Friday, 4 April 2014

A Cassoulet to Celebrate

This morning when I woke up, three innocent little faces were peering in at me. They were all silent, all wide awake, and I noticed that two of those innocent faces had a kaleidoscope of colours on their hands. A clue, that something involving colouring pens had happened while I was asleep. My first thought was uh oh! I knew Ross, the eldest at 7 was too grown up and sensible to colour on anything other than paper, but Callum, at almost 2… he can get very creative on floors and walls… Before I had time to think about where to look for those artistic creations around the house I was presented with two adorable homemade cards, today is Mother’s day! Not only that, David my husband as a mother’s day gift had designed an amazing logo for this blog, thank you David! There were a lot of creative things going on this morning while I was far away in the land of nod.

Art works.

My new logo.

This weekend happened to be a weekend of celebrations, as well as Mother’s Day, we celebrated my mother in law Marie’s birthday (a special birthday, without mentioning any numbers!). All of our family gathered here yesterday evening for a big family dinner. Before everyone arrived tables were pushed together and chairs moved around to comfortably fit ten people. 

Champagne and beer on ice.

Last week while thinking about what to cook I decided on a Cassoulet to celebrate the occasion. It seemed appropriate, there were a lot of us, I could prepare almost all of the dish the day before, and I could serve it on the night just out of the oven with no fuss. A Cassoulet for anyone who isn’t familiar is a casserole originating from Castlenaudry in the south of France containing a variety of meats and white beans with a breadcrumb crust. Even better my dad had a recipe! He had cooked it for us before and I knew it was delicious. The week leading up to this weekend was rainy and cold, and while the weather wasn’t ideal for the end of March, it was absolutely perfect for the dinner party, a Cassoulet is a real winter warmer. After deciding on the main dish for the evening my usual homemade chocolate birthday cake would not suffice. It was far too rich following such a robust meal. The birthday cake would have to be lighter and fruit based so I decided to make one of my favourite desserts, a prosecco and red berry trifle. While I admit a trifle is a bit unorthodox as a birthday cake I thought in this case it might just work. It was sweet and fruity with a hint of prosecco, and a far better dessert pairing with a Cassoulet. Now all I had to do was disguise this fruity, boozy, creamy dessert as a birthday cake, and I would create the transformation with a cake stand and the tallest birthday candles I could find! (Thanks for the candles Mum!)

Almost done.

Your starter for 10…

When everyone arrived canapés were served before we all sat down to eat the main meal. These small bite size starters go perfectly with a glass of Champagne and always add a touch of style to any party. For me canapés say ‘It’s time to celebrate’. I prepared two for the evening, smoked salmon and horseradish crème fraîche on potato farls, and pâté on pita toasts garnished with dates, pecans and chives. Canapés are a stress free starter that again can be prepared before the guests arrive. With all the preparation, serving dinner on the night was extremely easy. But I suppose with three boys, and two under 2, it had to be!

Bon appetite.

Cassoulet - Piece de resistance!

I often think how lucky we are to have our family living only a stones throw away and for this reason nights like this can happen often. Cooking for family and friends is one of my favourite things to do, but cooking a meal for a birthday celebration is a bit more special.

Trifle transformation.

Finally it was time for the cake (or the transformed trifle) and customary singing. After that the music got turned up – or maybe it was turned down slightly… There were some over 50’s at the party remember! But whatever volume the music was at the laughter was even louder, ‘Laughter is brightest where food is best’ I love this quote, and I think it was a good sign that the Cassoulet was a success.

Birthday girl.

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