• When I was asked to do a dinner for 30 people in a marque recently I thought it sounded like a fun and reasonably straightforward job so agreed to do it straightaway. The hostess was keen for the food to be unusual and surprising which is the most exciting brief you can be given and had me straight in the kitchen experimenting with unusual flavours and textures. I worked on a wonderful new starter involving beetroot, apple and horseradish; a classic combination I know but this was going to be presented in a very different and rather exciting way. Unfortunately, the host couldn't quite overcome his aversion to beetroot so the world launch of my horseradish meringues will have to wait for another day.

    Once I had overcome my disappointment (and come up with an alternative starter) the only teensy worry I had was that despite this being a rather impromptu and last minute party, everyone seemed to be available and before I knew it the numbers had more than doubled. Since my MasterChef days I haven't really tackled cooking on a very big scale so was slightly nervous at the thought of plating up 3 beautiful courses for 67 guests especially when everyone I asked to help me was, unlike those invited to the party, resolutely busy. Very luckily for me, my sister Clare had no qualms about joining me in the service tent and for her (working as she does for top party design and event caterer By Word of Mouth) these numbers must have seemed like small fry. At the final hour I managed to pull together a great team which was a huge relief; those plates waiting to be filled with the starter seemed to go on for ever.

    As I discovered on MasterChef though, the minute you take food and cooking out of a solidly housed kitchen the scope for disasters increases dramatically. The same equipment had been used without any problems the night before but on my night the generator obviously decided that enough was enough and kept cutting out, leaving us first with only 2 out of 3 ovens working, then 1, then none. The valiant venue team worked non stop to try and rectify the problem but several times the entire power circuit went and at one point I was wondering if we might be able to get away with just a starter and pudding both of which were, mercifully, cold. The guests were very audibly enjoying their drinks before dinner so I began to hope that they might put a missing main course down to the Sea Breeze effecting their memory rather than logistical problems behind the scenes.

    After a while we realised that these ovens really could not be relied upon so my valiant sister loaded 6 trays of chump into our client's landrover and went up to the house which, luckily, sports several kitchens. Poor Clare had a hideous time racing from oven to oven testing the meat which for far too long stayed resolutely raw. Eventually though, they were judged to be cooked and were ferried back to the service tent where the power had stayed on long enough for us to finish off the rest of the dish.

    From then on things started to get back on track and although the main course was served very slightly later than planned, everyone could at least be given a gorgeous plate of lamb with aubergine and harissa that at one point was looking so unlikely ever to emerge from the service tent.

    As is so often the case, the more drama you encounter and overcome, the more satisfying the feeling is when the job's done. I'm not sure I would choose to live through those power problems again but I was very proud of us all for coping with the situation and delivering 201 rather beautiful plates of food.

    The starter: Chilled cucumber soup with chilli and coriander crab, pickled cucumber and mint & coriander oil.



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I'll be blogging regularly to keep everyone up to date with how things are going with the cookery demos and including lots of tempting recipes. Let me know what you think!

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