HOSTING A CHAMPION FEAST

Author of ‘Friends At My Table’ Alice Hart shares her tips for a ‘champion’ feast...

Whether you are planning an ‘Olympic’ soiree for tomorrow’s opening ceremony or you are making the most of this welcome spurt of toasty weather with a get-together, our new favourite foodie read ‘Friends At My Table’ has some delightful menus, recipes and tips for assisting with those merry occasions. We caught up with author Alice to find out a little more and reveal her tips for a champion feast…

 

Tell us briefly about your book ‘Friends at my table’ and what inspired you to write it?

I’ve worked in many different branches of the food industry besides food writing and styling: events catering, restaurant kitchens, private cheffing, running market stalls etc and, as a consequence, I´m very comfortable cooking for large groups without getting stressed out. I wanted to pass on some of the knowledge I´ve gleaned so that cooking for parties at home doesn´t seem like a burden. It´s packed with recipes, guidance and beautiful pictures so, hopefully, the book manages to be a covetable item, rather than a how-to manual!

Blueberry, almond and vanilla choux buns from Alice’s book ‘Friends at my table’. FRIENDS AT MY TABLE by ALICE HART, published by Quadrille (£18.99, hardback) Instagram of page in book. Photos © EMMA LEE

Squash and Manouri Salad from Friends At My Table

Squash and Manouri Salad from ‘Friends at my table’.  FRIENDS AT MY TABLE by ALICE HART, published by Quadrille (£18.99, hardback) Instagram of page in book. Photos © EMMA LEE

 

How will you be celebrating the Olympics with your friends?

I´ll actually be escaping the city and working down by the coast in Sussex (developing and writing recipes) for some of the time when the Olympics is on, so I´ve got friends coming to stay for a couple of days. If the weather plays ball, we´ll combine cheering for team GB with lots of relaxed barbecues and Frisbee on the beach.

 

Top tip for an Olympic feast?

If you´re having an outdoor party of some sort, never assume it won´t rain. A back up plan, even if it means having an indoor picnic on the kitchen floor, is always a good idea, just in case, A couple of years ago, I bought a very cheap tent-canopy-contraption and made it look more expensive by covering the cheap-looking poles with fabric and adding white fairy lights to the inside. It makes an excellent cover for an outdoor table and means the food won’t get wet, even if the worst happens.

 

Which Laura Ashley home pieces would you like to see at your Olympic table setting?

When I moved into my flat, I was given a set of glasses from Laura Ashley, an earlier incarnation of the Gosford etched wine glasses. They always look really beautiful, in my dresser or set out on a table.

The Dylan check cotton throw caught my eye for picnicking and for wrapping up when the night air gets a bit chilly.

Dylan throws

Which recipe from your book do you recommend for an Olympic feast / get-together?

There is a recipe for sweet pepper sausage rolls in the summer section; a sure-fire winner for parties. They’re also very portable, which helps if your guests will be roaming about rather than sitting down. You just make a couple of enormous sausage rolls with a roast pepper and herb compote enclosed in the pastry and cut each long roll into slices to serve. (please find the recipe below)

It seems fitting to contrast sausage rolls with a healthier accompaniment… there´s a vegetarian farro and green bean salad in the book that uses lots of young summer vegetables. Substitute spelt or pearl barley or even brown rice if you can´t find farro.

Farro and green bean salad from Alice’s book ‘Friends at My Table’. FRIENDS AT MY TABLE by ALICE HART, published by Quadrille (£18.99, hardback). Photos © EMMA LEE


SWEET PEPPER SAUSAGE ROLL RECIPE…

FRIENDS AT MY TABLE by ALICE HART, published by Quadrille (£18.99, hardback). Photos © EMMA LEE

 

MAKES 2 LARGE ROLLS; EACH

CUTS INTO 15–20 PIECES

PREP 50 MINUTES

COOK ABOUT 1 1/2 HOURS

 

7 mixed red, yellow or

orange peppers, halved

olive oil

small handful each of basil,

parsley and thyme, chopped

2 tbsp good-quality

balsamic vinegar

1 egg yolk

2 tbsp milk

500g all-butter puff pastry

a little plain flour, to dust

1kg best-quality sausages,

casings removed

 

These are rustic sausage rollS, so don’t expect them to look too pretty when they come out of the oven; their beauty is in their imperfection. Roasted sweet peppers and handfuls of herbs are baked into the rolls, providing a sort of integral relish. only better. Serve them from wooden boards as people mill about, with a glass of champagne or a beer and plenty of napkins.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/425°F/gas mark 7. lay the pepper halves in a single layer across two baking sheets, skin-sides up. Drizzle with a little olive oil, to help the skins to blister. Roast for about 40 minutes, until truly blackened and soft. Tip the hot peppers into a bowl and cover it with a plate to keep the steam in. Set aside to cool until you can handle the peppers comfortably. Peel the skins off and throw them away. Slice the pepper flesh into rough strips and combine it with the chopped herbs, balsamic vinegar and a little salt and pepper. You can make this up to about four days in advance. Keep the peppers chilled. Reduce the oven temperature to 190°C/fan 170°C/375°F/gas mark 5.

Combine the egg yolk and milk in a cup to make an egg wash. Divide the pastry in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll the first block out to form a long, thin rectangle. Trim the edges to form a neat rectangle of about 15x40cm.

Divide the sausagemeat in half. Form the first half into a long sausage, the same length as the pastry rectangle. Dust with flour and lay on the pastry, about 4cm from one edge. Flatten the sausage slightly and top with half the roast pepper mixture. Roll the pastry around the sausage, sealing the edges with egg wash. Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling ingredients. Transfer both rolls to a large baking sheet. At this stage the rolls can be refrigerated overnight, just bring them up to room temperature before baking.

Brush both rolls generously with egg wash and diagonally slash the tops a few times, down the length of the roll. Bake for 35–40 minutes, until golden brown and well-risen. Slice the rolls into chunky pieces with a sharp, serrated knife and serve warm.

 

What will you be serving up for friends this summer? Let us know below or tweet us @LauraAshley__

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