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NOW CLOSED Share your best dinner party dishes with - you could win a £100 Waitrose voucher

(100 Posts)
AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Sun 13-May-12 17:28:35

On Saturday 12th May sent 12 Mumsnetters and their guests to Waitrose Cookery School in North London to attend a Michelin-star cookery masterclass. They spent the day preparing (and eating) a three course dinner party menu consisting of:

~ Roast scallops, potato gnocchi and truffle emulsion
~ Rack of lamb with braised peas, bacon, lettuce and mint with dauphinoise potatoes
~ Inverted lemon tart, summer fruit salad and lemon yoghurt sorbet

This thread is for their feedback on the day but we'd also like to open this up to all on MN - so if you didn't attend please add your own comments on your favourite dinner party dishes - what's the best dish you've either made for or been served at a dinner party? Everyone who adds their comments to this thread will be entered into a prize draw where one winner will receive a £100 voucher.

For those of you who attended the event, please tell us all about it. Specifically we'd like to know:

~ What did you enjoy most about the cookery masterclass? Was there anything that particularly stood out for you/your guest?
~ What was the most valuable tip you learnt on the day?
~ Which dish did you enjoy cooking the most and why? Do you think you will you cook any of these dishes again? Have you thought on any twists on the dishes you cooked that you'd like to try?
~ Do you think you'd recommend a class at the Waitrose Cookery School to a friend or family member? If so, why? If not, why not?

Please also feel free to add any other comments you have about the day.

We hope you enjoyed the experience, good luck with the prize draw.


devilsadvocaat Mon 14-May-12 18:01:19

on your favourite dinner party dishes -

Starter: nice soup and homemade bread
Main: Greek salad, stuffed peppers, Halloumi, hummus etc
Pudding: has to be something chocolatey!
Fondant or brownie

what's the best dish you've either made for or been served at a dinner party

Starter: beetroot and apple soup with goats cheese
Main: beef Wellington, asparagus wrapped in bacon
Pudding: hot brownie Sundae with cream and chopped nuts or nigella's ice cream cake with hot chocolate sauce

bagelmonkey Mon 14-May-12 18:45:10

I'm haven't really had or been to any dinner parties, but if I was hosting one, my favourite dinner party dish would a seafood lasagne recipe I got from my mum. If we have friends around for dinner it tends to be very casual - home made pizzas or a BBQ kind of thing. Im an ok cook, but I wouldn't be confident about hosting a 'dinner party' at all.

missorinoco Mon 14-May-12 19:24:44

I'm salivating at that dinner part list

The best dish I have served at a dinner part was a beef in guiness pie. I had to prepare it the day before, and I just caught it before it burnt, but it tasted divine. I would probably class that as the tastiest though.

The best dishes are ones which are stress free, I currently cut all possible corners when catering due to limited time.
Massman lamb curry (from the Waitrose website), tastes lovely, very easy, and has given me a reputation as a whizz (?sp) in the kitchen now.

Also a few select Jamie's 30 minute meal dishes. The chicken pie and french style peas were served to me at a dinner party, and I was in cuilinary heaven.

Sorry, that's not one favourite, I know.

QOD Mon 14-May-12 20:12:52

Bes t dinner party I hosted was one month post bariatric surgery!

I wanted to provide food I could eat grin

Starter was bread sticks and hummus
Main was home made broccoli and stilton soup
Desert sugar free jelly and low fat custard

Their faces were hilarious!! I did allow the other guests to have fresh breads and garlic breads etc

The soup was utterly delicious and I converted 3 people to it

PepeLePew Mon 14-May-12 20:55:36

That menu sounds amazing. I am not nearly that ambitious.

My most successful menu involved a pesto and tomato galette with rocket salad, posh fish pie, and a chocolate and raspberry torte. I have another menu I do when I want something less formal which involves a lot of curries, mostly prawn and fish based.

MakeTeaNotWar Mon 14-May-12 21:09:31

My husband is a butcher so we are very spoiled with great meat at home all the time - beef, fillet steak, venison, his homemade sausages and burgers but one of the most memorable meals we made at home was a lobster bisque. The lobsters were ridiculously cheap so we cooked 4 of them and had 2 whole lobsters each over candlelight - felt very extravagant and tasted delicious! Easy to make and memorable

ObviouslyOblivious Mon 14-May-12 21:58:18

What did you enjoy most about the cookery masterclass? Was there anything that particularly stood out for you/your guest?

I loved getting to cook and eat some dishes/flavours that I'd never normally try - gnocchi, truffle, black pudding (won't be returning to that ingredient but at least I've tried it!). I really liked watching the demonstrations of the dishes and learning tips. The kitchen was equipped with everything we needed but agree with another comment above that there could do with about a foot more between the benches! It was good not to have to worry about washing equipment and just put it on the trolleys.
The coffee and pastries were great and the staff were so welcoming. The folder with recipies will be very useful too.

~ What was the most valuable tip you learnt on the day?

Rolling pastry between greaseproof paper is a great tip, and so is putting wet kitchen towel under choppping boards to stop them slipping! The whole ethos of the day (preparation is key to a good dish) is the best overall tip I think.

~ Which dish did you enjoy cooking the most and why? Do you think you will you cook any of these dishes again? Have you thought on any twists on the dishes you cooked that you'd like to try?

The best dish to cook was the starter, as I think it was the one where we had the most to do. I will absolutely be making it again and will be making and eating gnocchi whenever appropriate. I served macerated summer fruit (part of the dessert) the day after the course and it went down well with my parents. I can't wait to go through the recipies in the folder and make things.

~ Do you think you'd recommend a class at the Waitrose Cookery School to a friend or family member? If so, why? If not, why not?

I would recommend it, and several of my facebook friends have seen the pictures I took and asked about them already.

Other comments:

- The course started late and over ran by nearly an hour. Not great from the babysitter's perspective.
- I understand why certain elements of the dishes were made for us already. However I did come away feeling that I'd just 'assembled' dishes rather than cooked that much. Maybe that's Michelin level cooking for you?!
- I think the recipes should have the wine suggestions on them too.
- It would be nice to get some feedback on your dishes, not as harsh as Masterchef, but just some praise constructive criticism. Essentially you could have served up any old rubbish, as you were eating it!

DP and I had a fantastic day, thank you so much!

gybegirl Mon 14-May-12 22:01:06

One of my fave meal memories would have to be...
When I'd not been living with DP long and was generally renowned for being an absolutely appalling cook (I literally couldn't boil a potato), I decided to cook him some fancy valentines meal involving crab pancakes in a seafood sauce. The 'masterchef' sauce had about 30 ingredients including fried lobsters shells. It took me about 6 hours to make but it went remarkably well and tasted delicious.

I have improved (significantly) since those days!

JessCartandahorse Tue 15-May-12 08:58:38

I love homemade soup - I think my fouvourite was one made by a friend using butternut squash and cream - absolutely delicious with warm homemade rolls.

Presentation counts for a lot with dinner parties so I like something that carves well and looks decorative - like a beef Wellington, or a joint that has been flattened then roasted with other meat/cheese rolled up into it. And an excellent sauce makes a meal. We have a brilliant book by Michel Roux called "Sauces" that are pretty easy to make and taste fantastic.

I don't appreciate a healthy pudding at a dinner party (though I offer simple fruit salad for those on a diet). I love any combo of chocolate and cream. Lemon tart with fresh raspberries is good. Serving mini portions of three different puds helps the meal end with a bang. Doesn't have to be fancy _ Eton Mess always goes down well.

AustinPowers Tue 15-May-12 14:10:54

The last dinner party I went to was last NYE. There was no official starter due to canapes before sitting then the main was sea bass fillet on squashed potatoes with veg. Sounds simple but was absolutely delicious. I do think there needs to be a choice of desserts, my favourites would be something chocolately and gooey or summer berries with whipped cream.

Mmm, I think I feel a dinner party coming on, though the menu won't be quite as ambitious as in the OP here!

BigBadBear Tue 15-May-12 14:40:54

I'm so grateful that someone else is cooking for me that I always love anything at a dinner party! To be honest, I don't care what I'm served or how it looks as long as it tastes good, but given the current weather my current chosen three courses would be:

- some kind of pie (recently had an amazing steak and stilton pie, whichwould do nicely)
- a homely hot dessert (rhubarb crumble would be nice)
- an excellent and varied cheeseboard, with plenty of crackers and grapes.

No starter as I'm normally too full if I have one, whereas I can pick at a cheeseboard for hours grin

When I cook, I tend to stick to one type of food. So if I'm doing Indian:
- various bhajis with home made chutneys and pickles
- variety of curries, eg. tandoori chicken, mutter paneer, daal with nans, rice and raita
- mango sorbet.

Or for Mexican:
- guacamole, black beans and salsa with tortilla chips
- spinach and ricotta enchiladas (Thomasina Miers does a fantastic recipe)
- pancakes with salted caramel sauce, caramel nuts and ice cream.

Etc. I usually decide on a main then work out the other courses accordingly.

whattodoo Tue 15-May-12 15:08:22

I love spendng time preparing for dinner guests, but I'm a bit of an amateur cook, and tend not to tackle anything fancy or 'fine dining'.

If we have friends over, it tends to be pulled pork with roast pots and fresh veg followed by a fool-proof delia cheesecake.

My DP once spent a joyous afternoon making creme brulee, which were delicious.

Wigeon Tue 15-May-12 16:48:24

Thanks very much for picking me to go on the cookery course - my sister and I had a great time! smile

~ What did you enjoy most about the cookery masterclass? Was there anything that particularly stood out for you/your guest?

I enjoyed making everything I think. I was especially pleased to make such successful gnocchi as the only other time I tried to make them, they were a complete disaster!

~ What was the most valuable tip you learnt on the day?

Leave your pan warming without any oil in it, then put the oil in just before you want to fry something. Use a "chef's claw" grip when chopping things. Put things in odd numbers on a plate as that looks nicer than even numbers. How do do that kind of smear of puree that you get in posh restaurants, without it looking like, well, a messy smear.

~ Which dish did you enjoy cooking the most and why? Do you think you will you cook any of these dishes again? Have you thought on any twists on the dishes you cooked that you'd like to try?

I think I liked elements of all the dishes - especially the gnocchi in the starter, the croustillant in the main course and the tuille in the dessert. I will definitely cook some of these again.

I did wonder where the "Michelin star" element of the day was - although I definitely learnt some things about presentation, the skills I used were pretty much things which any decent cook knows (apart from the sous vide perhaps!) - I think I was expecting to learn some more technical things - either cooking techniques (foams and emulsions or something?) or more whizzy knife skills or something. I pretty much felt within my comfort zone in terms of the level of skill neede, and I don't think I'm a very technically accomplished cook.

~ Do you think you'd recommend a class at the Waitrose Cookery School to a friend or family member? If so, why? If not, why not?

I'd definitely recommend it, although I expect the usual prices are rather expensive...

Loved the little touches like real coffee and freshly baked pastries to start, and absolutely delicious iced real fruit squash (and iced water) available during the day. Like another poster, I was rather annoyed the day overran by at least an hour (having started late), not least because I was parked in the horrendously expensive 02 Centre nearby (as the Metropolitan line was closed for engineering works so I couldn't come on public transport), never mind needing to get back to my DDs.

Having said that, I really enjoyed the day and thank you again!

mrsseed Tue 15-May-12 17:57:21

I went on the waitrose cupcake course about a year ago. I could already cook a good cake, but now they are amazing and my friends are always asking me for them The school pta and rainbows have made lots of money from them too . The waitrose school was really well designed and equipped and the teachers made it such a fun day. It gave me the confidence to expand my repertoire with the tips given.
I loved it, I just have to decide which course to do next!

ICutMyFootOnOccamsRazor Tue 15-May-12 18:03:59

I've a few friends who are chefs <lucky> and have had some amazing dinners with them. A few favourites that are standing out in my mind:

Roast duck with passionfruit - so, so delicious
Barbecued butterflied leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary - rare and tasty
A whole roasted pig for a huge party once - it was cooking for about 2 days and was so tender it just fell apart
A wild mushroom lasagne that was a flavour explosion in the mouth
Sashimi made from a tuna that we caught while out for a day on a boat and ate about 40 minutes later
A rare Beef Wellington made from a huge piece of fillet is a bit dated, but actually is hard to beat on flavour


maples Tue 15-May-12 18:24:25

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

zipzap Tue 15-May-12 22:01:19

Starters these days tend to be fairly non-existant; few dips and nibbles if pushed (or if I think I might be running late grin)

favourite main courses tend to be either very slow roasted garlic and rosemary lamb (got to be so soft it just falls to pieces, if it is a very hot day it can be done in the slow cooker thereby having the great advantage of leaving the kitchen nice and cool as the oven isn't on), or massive selection of assorted tapas type things (particularly useful if there is a mixture of veggies/non-veggies, people with allergies/intolerances etc as everybody can just eat what they want)

most favourite pudding I ever had at a dinner party was a wondrous dark chocolate and red wine sorbet - heavenly combination

If I'm cooking then it is often something like indulgent brownies with boozy griotte cherries or special fruit salad, cream and ice cream (again, works well for providing lots of different options from healthy fruit to heavy duty choccy/booze fix if there is a variety of guests)>

If it is Christmas then my mum still makes me a bowl of oranges in mandarin napoleon liqueur, which is a bowl of about 20 oranges cut into segments, all the skin and pith and separator bits cut off, in a sauce that is a little bit of sugar syrup and a lot of mandarin napoleon liqueur. There's usually enough for a few days, it gets topped up with more oranges and liqueur over that time too. Goes really well with lots of other puddings to provide a boozy fruity edge (you might be seeing a theme developing here...) as well as on its own. lasts for ages (assuming you don't keep picking at it and having big bowlfuls which is a problem) and is particularly good as breakfast oranges on Boxing Day morning (assuming you are not driving anywhere grin.

passmyglassplease Wed 16-May-12 10:19:14

~ What did you enjoy most about the cookery masterclass? Was there anything that particularly stood out for you/your guest?

The day was good fun, I felt the instructors went out of their way to put us at our ease, and we laughed a lot. They were all very experienced at the dishes.

~ What was the most valuable tip you learnt on the day?

That the twile for the desert was very easy to manipulate if heated up, as many times as required.

~ Which dish did you enjoy cooking the most and why? Do you think you will you cook any of these dishes again? Have you thought on any twists on the dishes you cooked that you'd like to try?

I really enjoyed making the starter, as I had never made gnocchi before and again I found it easy as the instructions were very clear. The lemon tart was very good as well and his tip on heating the mixture slightly to create an emulsion which would help stop it splitting was very helpfull.

~ Do you think you'd recommend a class at the Waitrose Cookery School to a friend or family member? If so, why? If not, why not

Absolutely, the staff were lovely and very accomodating, the food was great and the wine served with each course was lovely. The level it was pitched at was just about right, although I personally would have like to do a bit more of the prep myself but I understood the time constraints. I would reccommend it to people for a special treat and a real day out of the rat race!

My thanks to mumsnet for selecting me grin

OldBagWantsNewBag Wed 16-May-12 22:50:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Parrish Wed 16-May-12 23:12:41

My best dinner party dishes have always been BBQ! a butterflied leg of lamb laid out on the grill had everyone asking for seconds. The starter was prawns on skewers after marinating them in coconut and lime. Then pudding was chocolate brownies, made with coffee, and creme fraiche. Then cheese. Bring it inside if you must!

ProfCoxWouldGetIt Thu 17-May-12 09:47:30

My fail safe dinner party menu is wild game terrine in winter or pidgeon breast salad (lightly fry the breasts and allow to stand for at least 10 minutes then serve with a mixed greens salad (rocket, cress, lambs leaf etc) and either a orange and honey dressing or chilli (depending on your guests)

Mains is normally a Slow cooked lamb shank - tin of chopped tomatoes, a glass of wine, a jar of cheap mint sauce, brown the shanks with some finally chopped onions and shove it in the over on a low temperature for at least 2 hours (sauce can be reduced, but guests seem to really like mopping it up with some fresh baked bread)

Dessert is always a lemon compote - super easy mix one tub of creme freiche and one jar of lemon curd, put in pretty little ramekins (thanks gu) and shove in the freezer - take out as you're serving the mains so the soften a little.

TitsalinaBumSquash Thu 17-May-12 11:17:23

My best dinner party menus are...


Starter - A thick Pumpkin soup with nice crust bread
Main - Venison and Juniper Casserole, slow cooked with Mash and braised Cabbage, bacon and Shallots.
Dessert - A zingy and light Lemon mousse with Shortbread.


Starter - Asparagus with crispy bacon and Hollandaise sauce on top of a soft poached egg.
Main - Sticky slow cooked chicken thighs, baked with new potatoes and tomatoes with plenty of olive oil, red wine vinegar and Oregano, served with a huge green salad and crusty warm baguettes.
Dessert - Home-made Pistachio Ice cream in a Cookie cup.

inmysparetime Thu 17-May-12 11:48:45

I make a mean fig and toffee tart, it's easier than it looks.
Make shortcrust pastry and squidge it into a flan dish, cook sugar and butter in roughly equal amounts until it goes gooey and brown.
Halve baby figs and lay them all over the base of the pastry, seeds up, pour over the toffee, bake 200C 25 mins.

birdsofshoreandsea Thu 17-May-12 12:04:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

beachhutbetty Thu 17-May-12 15:38:00

I always make a cold starter which can be prepared in advance - caramelised onion tartlets (with or without goat cheese), homemade mushroom or mackerel pate, tomato tartlet etc.
Main - Spinach and ricotta either as ravioli or lasagna (homemade pasta) with a simple tomato sauce (canned toms, onion, garlic & fresh herbs) served with green beans, peas, broad beans, asparagus and/or salad depending what looks nice and fresh. Or monkfish, sea bass etc with the above veggies/salad and new potatoes
Pudding - Something chocolately and something fruity to cater for all tastes. I always serve cheese too.

I love entertaining but my biggest trick learnt over time is to prepare starter and pudding before hand so you just need to worry about the main course. Oh and have an empty dishwasher ready to take all the plates etc!

I don't really have a favourite dish but I love clean tasting, simple things. I prefer starters and mains and love fish but don't often serve it at dinner parties unless I know my guests like fish too.

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