Has this ever happened to you? A few weeks ago, I messed up on the dinner date, the actual date when I invited 8 friends to join us for a weeknight dinner. This is how it all evolved. I had decided I would cook Moroccan cuisine and use the tagine, it’s always a conversation piece at the dinner table. I informed the guests that I would be cooking the entire meal, but that they would be in charge of the drinks. Theme based dinners are so much fun.
I had started the menu and the prep work a day ahead as there was a lot to get done. Sous chef Bert was at my side helping as we went along. We cooked 2 vegetarian tagines. I hear a ding on our group chat. I jumped into the conversation, “You all best bring your appetites tomorrow as I’m cooking a ton”. The lights flashed, the phone beeped and buzzed repeatedly. Everyone thought I was playing a joke.
The dinner was supposed to have been on that same night, the joke was on me; how and why was I thinking it was the next day? Oops, what a blunder – I asked if everyone was able to come the following day, but a few weren’t able to. What was I to do? I decided to soldier on, I took it on as a challenge! I had no sooner upped my speed when there’s another ding on the phone. One of the guys came to the rescue. “I’ll be there to help you out as soon as I get out of work” he texts and what a God-send he turned out to be, he also happens to be a great cook. He arrived soon after and tackled the chicken tagine on his own. There were 2 more dishes plus the dessert that I had to cook and we had about two and a half hours left before the guests would arrive. Sometimes these glitches are sent to test us I believe 🙂 Another guest pops in and brings ingredients for an Old Fashioned drink, she figured I’d need it. We all scrambled through, got the last minute touches done when we heard the doorbell. It turned out to be a wonderful night after all.
Here are some of the dishes we served that night. Tagine, the classic dish from the region of North Africa is a glorified stew, aromatic, syrupy, zesty and spicy or sometimes even sweet with the addition of dried fruit and honey. The actual vessel it is cooked in is called a tagine. It has a conical lid designed to lock in the moisture and flavors.
Spicy chicken tagine with apricots, rosemary and ginger
Any excuse to use my “animal napkin holders” because after all Morocco IS in Africa, North Africa to be precise 🙂 My mother handed those down to me as she knew I enjoy entertaining. They also came with matching napkins, which I did not use that night. They are beautiful wood carved napkin holders and were purchased when we emigrated to England from Kenya, so they hold a deeper meaning for me. They too are quite a conversation piece at the dinner table.
Last but not least, the dessert actually got cooled in time. It called for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator after inverting it.
Cheesecake flan served with raspberries and blueberries. We saved the Moroccan night after all and everyone went away with smiles on their faces 🙂 Note to self: Send reminders the day before, if it weren’t for the barrage of texts, I’d never have known and the guests would have all showed up at the door. Well I guess pizza could always have been a second option 🙂