Red Stress Free Dinner Party
Victorian Railways Sydney Express Dining Car c. 1905-1928 via State Library Victoria.

Today I’m tackling a Stress Free Red Dinner Party. Just because I’m curious about whether I can. And because red is my favourite colour.


I’m going to try to make each course red, without resorting to adding colour or making it all about tomatoes.


Mainly red wine I should think.

Ambience • Dress Code

Well, I think it should be red. With a bit more red. Thankfully there are a lot of different kinds of red! You may want to offer bibs…

Dinner Planning

As always, six guests invited to arrive 6.30 for 7.00 pm.

6:30 Apéritif: Beetroot Chips and Pink Champagne

Preheat oven to 210 °C (410 °F). Clean, peel and thinly slice a couple of beetroots and lay in a single layer of baking trays lined with baking paper. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, or spices of your choice. Bake for 30 minutes (or until crisp) and leave to cool.

Or buy them ready-made…

7.00 Entrée: Roasted Tomato Soup with Grenache

You can make this ahead of time, and reheat when you are ready to eat.

Put your oven on at 190 °C (375 °F).

Halve 2 kg (4½ lbs) of tomatoes (any kind). quarter three red onions, and add to a roasting dish with a head of garlic and a bunch of thyme. Toss with some olive oil, salt and fresh ground black pepper. Bake for about 40 minutes.

Squeeze the cooked garlic cloves from the bulb, and add to a blender with the tomatoes and onions and blitz until smooth. If it seems a little too thick for you, add some water or chicken stock.

Serve with cheese on toast – your choice of cheese. I prefer Gruyere!

8.00 Main: Chilli con Carne with more Grenache

Everyone has their favourite Chilli, so feel free to substitute your own. And if you can make it the day before it will be much tastier!

Finely chop an onion and add to a hot pan with some olive oil and two crushed cloves of garlic.  Add a teaspoon of powdered cumin, a teaspoon of powdered coriander, a teaspoon of smoky paprika and fresh or dried chilli to taste. When the onion is soft, add 500 g (1 lb) of minced beef and cook until browned. Add 500 g (1 lb) fresh or a tin of chopped tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and a tin of kidney beans. Depending on what the liquor is like, you can add it with the beans, or drain and rinse the beans and top up the mix with a can of water. Bring to boil, then simmer for an hour – add more water if it dries out too much.

Serve with steamed rice, mashed avocado (or guacamole), tomato salsa, grated cheese, chopped coriander, sour cream and pieces of lime.

Or use it for nachos.

Guacamole: Put 2 cloves of chopped garlic, 2 anchovy fillets, 3 tablespoons chopped parsley, and a large pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle and smash into a paste. Whisk in 1½ tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Mash two avocados with a fork, stir in a grated tomato (minus the skin), and the dressing. Leave for about 20 minutes for the flavour to develop

Salsa: Finely chop a seeded tomato, a shallot, a seeded chilli and about a tablespoon of coriander. Stir in a squeeze of lime juice and leave a few minutes for the flavour to develop.

9.00 Dessert: Pannacotta, Rasberry sauce, and Muscat

Soak 9 gelatin leaves in a bowl of cold water to soften.

Put 500 ml (17 oz) milk, 250 ml (8½ oz) thick cream, the seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod, and 100 g (¼ lb ) icing sugar in a pan. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat.

Squeeze the water from the gelatin, put them in a bowl and add a little of the milk, stirring until the gelatin dissolves. Stir in the rest of the mixture and then divide among 6 serving dishes and leave to cool. Put in the fridge for at least an hour to set.

Mash or blitz 250 g fresh raspberries with icing sugar to taste, then sieve out the seeds.

To serve, transfer the pannacotta to a plate, top with raspberry sauce and garnish with mint leaves. To get them out of the mould, run the bottom of the mould under hot water, and use a knife to loosen it so that it falls onto the plate. Or if your moulds aren’t full, put them on a plate and top with the sauce.

10.00 Red Leicester with Coffee and Port

As it’s a red meal, just the one cheese, with crackers and some dried grapes.


If possible, make the soup and chilli the day before, so you get the best flavour. Otherwise, as early as possible.

5.00 make the chips

5.45 prepare the guacamole, then the salsa

6.30 guests arrive!

6.45 reheat the soup, make your cheese toasties and serve

7.45 put the rice steamer on, reheat the chilli, assemble the garnishes and serve

9.00 serve the pannacotta

10.00 serve coffee


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