Soon after Jonathan and Eric left, I got on the phone and arranged three evenings having friends to dinner, and one dinner going out - I had that on Friday, we went to Hede in Cuba St for cheap and cheerful Japanese. I remembered having delicious Japanese grilled eel in China, so I bravely ordered that (I think I impressed the waiter, who assured me "we do it well"), and it was just as I remembered - subtly sweet, rich but delicate.
On Saturday I had my first guest, my French friend Diane, who brought a lovely selection of cheeses, including a thick slice of my current favourite - bouche de chevre, goat's cheese log. I'd planned a proper dinner, and parts of it were very good, but others went badly askew.
The entree was a great success. The new Cuisine magazine arrived on Friday and I adapted one of the recipes from that. I cut a sheet of puff pastry into four even squares, then ran a knife around each square to give an edge that would rise. In places I cut right through the pastry by accident, but it didn't seem to matter. Then I transferred the squares to baking paper on an oven tray, spread grainy mustard over the inner square, arranged slices of tomato on top, and added salt, pepper and some grated cheese (cheddar rather than the gruyere in the original recipe, but it worked fine).
I must work out the proper timing for cooking potatoes in the oven in various ways. Mine seem to veer between not being done quite well enough, and being overdone. Saturday was an overdone night - smallish oval half potatoes baked on a flat tray with oil, salt and rosemary, but I put them in too early and even though I moved them down to the bottom they ended up far too crispy ont he bottom (well, that was the polite word, in fact they were a bit burnt). Diane still ate them happily and so did I, but I was annoyed with myself all the same. Still, the steak was just right, very pink inside but not fleshy, and the plain green salad and cheese followed it very well.
(Had to stop here to rescue our elderly cat Dorothy, who had managed to get her rear end completely entangled in the blind cord and was dangling down from it onto the sofa, meowing piteously - thank goodness I was home.)
I made my worst faux pas with the pears in red wine. It's one of my favourite desserts but I haven't made it for a while, and I had intended to write it up properly here, complete with gorgeous photos. Here's the only one I managed to take.
I'll make it again and post the recipe properly. It involves three steps - bringing the red wine syrup to the boil and simmering it for five minutes, cooking the pears in it (I do it in the oven, it's easier), then reducing the syrup to just the right consistency to coat the pears. That's where I came unstuck. I was running a little bit late and tried to speed things up by putting the pan with the syrup on the back gas hob on high. But then Diane arrived and I forgot about it. Not good. We were sitting down for the entree when she politely pointed out that something seemed to be burning. The lovely red syrup had boiled away to a kind of red wine toffee. I managed to salvage enough to scoop over the pears, sitting ready on their plates, but by the time we ate them, instead of a luscious pool of syrup, both plates had a hard shiny dark glaze in the bottom. The cream seemed to soften up most of it enough to eat, and the pears were perfect - thoroughly cooked but not soft. But there were still rock-hard blobs of toffee on our plates, and as for the pan - I'm not sure it's going to recover. Ah well, c'est la vie.