Five Courses for Eight People

Posted By Stephen

Last Saturday, Kerri and I cooked dinner for some friends; there were eight of us in total. We eventually came up with a five-course menu. Which could be called seven courses if you counted nuts and a little shot of watercress soup that we served between the starter and main course.

At some point we had decided that this sort of dinner was a good idea, and then the conversation had turned to wine. As these things often do, the result was a competition: old world vs new world. We would have two wines with each course – one old world and one new – and would vote which matched the food the best. So Kerri and I did some organising and preparation and then arrived at our hosts’ lovely house at 2pm to start preparations and cooking.

Due to a lot of rushing around and cooking and serving, etc, the pictures aren’t great, but do give an idea of what the food was like.


First up was smoked mackerel pate, served on a little piece of melba toast and a slice of prosciutto. These were inspired by something similar that we had eaten at the Bull and Last, except with the toast instead of soda bread; we tried both and our pate went better with the toast. These toasts didn’t turn out quite as melba-ish as we’d planned, but time was too short to start again. We had tried to find air dried Cumbrian ham to use instead of the prosciutto, but it was hard to find in London and ordering from a web site would have meant paying twice as much in postage as for the ham itself. These worked out very well and tasted great; they were served as pre-dinner snacks rather than as a formal course.

The Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc which was the new world wine choice went very well with these. The Donnhoff Nahe riesling which was the old world choice was really good, but wasn’t the best match for the food. 1-0 to new world.


Next up was the main starter. Slow roasted pork belly, which had been roasted at 140C for four hours. Afterwards we removed the skin and put it back into the oven to crisp up, which worked very well. That and the salting it the day before and pouring boiling water over it before cooking… we tend to take the crackling quite seriously! With this, pan-fried scallops and some lightly cumin-scented cauliflower puree.

The new world wine choice for this was Fromm Clayvin pinot noir – another New Zealand offering and a nice wine and went well with the pork belly. The old world wine was a white Chateauneuf du Pape from Domaine Chante Cigale which was a better match for the dish as a whole. 1-1 draw.


The quick between-courses course of watercress soup didn’t have a wine match with it.


Next up was “lamb two ways” which was a roast shoulder with garlic and rosemary, along with a pan-fried cutlet. The lamb was from Dorset and really good. We should have taken a picture of a neater plate for this dish though. The lamb was perched on top of dauphinoise potatoes, and was served with baby carrots and some green beans with hazelnuts. There was a sauce made from some of the rosemary-and-garlic lamb juices with mint and capers added to it.

The new world wine choice was Kanonkop Paul Sauer, a South African Bordeaux blend. This had a lovely nose and went very well with the lamb, the tannins balancing out the richness of the lamb shoulder and the potatoes. The old world choice was Fattoria le Sorgenti Gaiaccia which is an Italian blend in the “super Tuscan” style, i.e. traditional sangiovese blended with international grape varieties, in this case merlot. This also went very well with the lamb and developed some lovely savoury flavours in the glass that complemented the sauce. When voting on this course, it turned out to be a draw, with four votes each. So still on a draw overall…


Dessert was lemon posset with blackberries and shortbread. We had planned to make tuile biscuits to go with this but had failed in our attempts, so made shortbread instead, which worked out well.

New world wine was Essensia Orange Muscat from the USA, which almost matched the lemon, but had quite an orangey note to it that didn’t quite go. The old world wine was Chateau La Tour Blanche Sauternes, which was voted as the better match; its flavours and sweetness matched the lemon posset and its full body matched the creamy texture. Could only afford a half bottle of it though, sadly. 2-1 to old world.

The final course was a selection of British cheeses, which we sadly neglected to photograph. The cheeses were Stichelton (similar to Stilton, but made in a slightly different way to produce a fuller but gentler taste), Keen’s cheddar, a goat cheese that might have been Ragstone but I can’t remember now, and of course Stinking Bishop.

The new world choice was a Concha y Toro Carmenere from Chile, which went well with the cheese. The old world was a 20 year old Tawny Port, which I enjoyed but most people felt it was too sweet after we’d just had dessert wine with dessert. So the new world won that one, bringing it to 2-2 overall!

There was brief discussion of some sort of tie-breaker, but nothing really materialised. We had a really interesting range of wines across the board, and certainly some that we wouldn’t have chosen had we not been trying to match them up to something in particular. So a good job all round on that front and the draw was probably a fair outcome.

With two wines per course and five courses, there were of course a lot of glasses on the table:


Oct 24th, 2009

5 Comments to 'Five Courses for Eight People'

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  1. LexEat! said,

    Wow – what a brilliant idea and a fabulous night! looked great. No Aussie wines though!
    .-= LexEat!´s last blog ..Two yummy dinners =-.

  2. Kerri said,

    Thanks Lex! Stephen did mention that he thought one of the wines may have been Australian when he heard the line-up but it turned out to be from somewhere else. He was in charge of old world though so not much he could have done!

  3. Yamit said,

    Hey Kerri, we really wanted to serve the Australian Cyril Henschke Cabernet Franc Merlot with the lamb but sadly just couldn’t find a way to fit it within our agreed budget

    We also thought about an Australian Port but decided on the controversial (though successful) Carmenere…

    Thanks again for a lovely evening!!

  4. Helen said,

    So erm, how do I get invited round to your house for dinner then?!
    .-= Helen´s last blog ..Thai-style Stuffed Squid =-.

  5. Lizzie said,

    Blimey! That looks brilliant. I’d never have enough glasses…
    .-= Lizzie´s last blog ..Mackerel à la Lyonnaise =-.

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