We've got a friend coming around for dinner tonight, and I am not in love with my menu. I love the individual elements, but it just isn't hanging together for me.
I started from a position of roast pork for the main. That was pretty easy - I love roast pork, she loves roast pork, my husband doesn't mind it on occasion. Further, a while ago at the Rose and Crown I had a piece of pork belly, which I suspect of having been cooked in liquid up to the top of the meat, with the skin left out to crackle, and I have had a piece of lovely pork belly waiting in the freezer for just such an occasion.
The accompaniments were a bit trickier. I eventually decided that, since I am having a lot of liquid around the meat, I should take advantage of it and do a sort of boulangere potatoes around it. I thought I was being clever and innovative and doing a celeriac and potato boulangere, but I see Antony Worrall Thompson beat me to it. Then some steamed sugar snaps with halved cherry tomatoes tossed through. Should be good.
What I intend to do is layer up the potato, onions and celeriac, leaving a bit of a divot in the middle of the tin, put the pork on the divot, (having first done the boiling water trick to the scored skin to help it crackle) so it is partly on and surrounded by the veg, then add a mixture of white wine and veg stock up to the level of the skin. I'm going to rub in a combination of fennel pollen, salt and crushed white peppercorns. A slow oven for 3 or 4 hours and all should be well, although I may need to remove the potatoes and turn up the heat to crisp the skin at the end.
Our friend is quite picky about puddings - she likes chocolate mousse, fruit salad and creme brulee. I am anxious about creme brulee and only really like fruit salad with loads of cointreau (our friend is teetotal) so that left chocolate mousse. I've been waiting for an opportunity to try an After 8 mousse similar to this one but without the brandy - a ganache of cream and After 8 mints. I am fascinated by how the gloop in those mints can become a mousse! I think it'll be tasty - and very rich - but I'm not sure really about how well it goes with my pork.
So that leaves something to start with. I decided not to do a proper starter, because that really is a lot of food, so we don't need 3 substantial courses, but there does have to be a little something to nibble while I finish cooking and while we chat and have a drink. I was also a bit anxious that the menu wasn't colourful enough - brown meat and potatoes, green sugar snaps, brown mousse. A beetroot or a carrot dip would have been ideal, but my husband is funny about beetroot and carrot didn't occur to me until just now. So we are having guacamole and tortilla chips. More green, but since it tastes fab, and has flecks of red and darker green through it, it'll just have to do. Anyway, due to the non-alcohol drinking of our friend, she'll most likely be on orange juice (she has a choice of apple, orange and diet coke) so that will make things prettier.