By my partner Chris Hale

by tom bootyman

Not sure what to cook when having friends around for dinner? How about getting them involved in helping you create an authentic menu?

We love having friends around for dinner, and I love an excuse to get creative with the menu. However, I always feel that everyone has more fun if they have some sort of input. So, I came up with an idea to do exactly that!

I simply ask each guest to choose a cuisine and core ingredient for each course, so if there are 6 people eating, there will be 6 cuisines and core ingredients for each course (it is fine if they are repeated in any way). I then draw at random a cuisine and core ingredient at random for each course, giving me the foundation for a menu in which I can get creative on.

We even did it for an alternative Christmas dinner this year. After the draw, this is what I ended up with: Starter – British, mushrooms; Main – British, Lobster; Dessert – Italian, Chocolate. A potentially very exciting menu, all there was a chance of Palestinian shell fish for starter, which would have tested my menu creation skills.

As for our Christmas dinner, it looked like this:

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Starter – Mushroom soup, with buckwheat bread and sage butter, served to look like tea and biscuits.
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Main – Pan fried lobster with champagne soufflé with asparagus.

Lobster cooking on Christmas DAy

Dessert – strawberry panna cotta with strawberry reduction, chocolate soil and honeycomb covered by a white chocolate dome.

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This menu went down a treat. Everyone felt part of the process and was eager to see what was made.

It makes it more interesting for me as the chef too as I am constantly challenged and I really enjoy the creative process.