Winter Lunch

I may have mentioned before, dear reader, that we have an annual winter lunch to which we invite a crowd of friends.

We have been doing this in various locations for many years now and it is now, unsurprisingly, considered a tradition.

The first year we did it in Deepest Sussex we were in a tiny rented cottage so borrowed a barn and told everyone to wear very warm clothes – it worked in a kind of ‘we’re all in this together and really have to make the best of it’ way.

The first year we did it in this part of Deepest Sussex, I had sent the email invitation out on one email address but (stupidly, it must be noted,) checked for replies on my other email address.

Thinking no one who I had not invited personally and who had said yes, was coming, I panicked and invited anyone I could think of at the last minute – some that morning.

I was therefore surprised when all those other people turned up and though in the habit of catering enough to feed a small and hungry African nation, I did set about adding anything I could find in the pantry which didn’t need major cooking, to the table.

We haven’t got a big house and so now – with more friends – we rely on good weather (yes, it is in December) to allow hardy souls to eat at the garden table.

A very nice farmer friend, who likes sitting down with his food on a table in front of him, with cutlery, and none of this standing up and chasing stuff around his plate with a fork, leads the way – I rely on him quite a lot.

Last year, I may have mentioned this before, I got a bit stressed because a well-known chef said he was coming, at the last minute.

My best-beloved is not a man who delights in holding such events and was not used not me getting my knickers in quite such a twist.

 So, this year, I planned an easy menu, the chef couldn’t come, and I assured the best beloved when he asked, that no, of course I had not invited too many people.

Twenty, he reckons, is the ideal.

I had checked my emails and what seemed like lots of people had said they were busy and so, I thought, it will be fine – a more ‘intimate’ gathering of about 20.

 Then I totted up the replies properly and, of course dear reader, there were more than 30.

I have to tell you, I quite like cooking before I go on to tell you that making pastry and filling for pies to satisfy more than 30 people is not really an issue if you plan ahead.

And I did. But the rolling out and baking blind and etc etc does take a toll on a girl.

 (Can I bore you with the whole menu?

Various canapés – including the surprise best-seller which was red lentils cooked to a pate/paste with garlic and cumin in a little crispy cup thing bought from Waitress, with a dollop of mango chutney on the top.

 Cheese and leek pies – did I mention the pastry issue?  And there was a lot left over so I sent people home with doggy bags of pie.

Artichoke, sundried tomatoes with preserved lemons and garlic

Sausages with sage – no, of course I didn’t make them

Roasted new potatoes

Rosewater cream pudding – from one of my favourite old cooks books, a Balkan recipe should you be in the slightest intrigued

A delicious sticky toffee pudding with sauce – made by a good friend

Various sweet things I had bought from Lidl.)

 In the pub tonight, someone who had been at the lunch suggested that instead of making such a fuss about the pastry making, I should buy some puff pastry and use that.

 It was a generous thing to say, but it misses the point.

 Darling, I cried in my best Sussex Housewife voice (no, I didn’t really) I can’t make the same food next year ( I did say that though.)

No one would mind she said.

 But she’s wrong.

Firstly, I would be horrified at the thought of the same food year on year but secondly, I am asked by several regulars what the menu is this year – I know that sounds so pretentious but if you can’t be pretentious in your own blog, where can you be?

I have a sneaking admiration for the simplicity of the Jeffrey Archer cottage pie and champagne take on his annual event – the only possible sneaking admiration I can have for him as it certainly does not extend to his books.

But just think, dear reader, of all that potato mashing….

So, this is a bit of an aide memoire for next year:

No homemade pastry, don’t panic about any visiting chefs, create a large pot of something delicious and pray for good weather.








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