raw fish and let it cook at a bare simmer for a few minutes, until the fish is cooked through. Scatter over plenty of chopped coriander and perhaps a few extra chopped chillies before serving, for visual impact. Both of these dishes can be served with lime wedges for spritzing over, basmati or pilau rice and store-bought naan or flat breads. If you have the time you could try making the Nigellan Flatbread (from HOW TO BE A DOMESTIC GODDESS) as an accompaniment.