Monday, 25 May 2009

Gabriela's recipes - Polvorones

And here is the recipe for the delicious little Mexican cookies that Gabriela served up as part of her dessert. Seen below being enjoyed by Leonie...



225 grams of butter

1 cup of Pecans

2 cups of flour

2 Tablespoons of confectionary sugar

2 Tablespoons of vanilla


Leave the butter out for half an hour, until it’s soft.

Finely chop the pecans

Mix everything together in a bowl with your hands

Once the ingredients have been mixed together thoroughly, put a bit of flour on your hands and form about 25 little dome shaped mounds from the mixture.

Put on a non-stick baking tray or an Exopat, also called a SILPAT (it’s a non-stick baking mat of joy!)

Put in the oven on 360 degrees F/180 degrees C for about 25 minutes.

Once cooked (they do not increase in size much), leave to cool.

Once cooled, roll them in confectionary sugar until they are covered on all sides.

Estan lista para comer! Que bueno.

Gabriela's recipes - Baked Eggs al Forno

Here Gabriela kindly shares her brunch recipe for Eggs Al Forno with Crème Fraiche and Herbs de Provence...

As this is a recipe I made myself, I don’t really have measurements of the ingredients, aside from the number of eggs per person. So, I’ll try my best to explain the recipe as best I can.

It was created through quite a bit of taste testing as on their own, the baked eggs were missing something, and while many baked egg recipes call for milk, I find milk and eggs to be too heavy.

Thus, crème fraiche!

In order to make the baked eggs, you can either use shallow ramekins (if you have them) or fashion your own out of aluminium foil, which is what I did. If you do use ramekins, be sure they are wide enough to allow the two eggs and ingredients to sit about half an inch deep.

If you create your own makeshift foil ramekins, be sure to spray them with non-stick cooking spray (ie PAM or FRY Light Extra Virgin Olive Oil Spray) so that you can easily remove them from the foil when they are cooked.


Large Free Range Eggs (I use two eggs per person. If you prefer egg whites, the dish can be made with one egg, both yolk and white, and two egg whites, or even three egg whites and no yolks.)

Parmesan Cheese (About a small handful, grated, per person.)

Reduced Fat Crème Fraiche (About 3 tablespoons per person). You can use regular fat Crème Fraiche, but this variety makes the dish much lighter.

Herbs de Provence

Sea Salt


Cooking Spray

Two sprigs of Chives per person


Crack the eggs into a bowl first, so as to prevent the yolks from breaking, then pour the eggs into the ramekins.

The egg whites should be filled with dollops of crème fraiche, so that when done, the eggs should look like they are floating in a sea of white crème fraiche orbs. (I don’t know how else to describe this.) But, don’t smother the eggs in the crème fraiche. Perhaps I can take a photo to show you what I mean.

Next, sprinkle grated Parmesan over the dish.

Sprinkle Herbs de Provence liberally over the dish.

Sprinkle crushed sea salt and pepper sparingly.

Put the ramekins on an oven tray and pop them into an oven heated to 180/200 degrees C, depending on how powerful your oven is.

Set a timer to 8 minutes and let the eggs bake.

Chop up the chives.

After 8 minutes check the eggs to see how they are coming along, and leave them in for another four minutes or so, depending on how well they are cooked. The egg yolks should not be cooked through but rather quite fragile so that they break when your fork hits them.

At the same time, cut slices of bread (La Brea Multi-Grain bread tastes wondrous with this dish, as would any light grain and seed filled fresh bread) and pop them into the top shelf of the oven to have warm, toasted bread to accompany your eggs. I usually spray the slices with the cooking spray to prevent them from drying out in the oven.

Once the whites look relatively solid (usually this takes about 12 minutes) remove the eggs from the oven. They shouldn’t be completely solid as the crème fraiche and Parmesan should be soft and melted, not overcooked.

If using an aluminium ramekin, press down the sides of the container, and carefully use a spatula to remove the eggs and plate.

Sprinkle with chives and serve with toasted bread. voila!

Friday, 1 May 2009

Gabriela's Brunch!

So, in a genius twist to the formula, Gabriela had the bright idea of hosting a brunch party rather than dinner; more hours of boozing time right?!? Yeah! She was whisking up a storm in the kitchen, while one by one the guests arrived. Greeted by bellini's and the sunday papers...

After a couple of glasses the eagerly awaited first course arrived... French Toast!

With syrup and cinnamon and more bellinis!

Guests all cleaned their plate and then went for a little nose around Gabriela's lovely flat...

Flicking through her New York photobooth snaps and admiring a formidable Marc Jacobs shoe collection...

The main course kicked off with Bloody Mary's. They had a kick too, with tabasco and extra pepper. And extra vodka.

Before long the main course of Eggs Al Forno (baked eggs) arrived...

Then on to the third course of little Mexican cookies called Polvorones and fields of strawberries covered in dark, white and delicious maya gold chocolate!

And knowing the group's penchant for a good cheeseboard, Gabriela had chosen expertly from Neal's Yard and accompanied her selection with Spanish quince jelly.
Scoffing slowed to grazing and the group eventually rolled back onto the sofas to finish reading the papers while the final round of secret scoring took place in the next room.

All our hosts are now dying to find out the results, and we bet you are too! Well, all will be revealed after our results party next week. Before then, look out for Gabriela's recipes and let us know who YOU think should win!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Gabriela's Menu

And for our final feast, our resident American diner Gabriela presents...



Angelica’s Pan Frances (French Toast)

Eggs Al Forno with Crème Fraiche and Herbs

Polvorones (Mexican Pecan Cookies), Chocolate Covered Strawberries


Neal’s Yard Cheeses with Spanish Quince and Celery

...and she promises plenty of booze to wash it all down with! Report to follow imminently!

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Nadia's Dinner

Here' s the full report of dinner number 4...

Welcome to Nadia's! Our penultimate Fun Dine With Me meal. On arrival, our guests were treated to a luxurious cocktail of Tattinger Champagne, Creme de Cassis and fresh blueberries. A sumptuous take on Kir Royale and a tray of cherry tomato, basil and mozzarella nibbles. After welcoming everyone, our hostess popped back into the kitchen to finish prepping... ocean-full of mussels for the main course! Sourced from Stoke Newington's The Fishery, renowned for freshness and value. Bearding all those mussels gave our group time to snoop around Nadia's flat...

One room in the house had been on the BBC show Changing Rooms! Quite a talking point! Here our guests marvel at the wonkiness of outdated frosted glass designs and shoddy paint job. Then Leonie went to investigate Nadia's bookshelf...
...She has quite a collection of celeb biographies and I think the Alex James one was autographed! Amazing!

Anyway, on to the starter...

English asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto and topped with a poached egg. Parmesan shavings replaced the Prosciutto for our veggie types.

Guests tucked in and moved from cocktails onto the wine. Next, Nadia was back in the kitchen steaming all those mussels...

Three saucepans were filled with red onion, garlic, butter and white wine and the mussels were added to steam. Nadia put the chips in the oven to accompany but realised she'd forgotten the bread, oops!

With cream and coriander added at the last minute our main course was served. Informal eating with your fingers was the order of the day. Rhydian was especially skilled at deftly removing the meat using half of the shell, most civilised! Nadia removed piles and piles of empties and cleared the way for dessert...

Which had altered from the original menu slightly and become Individual Banana Mousse, topped with grated chocolate. But perhaps the most eagerly awaited course was the CHEESEBOARD!

Which was demolished pretty swiftly along with red wine, crackers and matzo biscuits; a nice touch as Gabriela was celebrating passover. After dinner and the all important voting in secret guests stayed and danced around Nadia's living room for hours. Most raging after-dinner so far in the competition!

Next up, our final diner to host, Gabriela. Her menu will be revealed any moment now and we shall all find out the scores and who our winner is!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Nadia's Menu

Next up to host is Nadia, she now reveals what our diners are in for...

Spring medley asparagus (English) with poached egg (and prosciutto ham)


Wild Mussels marinas with bread or fries


Caramelised banana split.

Cheese selection

And what are their first reactions? Here's what Gabriela had to say...

Menu looks interesting indeed. And, I'm impressed that she's going to attempt 5 poached eggs. I wonder if she's using a poacher? If not, very impressive. I'll have to get tips.

Is there any way to check where these 'Mussels' are from? (I hope she didnt fish them out of the canal.)

Worry not Gabriela, Nadia went to great lengths to find the freshest WILD mussels in London and didn't just nab some out of Clapton pond.

And Philippa... Looks ambitious but a very impressive sounding menu. And bonus points may be in order for the cheese board!

First reaction from Leonie...
So... despite being a lifelong vegetarian, once in a blue moon I will have a seafood craving and chow down on some mussels (they're the only fishy thing I can hack, because they don't have eyes.). Nadia has obviously discovered this, and so tonight will be a blue moon night. They better taste good though - I don't want those little critters to have sacrificed themselves in vain.

I'm not a massive asparagus fan, but I do love a good poached egg - will there be a ham substitute for me and Gab? We shall see....

Caramelised banana split sounds ammmazing. And hell, you know what I'm like around a cheese board. Can't wait!

The full report will follow shortly along with a selection of Nadia's recipes. Is she on to a winner?

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Leonie's recipes...

Our third dinner was deemed a success by all, although the scores have still not been revealed!

Now you can have a go at home by trying Leonie's recipes; that unusual salad, novelty fondue and classic crumble. So get cooking...

Strawberry, Watercress and Goats Cheese Salad
Place a small nest of watercress in the middle of a plate, cut
strawberries in half and place around the edge of the greenery (but
hey, go crazy on this bit, make up yer own pattern!). Crumble goats
cheese in the middle and then splash with balsamic vinegar. Easy! But
oh so good.

Rub the inside of the fondue pot with a cut clove of garlic, then heat
up half a pint of white wine and a splash of kirsh. Dump in a block of
emmental and one of gruyere - you need much cheese more than you think
you do! Keep stiring as the cheese melts and add a squeeze of lemon
juice and a table spoon of cornflour to help thicken it. Dip in cubed
bread pieces and lightly steamed veg.

Place chopped rhubarb, apples (skinned and cored) and blackberries
into a large pudding dish. Cover with water and add a healthy wack of
sugar and place in a warmish oven for about an hour, until youve got a
mushy, syrupy fruit soup. Then cover with crumble, which is made by
rubbing 3 parts flour to 2 parts sugar and 2 parts butter between your
fingers until, well, until it looks like crumble. Then bake in the
oven until the tops brown and the bottom's bubbling. You can put fresh
ginger in the fruit mush too .

Thanks Leonie!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Leonie's Dinner Party!

It was a bit of wait for our next dinner date, due to all our diners leading busy lives so everyone was raring to get stuck in to Leonie's evening of meat-free fun! Thank goodness no-one is Lactose intolerant as her menu promised to be a cheese feast!

Our guests were greeted with zingy Margaritas so got into the party mood as soon as they arrived. The usual slew of bottles and choccies were forthcoming, hooray!
Rhydian had time for a bit of nosing around in Leonie's considerable wardrobe while we waited for Gabriela who had inadvertently ended up in Camden due to getting on the wrong bus!

But we were all happy to see her arrive in one piece (if a little bit late)!

So first up, our starter, an unusual combination of Strawberry with Soft Goat's cheese with a Watercress salad and balsamic dressing. Served on dainty little plates atop a darling vintage tablecloth.

Guests wolfed it down, having waited for Gabriela, and Leonie nipped into the kitchen to put the finishing touches to her main course spread...

Cheese Fondue!

It was a bit of drama, trying to get the measurement of meths right for the burner but soon we were cookin'! Or at least heatin'! And eatin'... Dippables included traditional cubed bread, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes and new potatoes.

Forfeits were threatened for anyone who dropped their dip into the pot, apparently that's the punishment laid down by the Swiss for such bad table manners.

Next up, Dessert...

Our hostess sprinkled a last dusting of cinnamon onto her Rhubarb and Apple Crumble and served with lashings of cream and ice cream...

Then, in classic CDWM style, it was time for the after dinner entertainment, no, not yodelling or alpine horn blowing, thank God. But Roulette!

That green table cloth served a dual purpose! Guests were issued chips and bets were placed...

Lucky Miss Philippa cleaned up and showed the guests the full extent of her competative side, did she leave them wondering about her scoring tactics?!?!?!

Our hardcore hostess and Rhydian rounded off the evening with a couple of Tequila shots while secret scoring took place in the kitchen. Stay tuned for the scored and our final two meals!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Dinner 3 - Leonie's Menu

We are all eagerly awaiting the third installment in our eating odyssey, Leonie's evening!
She has handed over her menu, here it is for your delectation as well as some of her discerning guests' first reactions...

Strawberry, watercress and goats cheese salad

Cheese fondue with bread and veg

Rhubarb, apple and blackberry crumble

Gabriela sounds keen: "This menu sounds like a dream. A dream of joy! Apple crumble of any kind is the way to my heart. And cheese. Especially goat's cheese. Yum yum.
My only sadness about this menu is the fact that I cannot eat myself into oblivion. Why? Because I have to wear a white leotard the next day for a film - I'm playing a ghost, but I'd rather be playing a cheese fondue pot. Maybe I'll make a suggestion to the filmmakers..."

And Philippa's pleased too: "Starter sounds exciting and I LOVE rhubarb so pudding will be just my sort of thing.
I had a bad experience with cheese fondue in my youth but will put that out of my mind for Leonie’s dinner party and give her the chance to impress me and help me put my bad memories behind me!"

And last time's host Rhydian is happy the heat is off him! "SOOoooo looking forward to this. Leonie's menu sounds amazing!
I've never had strawberry, watercress and goats cheese together before. Sounds really exciting!
Main - Always love a good fondue (hope there's a load of white wine in there)!
Dessert - A good home made crumble is my favorite (drowning in cream, obvs!)

What do you make of this menu? We'll be posting the full report next week!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Rhydian's recipes - Pancakes!

Happy Pancake Day everybody!!!

As you will have seen below, our second host Rhydian got his guests to toss their own pancakes for dessert, (some more successfully than others) and has now supplied us with a foolproof Pancake Batter recipe so you can join in the fun!

Pancake Batter
(makes 8-10 medium sized, thin pancakes)

125g plain white or wholemeal flour
300mls milk
1 beaten egg
oil or butter for frying

1. In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and make a small well in the middle. Add the beaten egg then, whilst constantly stirring, slowly start adding half the milk, bit by bit. Add the rest of the milk and beat thoroughly, until the mixture is smooth. No Lumps allowed!

2. Heat a medium sized frying pan and coat lightly with oil. Pour a small ladleful of your pancake mixture into the pan, tilting the pan to make sure it covers the pan evenly.

3. Cook for around 1-2 minutes, or until bubbles start appearing and the underside turns golden. Loosen the edges of the pancake with a spatula, then toss it over and cook the other side for another 1-2 minutes, or until it turns golden. This is a good opportunity for a tossing contest at home.

4. Eat immediately topped with your favourite sweet or savoury toppings; our favourites were classic lemon juice and sugar, blueberries and ice cream or maple syrup. Yum!

Hooray for pancake day!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Rhydian's Dinner Party!

So our intrepid eaters gather once more, this time at the home of Rhydian, ready to uncover the mysterious 'Interactive Feast'. Rumours had been doing the rounds; would we be ordering from Deliverance? would we have to bring our own picnic fixings? But Leonie correctly guessed...

Guests are topping their own pizzas and tossing their own pancakes!

Genius! Rhydian's thinking is that if you don't like it, you made it, it's your fault, you can't mark me down! Risky strategy maybe, but sounds like a lot of fun all the same! Let's see...

Refreshed by perfectly chilled Cava on arrival, and after some nosing around, the contestents crammed into the cute little kitchen, where Rhydian was rustling up their toppings...

...and it was quite a spread: Venison sausages, parma ham, griddled asparagus, mozzarella, goats cheese, mushrooms with balsamic, caramelised red onions, fresh rocket and smoked salmon. All with a base of smooth red pepper sauce. Wow!

Trepidation, excitement, wondering and bemusal were just a few of the emotions our diners were feeling before tackling the toppings head on!

Leonie gamely goes first, creating a veggie feast, heavy on the cheese with a distinctive triangle of asparagus.

Philippa, when asked what she was going for, replied simply "Everything!".

Gabriela went for another meat free one, leaving more sausages etc for everyone else, but a squabble was kicking off over the balsamic mushrooms so Rhydian quickly whipped up some extra servings.

Nadia looked highly satisfied with her handiwork, and by this point Rhydian was left with just enough to top his own base with. He was also sharing his with a poorly housemate, what a sweetheart!

Leonie and Philippa's came out of the oven first, looking done to perfection as guests could choose how well done they liked theirs (passing the blame again Rhydian!). Condiments and crushed black pepper were provided and people were making a dent in tonight's red wine haul.

Nadia and Gabriela's up next.

It looked like the less formal approach was paying off, everybody was enjoying themselves and somehow Rhydian had managed to keep his kitchen completely clean (he admitted to being a bit OCD).

Next, our tireless host whips up the batter for dessert. A couple of weeks before Shrove Tuesday he gives his guests an opportunity to perfect their tossing technique! See a video of Gabriela having a go here!

Philippa managed a full 360! Extreme!

And there were the sweet toppings to get stuck in to too! Maple syrup, blueberries, strawberries, Haagan Dazs and of course, lemon and sugar!

Then to round off the meal, Rhydian came over all George Clooney and revved up the Nespresso machine, offering his guests a choice of coffee capsules from his wooden display tray. How suave!

That kept him busy while the guests were whisked off one by one to give their scores. Will Rydian be in the lead after a fantastic interactive feast? Or will guests mark down for the lack of starter and having to lift a finger? All will be revealed once we've enjoyed our other hosts efforts. Next up is Leonie, her menu will be posted next week! Watch this space!