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Winter Foods for Dinner Parties

By: Elizabeth Hinds - Updated: 2 Jul 2013 | comments*Discuss
Recipes Food Winter Dinner Parties

The days when dinner parties were terribly formal and consisted of intricate recipes for difficult-to-cook food are long gone, thankfully. Now a winter dinner party for friends can be as informal as you like.

Winter dinner parties are ideal opportunities for making the most of seasonal food, with lots of lovely root vegetables and warming casseroles with rich wine gravy. Food that can be prepared in advance and re-heated, or food that doesn’t mind being kept waiting is perfect. A big dish of lasagne or moussaka fits these criteria, as does mouthwateringly tender, slow-braised steak on a bed of onions and mushrooms.

Posh Shepherd’s Pie

  • 1½ lb lamb neck fillet
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 3 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 sticks celery, washed and diced
  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 dessertspoon tomato puree
  • 1 dessertspoon tomato sauce
  • 1 dessertspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ bottle red wine
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ¼ pint lamb stock
  • 1 lb potatoes (Desiree are good for mashing), peeled and diced
  • 1 lb celeriac, peeled and diced
  • Crème fraiche
  • 2 tablespoons mature cheddar, grated
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Chop the lamb into very small pieces and season well. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a frying pan and quickly brown the meat on all sides. Set aside.

Add more oil to the pan if necessary and then add the vegetables, some seasoning and the thyme and cinnamon. Allow to cook gently for about 5 minutes or until the onion is starting to soften. Return the meat to the pan. Add the tomato sauce, puree and flour and mix well.

Gradually add the wine to the pan, bringing to the boil between each addition. Add the stock, return to the boil and simmer, covered for about 1 - 1½ hours, until the meat is tender.

Meanwhile cook the potatoes and celeriac together in salted water for about 20 – 25 minutes until tender. Drain well and mash. Add freshly ground pepper and crème fraiche, a teaspoonful at a time , beating until you have a thick smooth mixture.

Put the meat mixture into an ovenproof dish. Top with the mashed potato and dot with butter. Sprinkle over the grated cheese. Now refrigerate until you’re ready to cook.

Bake in a pre-heated oven, 200ºC, gas mark 6, for 35 – 40 minutes. Serve with carrots and freshly cooked green cabbage, tossed in butter and generously seasoned with freshly ground pepper.

Steak in red wine

  • 2½ lb lean braising steak, in slices
  • Flour seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 oz butter
  • 2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 back bacon rashers, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • Clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ pint beef stock
  • ¼ pint red wine
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour
  • 4 tomatoes
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper

Toss the meat in the seasoned flour. Heat the butter in a large ovenproof pan and quickly brown the meat on both sides. Set aside. Fry the onions and bacon gently for about 5 minutes or until the onions have begun to soften. Add the mushrooms and garlic to the pan and fry for 2 minutes. Return the meat to the pan, resting it on the bed of vegetables. Add the stock and wine and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 1½ - 2 hours or until the meat is very tender. Chill and refrigerate until ready to re-heat.

Meanwhile, skin, halve and remove the seeds from the tomatoes. Roughly chop the flesh and refrigerate, covered.

Bake in a pre-heated oven, 180ºC, gas mark 6, for 40 – 50 minutes. After about 30 minutes add the tomatoes to the pan. Just before serving, make a paste of the cornflour and a little water and add to the pan. Bring to the boil on the hob stirring until it thickens. Serve with oven-cooked vegetables.

Oven-cooked Vegetables

  • 1 oz butter
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper
  • An assortment of vegetables all peeled and cut into large chunks
  • Including e.g.

    • 1 large carrot
    • 1 large parsnip
    • 2 sticks celery
    • ½ celeriac
    • ½ small butternut squash

    Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC, gas mark 4. Melt the butter in a shallow ovenproof dish. Add the vegetables and toss so all are coated. Season and cover. Cook for about 1 hour or until the vegetables are tender.

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