Sometimes, when entertaining, one just has to be really ambitious. Simple, easy-to-prepare parties and dinners are lovely, but the guaranteed way to be remembered is to put on a really impressive and extensive feast. Of course, this does carry an inherent risk. For example, once they’ve been broken, heirloom dishes can’t be replaced; posh wine is quite expensive; and if crème brulée goes wrong, it tends to go very wrong indeed!
But if one’s ambition goes well, a wonderful and momentous event results; sure to be remembered and spoken of by all involved for years to come. Such was the case for me a few weekends ago, when I put on a Georgian-style dinner for my family. Thankfully, I had my mother’s help in preparing it- otherwise it could have been a disaster, or would have at least been very, very late!
The beautiful table, in all its glory
My wish was to create a luxurious, elegant, and reasonably authentic Georgian meal. Thus, I spent the entire day carefully setting the table and searching for such special things as my grandmother’s family’s silver cutlery and our seldom-used white cloth napkins. When entertaining, I always enjoy planning and setting the table more than the actual cooking- I find it much less tedious and daunting! But this dinner was one of the most enjoyable I have ever organized, and both food and tablescape turned out beautifully.
To create a suitably grand appearance, I used a fantastic blue and gold damask tablecloth and heirloom plates from the 19th century- how appropriate! Each place setting had two glasses, one for water and one for alcohol, and the napkins were folded into the water-glasses with a flourish.
It took me quite some time to gather together everything seen on this table, but the result was worth it!
I also added some hand-made place cards which gave a perfect, old-fashioned touch. Thank goodness for my knowledge of calligraphy!
The table was further adorned with a candle-lit centrepiece complete with flowers from the garden, and fresh fruit piled high on silver dishes.
The centrepiece was lush and inviting
Now we come to the true climax of any meal: the food. To drink, I offered Jamaica rum, gin, and sauvignon. Of these three, I felt rum was the absolute necessity- after all, the Golden Age of Sail commenced at the end of Georgian times, and the navy’s love for rum is legendary.
The choice of alcohol is another period touch
My beloved tin of F&M Jubilee tea… the tea was served alongside dessert
A soup course came first, in the form of a delightfully green pea soup with sour cream and crispy bacon. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better soup- this was incredible. It was creamy and delicate in flavour, and was the perfect appetizer for such a refined feast!
The exquisite colour of the soup added to the table decor!
The main course included a wonderful Welsh onion cake, which is one of my all-time favourite recipes, and a true culinary masterpiece: beef Wellington. There was no way I could choose anything but beef Wellington- since it’s a real treat and its namesake is one of the Georgian era’s greatest heroes!
Contrary to what the TV series Hell’s Kitchen might suggest, beef Wellington wasn’t terribly hard to execute. I did have some trouble finding a cut of beef suitable to be used for the Wellington, and even after a troublesome search I don’t think I bought quite the right thing, but the dish was delicious anyway. The pastry was crispy, the beef juicy, and the mushroom-and-liver paté one of the tastiest things imaginable- and I don’t even actually like mushrooms! It just wasn’t perhaps as photogenic as Gordon Ramsay might want!
The onion cake: just a very basic combination of onions, potatoes, and butter, but so scrumptious!
The glorious beef Wellington
Neat rum does have considerable strength to it, but it was great and manageable alongside a heavy dish like beef Wellington
A fresh and beautiful trifle was served up for dessert. It’s such a classic English dessert, and has been loved for hundreds of years. Its inclusion of fruit also made me and my dinner-guests feel a little less guilty about having had so much of the previous courses!
Trifle was first mentioned in a book from 1596. Four centuries later, it’s still a favourite
I was so pleased with the success of my Georgian feast! It was ambitious, and there were a few small hitches in its preparation (to be expected), but the result was brilliant. Every once in a while, it really does pay off to commit to trying something really fancy!