Singing for My Supper – The Chores and Pleasures of a Nice Dinner Party

We had some friends over for supper last week and I thought I would do the clever thing without cutting corners, and that is to go for slow-cooked dishes that wouldn’t require me to hover and fuss over them too much, especially not once the guests arrived. So I opted for a menu to include tried-and-tested, crowd-pleasing dishes: egg noodles with duck sauce , followed by a Peposo,  an ancient recipe from Impruneta in Tuscany that is the most minimalist recipe ever for beef stewed in wine, and, as a vegetable side dish (‘contorno’), artichokes braised the Roman way, carciofi alla romana.

Friends coming over to dinner brought loaves of heady-frangranced home made bread, pumpkin and orange soup and potato dauphinois.  Another brought a ricotta cake and my sister-in-law Nadia made the pudding: panettone pudding with a spiced cream redolent of mulled wine.

I smile as I look at the photos I took in anticipation …

1Here is the duck sauce cooking away.  I added a tablespoon of cocoa powder this time, aha!, to give it more depth.  I don’t think anyone noticed but I like to experiment. (  2

Here is the beef, drowned in red wine, about to be cooked nestling inside an earthenware saucepan . (  These cooking vessels are brilliant for slow cooked dishes requiring a low heat.3Here is the red wine I used – a very nice selection from Lazio’s Cesanese varietals.4And here are the artichokes I braised : all twelve of them!  I very wisely started cooking them last so that the prepping would coincide with an encouraging glass of fermented grape juice around wine o’clock (do admit, 12 artichokes are a LOT of artichokes to deal with).  (

And the dinner went very well, I am glad to say.  We all enjoyed ourselves, it was a lot of fun.

As for the nex morning, however, what do we get? Lots of washing up to do! That’s what.

8That is the bottom of the pan in which the duck ragu cooked.  Ouff.  Had to leave some water and salt soaking in it for half a day before I was ready to scrub that off.

7Here is the terracotta saucepan in which the peposo cooked.  This is every so easy to wash but one does have to careful because a careless slip of the hand and … crash … no more saucepan.  Plus, it really is very large and quite difficult to handle.9

And this was the big huge pan for the artichokes.  None of these pans, it goes without saying, fit into a dish washer.  So yes … a bit of a pallaver, all told.


Not to mention the wine glasses.


And last but not least, the tablecloth needs to be washed and ironed.

For all that I am a sane person and much happier cooking than cleaning and washing up, I have to say I rarely mind the ‘day after’.  I do what has to be done in batches, if I can, and I go over all the nice elements of the night before, reliving the most relishable moments.

img_2254The lovely home made bread.

img_2256Lovely home made butter too!

img_2258And friends and family tucking into the meal.  Conversation.   Laughter.  Teasing.  Glasses clinking. Head nodding of approval.  Head shaking when in disagreement but nobody cares anyway. Pouring of wine (and water too … ).  It’s all about being together. There were ten of us.

img_2266And then it’s time for pudding …. dessert.  Nadia to the rescue.  But we have to clear the table first.

Let me tell you all about that in the next post.