How To Entertain This Month – With Alexandra Dudley

Alexandra Dudley is a food columnist, cookbook author and host of the Come For Supper podcast. In this monthly column, she shares delicious recipes for chic entertaining. This time, it’s a spicy salad, a simple curry to stave off the January chill and a decadent tart for dessert.

January can be a gruelling month. It’s usually cold and very often wet, so I find the best tonic for lifting dampened spirits is to enjoy good food with good friends. The best dinner parties are often the simplest and this month I’m loving an incredibly simple curry. Tomatoes (which are arguably not at their best this time of year) come alive when roasted and bring a jammy acidity to a basic curry base. This is a good one for cleaning out the spice cupboard – I use cumin, coriander, turmeric and garam masala in regular rotation at this time of year and recommend making space for them in your kitchen. Use them in curries, dahls, soups and sprinkled over roots before they roast in the oven. 

I’ve suggested adding squash to this curry. I like to roast it in the oven and place it on top as it looks rather pleasing this way when served. However, one of the joys of this curry base is its versatility. It is very good with fish and chicken, or even with no accompaniment at all – I’ve added a note on how to best enjoy it as so. I suggest a green bean salad to go alongside the curry for a bit of crunchy sweet and spice, while a proper pudding to finish is sure to bring joy – a tart filled with rich chocolate ganache and a ribbon of marmalade. 

I love this with a glass of bubbles and have been enjoying this natural sparkling wine from Christophe Lindenlaub. If you’re opting for a Dry January, I love these Agua De Madre sparkling kefir water drinks. The lemon and ginger one would be perfect with this.


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Charred Bean, Cashew & Coriander Seed Salad

This punchy bean salad is full of good crunch. Frying the coriander seeds gives them an almost popping crunch as well as bringing a wonderfully aromatic flavour to the dressing. I love a hit of chilli, but if you are not fond of spice, remove the seeds from the chillis or omit them from the dressing altogether. It will still taste delicious. You can prepare the beans and dressing the morning before your dinner party and keep cool until it’s time to serve. I think this salad tastes best at room temperature.

Serves
4
Total Time
20 Minutes
Ingredients
450g of green beans
Olive oil
Sea salt
1 heaped tbsp of whole coriander seeds
1 tbsp of runny honey
Juice of one lime
½ clove of grated garlic
3 bird’s eye chillis, finely sliced (remove the seeds if you are sensitive to heat)
1 large handful of coriander leaves
50g of roasted salted cashews, crushed roughly using the base of a jar
Method
Step 1
Place the oven on grill setting turned to its highest heat.
Step 2
Place the beans on a large roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and sea salt and toss to coat using your hands. Grill in the oven for 10-12 minutes checking them every 4 mins or so and giving them a toss to ensure an even cook. They should be cooked and charred in places.
Step 3
Allow them to come to room temperature while you make the dressing.
Step 4
Have a plate lined with kitchen towel ready nearby. Cover the base of a small saucepan or frying pan with olive oil and place over a medium heat. Add the whole coriander seeds and cook for about 30 seconds just until they begin to turn golden. Transfer onto the paper towel lined plate to drain.
Step 5
Combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large bowl along with the runny honey, lime juice, grated garlic, chilli and toasted coriander seeds.
Step 6
Add the beans, coriander leaves and crushed cashews, and toss well. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with more fresh coriander if you like.

Roasted Tomato & Squash Curry

It’s the roasted tomatoes that give this curry its magic. Tomatoes tend to be slightly bland and flavourless at this time of year, but roasting them brings them back to life and creates a gloriously rich and glossy base for this winter curry. Delica squash has a buttery sweet flesh and a nutty skin that is delicious when roasted, but if you can’t get hold of it, onion squash, acorn squash or even butternut squash will do. I’ve kept this plant based but it works very well with a firm white fish such as hake. Just add the fish to the curry base once the spinach has wilted in, then cover and allow it to cook for five to ten minutes. 

To make this with:

Chicken: Begin by browning 4 chicken breasts or thighs cut into pieces. Place oil in the frying pan, cook the chicken until it’s gained colour and remove. Then continue with the base. Add the chicken back to the pan when you add the roasted tomatoes.  

Fish: Use 500-600g of firm white fish, or ask your fish monger for cod cheeks which work wonderfully in this. Once you’ve added the cherry tomatoes, allow the curry to simmer for 10 minutes. Then, add the fish, doing your best to submerge it in the sauce. Cover with a lid and allow the curry to cook for a further 10 minutes until the fish has cooked through.

Serves
4
Total Time
1 Hour
Ingredients
800g of cherry tomatoes
1 delica squash, acorn squash, onion squash or even butternut will do
Olive oil
Sea salt
1 white onion, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
3 bird’s eye chilis, finely chopped (omit if you do not like too much spice)
2 tsp of ground turmeric
1 tsp of curry powder.
1½ tsp of garam masala
1 tsp of ground coriander
1 tsp of ground cumin
400g can of whole plum tomatoes
500ml of vegetable stock
100g of fresh spinach
Juice of 1 lemon
Fresh coriander to serve
Rice to serve
Method
Step 1
Preheat your oven to 225°C Fan.
Step 2
Deseed your squash and slice into large even sized wedges. Place onto a tray, drizzle generously with olive oil, season with salt. Toss to coat and cook for 30-35 minutes until cooked and slightly charred in places.
Step 3
In a separate roasting tray, toss the tomatoes with a good glug of olive oil and sea salt and roast for 25 minutes until cooked, soft and slightly charred. As the tomatoes cook prepare the base of the curry.
Step 4
In a wide deep risotto pan or casserole dish heat a glug of olive oil and cook the onion slowly over a gentle heat until soft (about 7 minutes). Add the garlic, ginger and chillis and cook for a further minute.
Step 5
Add another glug of olive oil along with the ground spices. Stir well and allow the spices to cook of for 1-2 minutes. Then add the tinned tomatoes and stock crushing the tomatoes slightly with the back of a wooden spoon. Bring everything to a simmer and allow the flavours to combine for about 10-15 minutes.
Step 6
When the cherry tomatoes are cooked add these to the curry base. Stir and allow the curry to simmer for a further 10 minutes. Stir in the spinach until wilted down. Add a good pinch of sea salt and the juice of your lemon. Then check for seasoning.
Step 7
Cook the rice according to packet instructions.
Step 8
There are two ways to serve this. You could bring the whole dish to the table. Tumble the cooked squash onto the tomato base, garnish with coriander and allow everyone to help themselves. Or serve individually ladling the tomato curry base into bowls alongside rice and arranging two or three pieces of squash on top. Serve with fresh coriander and lemon or lime wedges.

Chocolate Marmalade Tart

Combining citrus and chocolate, I like to think of this as a dinner party-appropriate version of the Terry’s Chocolate orange. Although double layered, it is incredibly simple to prepare, with the filling only requiring a melt and a mix before being left to cool and set. If you are really pushed for time, you could even buy the pastry. I love to serve this tart with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Serves
8-10
Total Time
5 Hours 20 Minutes
Ingredients
For The Pastry
230g of spelt flour (or regular flour)
1 tbsp of icing sugar
150g of cold butter, cubed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1-2 tbsp of ice cold water
For The Filling
250g of marmalade
300ml of double cream
30g of caster sugar
1 pinch of salt
300g of dark chopped chocolate or chocolate chips
50g of soft butter
Method
Step 1
To make the pastry, place the flour, icing sugar and butter into a food processor. Pulse until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and water and pulse again until it forms a ball.
Step 2
Roll out onto a floured surface to a disc about 2 inches wider than the tin. Line the tart with the pastry and trip the overhanging pastry. Chill in the fridge to chill for 2 hours.
Step 3
Preheat your oven to 180°C Fan. Line the pastry shell with parchment and fill with ceramic baking beans or dry rice. Bake for 15 minutes (this is what is called ‘baking blind’).
Step 4
Remove the parchment paper and beans and bake for a further 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely.
Step 5
Once cooled, warm the marmalade in a saucepan over a low heat until it is in a liquid state. Strain through a sieve to remove any lumps then pour into your cooled tart shell and allow it to set in the fridge.
Step 6
Place the cream, sugar and pinch of salt in a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir to help the sugar dissolve and allow it to come to a simmer.
Step 7
Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and soft butter. Stir until smooth then pour into the tart shell and allow the tart to chill for at least two hours in the fridge.
Step 8
To serve allow the tart to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Grate over fresh orange zest if you wish. Serve with crème fraîche.

For more from Alexandra, follow her @AlexandraDudley or visit AlexandraDudley.com.

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