• Something to celebrate - I think

    Having had all the excitement of MasterChef, firstly with the filming in 2010 and then the relief and fun of everyone finding out all about it when it went on air, life could have felt rather flat once it was all over. Luckily though, I had another significant event to "look forward to" as my 40th birthday was fast approaching.

    Once I had come to terms with the fact that there was nothing I could do to delay this imminent milestone, I decided that the best thing would be to embrace it as an opportunity to have a big, wonderful party. It felt like a good time to have a bit of a celebration. We hadn't entertained lots of our friends at once since our wedding and so many amazing things had happened since then we were probably overdue a big bash.

    After much deliberation, a few disappointments and at one point, frankly, despair, we ended up with what was my absolutely ideal scenario for a party; a beautiful barn deep in the countryside which just happened to have a catering kitchen only yards away. Of course there was never any question of anyone else doing the cooking for my party. Crackers as it may seem, I was absolutely determinted to do it myself but did at least recognise that a little bit of help might be needed. Not only am I lucky enough to have a small army of very talented sisters and an endlessly generous mother, but I also made a few friends recently who I thought might be quite handy in the kitchen. Peter, Polly and Jackie, all from the MasterChef Top Ten, agreed that a party was definitely in order and agreed to come along not only to dance the night away but also to give me a helping hand with the service.

    And so the scene was set for 61 of us to gather in deepest West Berkshire, dressed up to the nines and ready to make the most of the fact that the nearest neighbours were several fields away. My nephew behind the bar lavished our guests with champagne, my children, niece and some of their friends handed round the canapes, and Johnny ran around trying to work out the volume control on the stereo system. The original beams in the wonderfully unspoilt barn needed very little adornment but we had decked the place with fairy lights and lanterns which, along with the jam jars of hedgerow flowers all over the enormous E shaped table, had a distinctly magical effect.

    Once everyone was sitting down, Peter, Polly, Jackie and I plated up the main course (very low roast beef fillet, wonderfully rare throughout, served with crushed new potatoes, Polly's salsa verde and green salad) which was honestly some of the best fun I have had in years. We were all on very fine form but, as though Gregg and John were watching, sped through service quickly and suprisingly professionally. Pudding (a great excuse to wheel out that pomegranate cake) and speeches paved the way for Johnny's remarkable cocktails which helped to shield us from the worst of the draughts.

    A great evening was, I hope, had by all and most certainly by me. It's amazing what can be achieved with a little help from one's friends. I'm jolly lucky to have such good ones.



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I'll be blogging regularly to keep everyone up to date with how things are going with the cookery demos and including lots of tempting recipes. Let me know what you think!

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