I’m delighted to let you into the secrets of my successful candle-lit suppers. I always serve an aperitif of dry sherry and my special canapes ‘cubed melon and cheese on cocktail sticks, stuck into half a melon’ skin side out. They make a lovely contrast with the green skin of the melon, don’t you agree?
I always choose the best quality flowers and arrange them in my cut glass and crystal vases. I use dripless candles in my best silver candlesticks, to ensure there’s no messy melted wax on my pure white Irish linen tablecloth and matching napkins.
Here’s my latest menu, which I’m sure your guests will enjoy at your candlelit supper.
PAMPLEMOUSSE CHAUDES (Hot Baked Grapefruit)
FILET DE BOEUF EN CROUTE (Fillet of Beef in Pastry)
CHOU-FLEUR MORNAY (Cauliflower Cheese)
POMMES DE TERRE DUCHESSE (Duchesse Potatoes)
COFFEE AND PETIT FOURS
Halve large grapefruit, cutting them properly with a grapefruit cutter, running the sharp knife between the flesh and skin of each segment. Turn upside down and leave for 30 minutes to drain off surplus juices. Turn the right way up; sprinkle each half with Muscovado sugar, ground cinnamon and nutmeg, followed by a teaspoonful of sherry or Madeira Dot with butter and bake for 15 minutes Gas5/190C/375F. Serve immediately.
FILET DE BOEUF EN CROUTE
900g/2lb fillet of beef
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon oil
225g/8oz liver pâté
375g/12oz ready made puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Watercress to garnish
Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper. Tie fine string round the meat at intervals to form into a neat shape. Heat half the butter with all the oil in a frying pan and fry the meat until browned on all sides. Put the joint in a roasting tin and dot with the remaining butter. Cook for 10 minutes Gas6/200C/400F. Remove from the oven and leave until cold. Remove the string. Beat the pâté until smooth and spread over the top and sides of the beef. Roll out the pastry into a rectangle large enough to cover the meat well. Place the beef, pate side down in the middle of the pastry, then spread pate over the rest of the surface. Brush one long side of the pastry with beaten egg; fold the other side over the meat, fold the brushed side over and press together. Brush the inner edge of the remaining pastry with egg and fold up onto the join, trimming off any excess. Place the meat join side down in a roasting tin. Roll out the pastry trimmings and cut into leaves. Brush the pastry surface with beaten egg, arrange the leaves in the centre and brush them with egg. Bake for 40 minutes Gas7/220C/425F until the pastry is golden. Arrange on a serving plate with a garnish of watercress.
1 large cauliflower, trimmed
300ml/10 fl oz milk
110g/4oz strong cheese, grated
Salt and pepper
Cook the cauliflower in fast boiling salted water until soft. Drain and place in an ovenproof dish and keep warm. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the flour. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat. Gradually stir in the milk, then return to the heat. Bring to the boil, stirring until thickened. Remove from the heat, stir in 75g/3oz cheese and season to taste. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Brown under a hot grill and serve at once.
POMMES DE TERRE DUCHESSE
1 ½ kg/3lb potatoes, boiled and drained
Salt and pepper
Mash the potatoes until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and beat well until very smooth. Put into a piping bag and pipe rosettes on a greased baking tray. Bake for 25 minutes Gas6/200C/400F until golden brown.
Start to make these the day before your candlelit supper.
4 egg yolks
2 ½ tablespoons golden caster sugar
300ml/10 fl oz double (heavy) cream
300ml/10 fl oz single cream
Few drops vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unrefined Demerara sugar
Whisk the egg yolks and golden caster sugar in a large heatproof bowl, then set aside. Bring the creams and vanilla to the boil in a heavy pan, then reduce the heat and simmer for 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool slightly, then slowly pour the cream on to the egg mixture, whisking vigorously so the mixture doesn’t curdle. Strain into a jug, then pour into 6 greased ramekins. Stand the ramekins in a roasting tin and pour enough hot water to come halfway up the ramekins. Cook for 40-45 minutes Gas2/150C/300F until just firm to the touch. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, then chill overnight. Next day sprinkle the Demerara sugar thickly over the top of each custard. Place the ramekins on a baking tray and put under a very hot grill until the sugar melts. Allow to set before serving.
NB Don’t keep these in the refrigerator or the caramel topping will dissolve.
I like to retire to the drawing room after the meal for coffee and petit fours – I always try to get mine from Fortnum and Mason – the Queen’s grocers, you know. We then enjoy some pleasant social chitchat to round off a perfect evening. Sometimes I offer to sing some popular songs from the London shows to entertain my guests. Strangely, they always seem to be in a hurry to go after their coffee – can’t think why they’re so busy.