I’m not one for impromptu midweek entertaining. Neither am I fan of making a special meal for the family after working hard all day. That is the last thing any sane person wants to do. With the multitude of heat and serve meals in the supermarket it is pretty apparent that nobody wants to cook generally midweek, let alone to entertain.
When entertaining, or even just making a special meal for the family, I put pressure on myself. The meal has to be perfect, actually, better than perfect on all accounts. I’ve always been this way, from the moment my mother let me loose in the kitchen. Why? The only logical reason I can come up with is that I am a narcissistic perfectionist when it comes to feeding people and, not to beat around the bush, a bloody idiot.
The more I thought about this, the more I realised I needed to take a culinary chill pill.
Let’s face it, having a meal with friends or family is all about being together, and enjoying each other’s company. Nobody is going to remember if your chicken was dry, or if your beans were slightly over cooked. What they will remember are the smiles, laughs and good conversations.
Of course now I am now thinking too much again. Do they remember the dry chicken and over cooked beans? See what I am doing here, unnecessary pressure!
After I took a chill pill or two, I started to rethinking my strive for midweek entertaining perfection. What food hacks, are hacks worth serving up to guests?
How could I transform a few pre-made items from the local supermarket and create a delicious two course meal for four in under 20 minutes? A meal you would be quite happy to prepare for guests. At meal that was still fresh, vibrant and felt like it hadn’t just come out of a packet, even if some items did.
Once I came up with these foolproof dishes, all that needed to be added was a bottle or two of wine and some music. With these three elements, no fuss entertaining is at your fingertips.
We are blessed with a choice of so many wines here in Australia. We have amazing local vineyards as well as incredible imported wines from around the world. Of course a large portion of easy accessible imported wines come from New Zealand. One of the most popular brands being Wither Hills.
Wither Hills’ vineyards are situated in the Wairau Valley in Marlborough, and each vineyard has vine varieties planted specifically for that site. What I like about the Wither Hills range is their approach to sustainability. They practice the values of Reduce (energy, non-renewable resource use and waste to landfill), Re-use where possible and Re-cycle as appropriate. It is about taking a holistic approach to winemaking.
They have even introduced flowering plants (mainly buckwheat) to some of their vineyards to enhance the good bugs in the vineyards to eat the bad bugs. Over time this will hopefully reduce their insecticide usage.
With a range of popular wine styles, (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) that Marlborough has become famous for, you can always find a Wither Hills wine to complement any variety of dishes very easily, making it a wonderful wine choice for midweek entertaining.
For course number one, the main, I wanted to make use of the good old BBQ chook. This is probably the most versatile pre-cooked item you can pick up at the local supermarket. Remove the skin, shred the meat from the chicken and it can be used in a vast array of dishes. You could use it to top homemade pizzas, in fresh spring rolls, a whole gamut of salads, soups, filos, quiches and even the humble sandwich, wrap or roll.
The dressing for my chicken, grape and pecan salad is creamy with a little bit of zing. The secret ingredient is Japanese mayonnaise. This stuff is a staple in my kitchen and luckily you can easily pick it up from your local supermarket. It isn’t as sweet a mainstream mayonnaise and has a delicate flavour, which is close to homemade.
To balance the creamy dressing there is the crunch of the cos lettuce and pecans. The addition of fresh herbs gives it a lovely lift and chives add a tasty mild onion flavour. The grapes, I feel, add a twist and sense of sophistication. I paired this with the Wither Hills Pinot Gris.
Chicken, Grape & Pecan Salad
- 1 BBQ Chicken
- 1/3 cup Japanese mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons of thick cream
- 2 tablespoons continental parsley chopped
- 2 tablespoons chives chopped
- 1 small cos lettuce washed and leaves torn in half
- 100 grams pecans
- 150 grams black grapes cut in half
Remove meat from BBQ chicken, discarding skin. You can use the whole chicken, but I prefer to only use the breast, and leaner thigh meat. I reserve the rest of the chicken meat, which has been picked from the bones for sandwiches or other uses at a later time.
In a very large bowl (you will eventually add all the other salad ingredients) place mayonnaise, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and thick cream. Mix the salad dressing ingredients together until completely incorporated. Taste the dressing, add a little more lemon juice or mustard to taste. Season with salt and pepper if you feel it needs it.
Place chicken, parsley and chives in the bowl and coat well with the dressing.
Then add lettuce, pecans and grapes and give it a light toss to mix the ingredients.
Serve with crusty bread.
The dessert I created is my ultimate entertainer’s cheat dessert. It takes next to no time to prepare. The most time consuming portion of this recipe is giving the waffles a light toast. For this to work you need the thick Belgian waffles, those square flattish things just wont cut it.
The waffles are topped with smashed Ferrero Raffaello chocolates, a generous dollop of extra thick cream and fresh strawberries. It truly is a winning combination. It was perfect with a glass of Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc.
Quick Strawberries & Cream Waffles
- 4 Belgian waffles the thick kind
- 12 Ferrero Raffaello
- 300 grams container of extra thick cream often referred to as dollop cream
- 2 punnets strawberries cut in half
Give the waffles a quick toast on either side under the grill. Place on individual serving plates. Top each waffle with 3 smashed Ferrero Raffaello balls. Then add a decent dollop of cream on top of these. Top generously with fresh strawberries.
To decorate, sprinkle some of the coconut from the Ferrero Raffaello balls or light dusting of icing sugar/powdered sugar
This would have to be one of the simplest two course dinners to whip up for four people. The salad is quite substantial and I find it adequate for a main when served with crusty bread and butter. The dessert is quite generous, your guests definitely wont be left feeling hungry.
All up the salad takes between 10 – 15 minutes to prepare and dessert 5 minutes at most. Add a bottle or two of Wither Hills wine and then add some of your favourite music to the mix. How easy have I just made your mid week entertaining!
Belly Rumbles would like to acknowledge its partnership with Wither Hills in regard to this post.
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