Copyright Wes West

Copyright Wes West

This past weekend I fed 80 people. Some of them more than once. I’m not a caterer. My mental arithmetic isn’t good enough. I shudder at the thought of rented crockery. I pale at the mere mention of long tables and stackable chairs. And yet here I stand, on a glorious Saturday evening, looking at 80 people sipping Pimms on a skin-kissed lawn and expecting to be fed in an hour.

To be fair I’d had good warning. And I did volunteer to look after the food for my dear friends’ birthdays. And jolly good fun it was too. But it was also a good lesson in feeding a lot of people without doing much on the night. And so, I present my Feast Of Little Effort But Some Spectacle, may it serve you well should a glut of revellers descend upon you and you’d rather join them bathing in Pimms than slaving away in the kitchen:

Copyright Wes West

Copyright Wes West

Feast Of Little Effort But Some Spectacle
Spatchcocked chicken marinated in pomegranate molasses
Herby couscous with pine nuts
Chorizo and butter bean salad

Pink peppercorn or orange chocolate mousse

For the chicken:

  • 1 whole chicken per 4 people (ask the butcher to spatchcock it and then halve it down the breastbone – so it warms up on the bbq quickly)
  • 3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 onion, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • a pinch ground allspice

(This is based on a quail and pomegranate recipe by Moro)

chicken

For the couscous:

  • 80g dried couscous per person
  • A handful of chopped mint per 6 people
  • A handful of pine nuts per 6 people
  • 1 bunch spring onions, you guessed it… per 6 people
  • glug of good olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon (altogether now) per 6 people

For the butterbean salad (yes, this one feeds 6 too):

  • 2 400g tins of butterbeans
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • a handful of chopped parsley
  • 3 cooking chorizo sausages, chopped
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 4 tbsp good olive oil

(Again, thank you to Moro for this one)

For the mousse (makes 8-9 ramekins):

  • 200g chocolate (50-60% is ideal, I adore this one)
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp crushed pink peppercorns or 3 tbsp of orange zest

(This is a tinkered-around-with version of a mousse recipe by Leon)

And here’s the To Do list:

T-2 days:

  • Marinate chicken: mix everything (except the chicken, obviously) into a large tupperware then massage it into the chicken, seal in the tub and refrigerate overnight
  • Start flapping about what to wear

T-1 day:

  • Roast chicken: put the chicken in a deep roasting tray and pour over any spare juices. Cover the tray with foil and roast at 190 degrees for 1hr 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a cool plate and chill as quickly as possible (luke warm chicken is a recipe for poisoned party guests). The chicken won’t look very appealing, but fret not, the grill/bbq will tart it up tomorrow
  • Prep the butterbean salad: chop the tomatoes, onion and parsley and store separately in bags in the fridge. Fry the chorizo and chill it. Mix the vinegar and olive oil to make the dressing and bottle it.
  • Prep the couscous: chop the mint and spring onions and mix in a bag with the pine nuts. Make up the dressing with the olive oil and lemon and store in a bottle.
  • Make the mousse: Melt the chocolate and butter together over a bain marie. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks until very pale and thick (this takes longer than you think). Stir the melted chocolate mixture into the egg yolks. Whisk the egg whites into soft peaks, adding the sugar as you go (don’t over whisk or your mousse will go runny). Finally, with the lightness and grace of a ballerina gradually fold the egg whites into the mix along with your flavouring (peppercorns or orange) and pour into ramekins. Sprinkle the tops with peppercorns or orange zest so you know which is which and chill (the mousse and you as well, it’s going to be fine)

mousse

On the day:

  • Cook the couscous in the morning and, once it has cooled, mix with your ready chopped ingredients and dressing
  • Open the butterbean cans, drain and mix with the other ingredients. Dress at the last minute
  • BBQ or grill the chicken. Make sure it reaches 65 degrees Celsius inside before serving. Drizzle with a little pomegranate molasses and olive oil then sprinkle with pomegranate seeds before serving
  • Drink pimms. Copiously. Dance with abandon until dawn.

photo 3