Imagine that you are just on your way home after a hard day’s work and your husband calls you on your cell phone to warn you that he bumped into some old friends and has invited the two couples home for dinner. Well as you can’t give him a ‘clout over the earhole’ (as the English sometimes say!) you just have to do your best to create a decent dinner fit enough for guests and with very little warning.
Stop off at your late night supermarket and buy 3 avocados, 3 oranges, cinnamon (if you don’t already have some at home), can of spray whipped cream, new potatoes, some broccoli, 6 slices of honey roast ham, small can of pineapple cubes, 6 bread rolls, 3 bottles of red wine and six cans of bear.
You are obviously going to give them avocado vinaigrette to start with followed by honey roast ham and ending with sliced oranges.
The minute you get home put the beer in the fridge and then fill a pan with water, drop all the new potatoes into it with some salt and get them to boiling point, which once achieved you will lower the heat so that they just carry on simmering.
Meanwhile peel the oranges, slice them and arrange them nicely on a round dish or plate, sprinkle a moderate amount of sugar over them followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon, cover the dish with cling film and put it in the fridge.
At this point the potatoes will still be simmering, so you now have time to go and lay the table placing the bread rolls on their plates and filling up your butter dish. If you have a garden or terrace rush out to pick some small flowers and put them in a vase in the middle of the table as this always makes a dinner table look more appetising. Open up the three bottles of red wine so that they can air and put them to one side. Now leave the potatoes in the pan but turn off the heat and cover the pan with a lid. When you are ready to serve them you will only have to boil them for one more minute to warm them up.
Place the slices of honey roast ham on an oval platter surrounded at the edges with the pineapple cubes and also cover with cling film and put in the fridge.
It is time to make the vinaigrette dressing which is three quarters oil and one quarter vinegar, some salt and pepper, a tiny dash of garlic powder and then one spoon of honey and one spoon powdered mustard (or normal if you don’t have the powdered type). Place all these ingredients in a glass jar with a top and shake vigorously until it all blends well and the oil no longer rises to the top. This is ready and only needs a few more shakes just before you serve it.
There are a few more things left for you to do but these can only be done about 10 minutes before you are ready to sit down to your meal because if you were to open the avocados for example too soon they would start to go black and the whipped cream round the edge of the orange platter would start to lose its consistency. Plus the broccoli only needs about five minutes in boiling water or else it will turn mushy.
When you are ready to eat cut each avocado in half, placing one half on each plate, shake the vinaigrette mixture a couple of times more and pour into the cavity of the avocado and serve. While you and your quests are eating this you will have put the boiled potatoes to boil again and also will have put the broccoli in a pan of boiling water (with salt) as well.
Bring out the platter of honey roast ham, let every one take a serving with some pineapple cubes and then go back to get the boiled potatoes and the broccoli to which you will have added a knob of butter to each and bring this out so that they can also serve themselves.
Before you sit down to this course bring out the dish with the oranges and put it to one side so that it can warm up again a bit as it were.
Once you have all finished your second course and it is time to serve the dessert just take off the cling film and with your can of spray whipped cream go about squirting a nice and generous decoration of cream all around the edges and maybe a spiral of cream just in the middle of the dish and serve.
And that is it – I think your guests will have been left happy with their meal, the ingredients didn’t cost that much and it really didn’t involve too much work on your part and so in the end you might even spare your husband from giving him a piece of your mind!
And lastly, if your unexpected guests turn up not so much just for a meal but actually to spend a night or two in your house, you also have to be prepared and act as graciously as you can!
Some of you will have a guest bedroom, in which case it will just be a matter of pulling out some clean sheets and towels for them to take to their bedroom. Explain to them how the heating works. Where the necessary items in the kitchen are. And most importantly that your special peanut butter in the fridge, which you place a special mail order for, is out of bounds! If you don’t make this clear, you will regret it and you may end up no longer considering them to be your friends!
On the other hand if you don’t have the luck to have a guest bedroom, then you shoud keep one of those inflatable beds that are so advertised on TV these days, stored away in one of your wardrobes, precisely for this kind of occasion. They have an incorporated air pump which only takes about five minutes to inflate. Place this bed in your sitting room or dining room, give them the same clean sheets and towels which you would have done if you had had a guest bedroom and wish them a good night’s sleep!