January 3rd: Gazpacho, chicken marbella, blackcurrant trifle

Lawrence’s birthday, friends coming for dinner, but as he didn’t want to be the centre of attention he didn’t get a cake. Just a three-course dinner.




Now that we have an open plan kitchen-dining arrangement, I like to serve food that requires a minimum of preparation after the guests arrive, so what better than a cold soup on a summer’s night. There are probably a thousand and one different recipes for gazpacho, and maybe a recipe isn’t really necessary, but as I’ve never made it before, followed that in The Silver Palate Cookbook religiously. The result thick and flavoursome, served in soup bowls chilled in the freezer.


Chicken marbella


What a triumph! This is another of the Silver Palate recipes, needs preparing the day before, but well worth the forethought. Tender, moist chicken, enlivened with prunes, capers, olives. Garnished with flat Italian parsley that I was scrambling for on the bank when the first of our guests arrived. Served tonight with boiled new potatoes and green salad, the greens from the garden. Beware of earwigs, I warned our guests, but happily there were no moving bits in the salad.


Black currant trifle


Came across this Nigel Slater recipe in a magazine a year or two ago, and it’s always appealed. Summer, fresh black currants, why not try it? Not easy to find the currants, however. We were in the Wairarapa the other day, and heading to the junk shops of Carterton spied a sign on the other side of the road, north of Greytown … BLACK CURRANTS PICK YOUR OWN … great, I thought, we’ll stop there on the way back. Only, it was closed! Lawrence, however, unearthed a couple of bags of frozen blackcurrants at the supermarket yesterday & so I pressed ahead with the planned pud. But perhaps the frozen fruit didn’t produce as much juice when heated with a little water & caster sugar as the recipe’s recommended fresh ones would have … at least, they didn’t soak through the sponge as deeply, as dramatically as I’d hoped. And, Nigel, I think there should have been some booze in the trifle. Because, truth to tell, I found it a little dry, not as delightful as I’d imagined. Though the dessert wine helped.


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