Raymond Blanc: My Ingredients for a Very Special Night at Home
Every day, I’m involved in creating extraordinary food with my team for our guests – it’s a bit like going to L’Opéra four or five times a week, the food is exciting and refined. So when hosting a dinner party, I like to cook a simple meal at home which gives me time to reconnect with my friends and loved ones. It's so important to take time out to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate friendship, laughter, great food and wonderful wine.
A dinner party at my home doesn’t require 25 dishes, or 7 different types of wine. It is focused around my Maman Blanc’s home cooking; simple, rustic and delicious.
One of the most important things to consider when hosting a dinner party is to look at who you are going to invite. I try and choose friends whose personalities will complement each other. For my perfect dinner party, I would invite presenter Chris Evans (for his humour), Stephen fry (for his intellect and wit), designer Stella McCartney (for her opinions and cutting edge views), former motorsport boss Eddie Jordan (for his stories on life), mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins (for her talent and charm), my sons Sebastian and Olivier (for just being my beloved family), chef and former apprentice Bruno Loubet and his beautiful wife Catherine (for being my cherished dear old friends), William Sibley (for being an incredible fruit expert) and Tim Lang (Professor of Food Policy at City University).
I’d serve them something that everyone can share and get involved in, such as a large Comté cheese soufflé with a green salad on the side. If I was hosting a special family occasion I’d serve something more sumptuous, such as a 4-course meal of Parfait, Oysters, a simple Maman Blanc steak or Chicken, morels and Jura wine sauce or a light fish course.
A tip when choosing what to serve as main course: try cooking something that needs to be braised and then rested. This way you can prepare a couple of days in advance and when you come to re-heat it you can get it very hot without the danger of it over cooking or spoiling. And if you are serving ice-cream or sorbet with the dessert, line a tray with cling film and pre-ball your ice-cream/sorbet and place on the frozen tray. Keep it in the freezer until it’s time to serve. That way no mess and less fuss, especially when you've had a couple of glasses of wine!
When it comes to music, there are many different genres of music I like to play throughout the evening. To welcome my guest’s on arrival, I’d start with some light jazz by Courtney Pine and Cleo Lane and finish with something lively by The Rolling Stones to encourage dancing round the living room at the end of the meal! I'd also try and encourage Katherine Jenkins to sing, if she'd oblige. She is an extraordinary performer, especially live, and to be given the chance to hear her sing acoustically in my home would be an honour.
Overall my top tips for a successful dinner party would be:
- Keep it simple - don’t try and overcomplicate your menu. On some occasions, less can be more. Keep your flavours simple and don’t try and create something so complex you lose the depth and flavour of your ingredients.
- Check dietaries - this is very important. Make sure that you can offer choice to those who do not eat fish, meat or have an allergy to a specific food type.
- Be prepared - do make sure you prepare well in advance to give yourself as much time as you can with your guests. Cook something you are comfortable with. You don’t want to be stressed on the night.
- Make memories - As a nice gift and a keepsake for your friends, you can handwrite your menu on beautiful cards and give this to your guests to act as a reminder of your evening.
- Finish the evening in style - Close the meal with a digestif, a glass of Cognac such as Martell XO or even a light cocktail.