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Good Food for Friends: over 175 recipes and ideas for easy entertaining    by Orlando Murrin Amazon.com order for
Good Food for Friends
by Orlando Murrin
Order:  USA  Can
BBC Books, 2004 (2004)
Softcover
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Introduction tells us that these 175 recipes from the BBC Good Food Magazine are designed for 'relaxed entertaining' so that hosts can enjoy a convivial occasion as much as guests, and avoid tearing their hair out over fussy food preparation. Sounds good to me. The cookbook includes a guide to menu planning, notes on wine selection, suggestions for preparation ahead of time, and a variety of other useful tips. Preparation and cooking times are included for each recipe, as well as the number served, and recommended wines.

The book begins with basic recipes for home-made Stocks, Marinades, Pan Sauces, and SablÚs (to serve with desserts). Next come Soups - Pea and watercress sounds tasty for a cool autumn evening, as does Smoked haddock chowder, and Mushroom and duck soup. Suggested soup garnishes include Potato croutons and Deep-fried herbs - must try those. I love Starters, and am tempted by Stilton patÚ with celery and walnut salad, or Thai prawn salad. The full page color picture entices me to try Individual smoked salmon pots, a classy opening to a dinner party. Lunches & light meals are next, for mid-day entertaining. Goats' cheese salad with roasted vegetables includes green lentils and looks 'full of contrasting textures and flavours' as advertized. 'Caesar salad in a Parmesan crust' appears elegant and appetizing.

For Fish & seafood main courses, we're advised to 'buy it fresh, keep the cooking simple and the flavourings few'. Cod with golden mash and sherry sauce appeals to me, as do Pan-fried tuna steaks with baba ghanoush, Salmon and watercress puff, and Smoked haddock and leek risotto. Delicious! We eat a lot of chicken, so Poultry & game caught my eye. Chicken and olive casserole made me salivate, as did Spicy chicken with mint raita and Peppered duck with red wine gravy. Meat main courses next. My son loves rack of lamb, so we'll definitely try Rack of lamb with an apricot and mustard crust. Moroccan lamb burgers will make a spicy addition to our barbecue repertoire, as will Caribbean barbecued jerk ribs. And how about Venison with herbed pumpin wedges (if you can find the venison) for a change at Thanksgiving?

Vegetables & salads are key elements in any successful dinner party. Green beans with crispy Parma ham look yummy. Though we rarely eat cabbage, the combination of Cabbage and leeks with mustard seeds appeals. Pink grapefruit and walnut salad looks light and digestible, and Warm wild mushroom and duck salad is just the thing for a cold winter evening. A page on The Perfect Mash (mashed potatoes) gave me new ideas - not quite sure about Blue cheese and bacon mash, but I will try Sun-dried tomato, basil and pine nut mash. Finally, my downfall, Desserts. Love the look (and anticipate the taste) of Baked nectarines and cherries, or Goats' cheese, pear and blackberry tart. And I know the kids will enjoy Melting chocolate puddings and Christmas chocolate roulade.

Good Food for Friends is a compendium of accessible recipes for busy hosts, which don't stint on important ingredients like home-made stocks and fresh herbs. The menu planning section at the back pulls it all together with suggestions that range from the 'Elegant evening' to a 'Teenager's birthday party'. Our copy will get good use.

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