Tony Tobin’s tips for winning the dinner party war
Dinner parties are becoming increasingly competitive, but help is at hand with top chef, Tony Tobin’s dinner party tips.
These days, dinner parties are no longer about rustling something up with the remnants in your fridge. Instead they have become something of a competitive sport with friends trying to out do each other’s culinary creations. Programmes such as Channel 4’s ‘Come Dine With Me’ have fuelled our streaks of rivalry, making it seem ok to give marks at the end of the meal or voice our critical opinions.
Research shows that due to the economic crisis, British consumers are eating out less and dining in more. But there is also evidence coming from supermarkets stating an increase in splurging on dinner party food and wine. The British are certainly becoming more passionate about cooking and it’s probably only a matter of time before we rival the French! So if you’re planning to entertain guests and want some guaranteed steps to winning the dinner party war, help is at hand with cooking specialist Cannon and top chef, Tony Tobin’s hints and tips to becoming a gastronomic genius.
Try new things by creating your own light and crispy batter with just plain flour and soda water. Simply take whatever you fancy, from pepper strips to prawns to green beans, and then sprinkle in flour. Mix in with a batter made from soda water and flour and shallow fry for a few seconds. Crispy and very tasty!
Having trouble with a flat soufflé? A simple cheat is to put the mix inside a cooked pancake, fold over and place in the oven. Serve as whole pudding with an orange and brandy syrup – delicious and really simple!
I always tell people to experiment with the food they serve at dinner parties; it’s boring to cook the same meals time and time again. Don’t be scared to try new things – for example learn to shuck (open) oysters. It’s really easy and they are perfect for serving in a fantastic seafood starter.
A handy tip when preparing fish is to remember to keep your fingers salted, which allows you to keep a good grip on the fish. Also, a little secret is to use a pair of tweezers to help you remove small bones from the fish – it works every time.
I love pancetta with a perfect poached egg for an interesting starter. To make your egg, ensure the water is hot and swirling at a fast pace before cracking it in. Don’t add salt as it will split the egg, instead a little vinegar or lemon will help keep the egg solid. Leave for three minutes then pop in cold water. If you have a lot of guests you can take the pressure off by preparing beforehand. Simply take the egg out of the boiling water a little earlier then pop back in during the evening for 30 seconds to re-heat ready for guests.
It’s easy to make your chicken dish look like it has been prepared by a professional; simply take a chicken breast and slice a pocket on one side. Fill with mozarella and basil, then cover the slit with a small chicken fillet that has been pounded flat. Place the chicken on strips of parma ham and roll until completely covered. Lightly fry, grill or griddle to seal the meat, then place in the oven. When cooked, cut off the ends and cut the rest of the breast into four round, slices.
Get creative with a peeler to produce vegetable shavings that can be fried to give crunchy, colourful toppings to your dishes. Use carrots for bright oranges and cabbage for luscious greens complementing an array of dishes.
Food looks most effective when it is built up on the plate – think 3D when it comes to presentation! Part boil new potatoes then gently fry. Place in the middle of a plate and use as a stand to put the chicken on. Then add your crunchy toppings for extra height.
A really interesting way of giving an extra visual dimension to the plate is creating an ‘essence’; blend brightly coloured fruit or vegetables and boil down into a syrup – then drizzle it around the plate for stunning and professional finish.
For finishing touches decorate the top of your table using banana leaves or pin chillies to the hem of your tablecloth. Another tip is to heat up spices in warm water to give your room a wonderful aroma.
Written by: Leila Sarraf