Let me entertain you; Jenny Longhurst learns how to cater for guests without the stress.
EVEN if Christmas is the only time of the year you entertain, there is no need to worry says expert cook Tina Moss.
s "It can be easier to impress than you think," said Tina whose golden rule is forward planning.
"When you're entertaining, the important thing is not to leave too much to do after guests arrive," she stressed.
"After all, you want to be able to spend time with friends with a glass of wine in your hand without getting into a flap." Tina, who runs Cornerhouse Cookery, in Heol Don, Whitchurch, advises sticking with familiar recipes or something you've made a couple of times to make entertaining run smoothly.
"A starter like this mushroom soup can bemadeaday ahead," she said.
"Just add the luxury touches ofmarsalaandcream when it's time to heat and serve.
"Or you could dispense with a sit-down starter altogether," she added "and prepare some canapes and nibbles in advance."
Tina has devised a main course here which is simple yet a little bit different and which, apart from the fish, can be in the oven while guests are enjoying the soup.
"Fennel is great with fish," she explained.
"Some people aren't keen on the strong aniseed flavour but baking it like this gets rid of that overpowering taste and makes it mild and mellow instead.
"Roast tomatoes are a lovely sweet addition to the meal and also provide a little bit of sauce."
Food has been a passion forTina ever since she used to help her grandmother in the kitchen from the age of six.
As well as cooking for the family: husband Phillip; daughter Beci, 17, and Evan, 11, and loving to entertain, the former BBC director/producer, launched a cookery school just over a year ago.
She runs classes and one-to-one sessions on all kinds of cooking styles from Indian to Mediterranean, as well as using cookery for corporate teambuilding sessions.
For more details on her school visit www.cornerhousecookery.co.uk Sticky pear and ginger pudding with toffee sauce Serves six Ingredients Three firm pears Juice of half a lemon 100g (4oz) butter plus 120g (5oz) butter 100g (4oz) soft brown sugar plus 120g (5oz) soft brown sugar Five pieces stem ginger chopped into small pieces 40g (1.5oz) black treacle 60g (2oz) golden syrup Three tablespoons syrup from the jar of stem ginger 230g (7oz) self raising flour Two eggs beaten Five tablespoons milk For the sauce: 90g (3.5oz) butter 90g (3.5oz) light muscovado or soft brown sugar 100ml (4fl oz) double cream Method Lightly grease a 20cm (8ins) non-stick cake tin.
Put the lemon juice into a bowl. Peel, quarter and core pears then cut each quarter in two or three pieces. Put into the lemon juice and mix gently to cover.
Put the first 100g of butter and sugar into a saucepan and melt gently until they've amalgamated.
Pour the mixture into the cake tin.
Arrange pears on top and sprinkle with the chopped ginger.
Put remaining 120g of butter and sugar into a pan with the treacle, golden syrup and stem ginger syrup and melt gently until amalgamated.
Put flour into a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, add the milk to the beaten eggs.
Pour treacle mixture into the flour, add egg mixture and mix until smooth.
Pour over the pears and ginger and bake at gas mark three 325F 170C for 50-60 minutes.
Turn out on to a serving plate so that the pears are on top.
Serve warm with the sticky toffee sauce and cream.
To make the sauce, put butter, sugar and cream on a low heat until sugar has dissolved.
Let the sauce thicken and darken a little and become sticky.
Luxury mushroom soup Serves six Ingredients 80g (3oz) butter One large onion finely chopped 500g (1lb) mixed mushrooms finely chopped 30g (1oz) plain flour 900ml (1.5pts) chicken or mushroom stock A few sprigs thyme 120ml (5fl oz) marsala or madeira 140ml (6fl oz) double cream Salt and pepper to taste Chopped parsley to garnish Method Melt butter in a large pan, add onion and cook on a medium heat for 20 minutes until golden brown.
Add mushrooms and cook for three minutes then stir in flour and cook for one minute.
Add thyme leaves, stir in stock and season.
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Blend and adjust seasoning.
Add wine and cream and heat gently.
Serve garnished with chopped parsley Seared salmon with fennel gratin and roasted cherry tomatoes Serves six Ingredients Six salmon fillets Four tablespoons olive oil Salt and pepper to taste For the fennel: Two large fennel bulbs Four large eggs beaten One 250ml (8fl oz) tub creme fraiche Six tablespoons grated Parmesan Salt and pepper to taste For the tomatoes: 18 cherry tomatoes halved One tablespoon olive oil One teaspoon balsamic vinegar Two cloves garlic chopped One sprig rosemary or thyme Method Cut fennel into quarters, core and grate.
Put grated fennel into a large mixing bowl, add eggs and creme fraiche and mix well.
Add four tablespoons of the cheese and seasoning and mix again.
Pour into a buttered gratin dish, sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake in a pre-heated oven at gas mark four, 350F 180C for 35-40 minutes.
Place tomatoes on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and herb leaves.
Roast at gas mark four, 350F, 180C for 10-20 minutes until soft.
Serve at room temperature Brush salmon with oil and seasoning and cook, skin side first, in a heavy based pan on a medium heat for four minutes.
Turn and cook for two to three minutes on the other side.