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Quality Ingredients are Essential

Want to be an excellent home cook or hobby chef? The most important thing you need to know is that the best quality ingredients are essential to any memorable meal.

At a point in time, I wanted to cook up the most splendid meals and complex concoctions. Much time went into finding recipes of startling intricacy involving multiple cooking procedures and dozens of ingredients. I had visions of beaming guests enjoying perfectly paired wines and enjoying fascinating dinner conversation.

The problem with this is that the meals quickly become prohibitively expensive, or otherwise, you make the mistake of buying less expensive ingredients. But we don’t all have bottomless pots of money to finance our entertaining dreams. So what is the solution?

Again, it comes down to ingredients. Rather have a few outstanding components and spend your money wisely where it matters. The ingredients that will be the stars of your table must only be the best.

The easiest way to achieve this is by using classical but simple pairings for starters and allowing the food to shine in its own right. Examples might include parma ham with melon or prawns with avocado. They are simple to prepare and where dressings and such must accompany the dish they can be prepared well in advance.

This advice will help you with the main meal as well. Buy high quality meat and poultry, and if possible, look for free-range and organic food. It might sound crazy, but beef that has lived in a field and eaten a natural diet of grass, will have more intense flavour. Quite apart from any ethical considerations (which will be dealt with at a later date) you will be rewarded with successful catering.

There is no need to then complicate your proteins with complex sauces, numerous starches and complicated combinations of accompanying vegetables. Aspiring chef’s often make the mistake of serving salads, vegetables, pastas and risotto with their mains which just confuses the taste buds and leaves little enduring memory of what was eaten.

Think back to the best meals you have ever enjoyed and you’ll remember specific ingredients or components – you are unlikely to remember convoluted mixtures of multiple flavours.

When meals are too complicated, they often fail to impress because just making a little bit of everything does not really indicate much thought into the balance of a meal. Rather focus your attentions on a few, delicious combinations and the freshest ingredients.

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Our Gourmet Christmas Menu

Our Gourmet Christmas Menu

Have you ever been suddenly placed under great pressure to deliver a flawless meal in no time at all? I was recently put in exactly that position after a family discussion resulted in the decision that Christmas Eve was to be hosted at our home for the entire family. Six adults had to be fed a memorable meal of the most exquisite quality and flavours. Now, with just a few days to go until the big occasion, how on earth were we supposed to find suitable, high quality ingredients?

Everybody knows that a few days before Christmas, most of the best ingredients have been bought and the wilted remnants on the shelves will only be sparingly stocked up. It is the December holidays and deliveries wind down for the year – even those poor, delivery drivers must have a holiday, despite the fact that it makes grocery shopping for the festive season an operation that must be planned with military precision.

So after much thought, squeezed into a few pressurized hours, we decided on our menu, which was to consist of four courses. There was also only one place where we would get the quality of ingredients we needed in this time frame. But luckily, it was the same place that we buy many of our ingredients from for catering purposes, as well as our monthly meat, fish and chicken shopping.

And they will deliver, after quickly shopping in their online store!

The Gourmet Food Shop sells best quality food products and delivers to your door for the same price you would pay in a high-end grocery store. They can apparently do this because they buy huge bulk volumes and many of their products are imported directly. They have no direct store front and so don’t have the costs involved with operating a shop, such as rent and cashier staff. Whatever the details, I just know that they are the place to go for quality meat, poultry and seafood.

Here were our four courses:

Salad of tiger prawns and citrus wedges, with lettuce and avocado cubes, lightly dressed with tangy citrus, sweet honey and walnut oil.

Mixed Wild Mushrooms, sautéed with sweet onion, served on bruschetta with caramelised baby tomatoes.

Quickly seared imported Norwegian Salmon, served on a warm bed of Lentils with Bacon with Green Peppercorn Sauce.

Pear and Almond Cream Tart with a Mocha Cream Pot.

Click on any course to go to the full recipe!

The meal was a roaring success and the beautiful ingredients were the star of the show. You can have the best recipe book in the world, but without the best ingredients, it will not succeed.

In our menu, we had portioned and prepared the citrus and made the dressing for the first course of giant prawn salad.

For the second course, the mushrooms and sweet onion (shallots if you can get them) had been portioned in separate containers and chopped.

For the third course, the first stage of preparing the lentils had been completed and bits of bacon already fried. The salmon had also been portioned and prepared.

The dessert course was all prepared beforehand and was simply garnished before serving.

This approach will left us with maximum time for our guests and to enjoy our evening with them.