I have been so distraught by the recent events in France, Turkey and the US. It seemed frivolous to write anything at all. But at some point, you have to start moving again, don’t you? I’ve wondered for some time about the reasons behind our current spate of zombie movies and tv shows. Now, suddenly it seems very clear why soulless, unstoppable monsters are everywhere. And that makes it a good time to write a Zombie Stress Free Dinner Party.
I am talking about your friends here, so this is a Stress Free Dinner Party for recovering zombies à la Warm Bodies, or the zombie pet friends you store in your basement à la Shaun of the Dead.
These are bona-fide recipes for dishes that people really do eat, but if you have a delicate stomach, you should just click away now and come back next month when I’ll be taking care of the survivors.
Traditionally, zombies prefer human brains. Modern zombies will also eat raw flesh and offal. They don’t seem keen on fruit or vegetables. I can’t help wondering why they don’t snack on the insects that snack on them, but there you have it.
I think, for the most part, zombies drink blood. And maybe water. While some people do drink blood, I shall take pity on you and serve red drinks.
Zombies don’t tend to have very good hand/eye coordination. They generally just stumble about the place, which is handy because you can easily contain them by shutting the door. So you could trash your house, or just not clean up before your guests arrive.
I don’t know why I have to say it. Shredded and bloody clothing. If your finances are in good order, you might like to try to get a vintage Schiaparelli Tear Dress.
As ever, six guests invited to arrive 6.30 for 7.00pm.
6:30 Apéritif: Bloody Mary and Sliced Blood Sausage
Many cultures make a blood sausage, which is usually blood thickened with a cereal like oatmeal and local spice variants, e.g. British black pudding, Spanish morcilla, or French boudin noir. It takes a very strong stomach to make from scratch, not to mention a long time, so I recommend buying one already made. Cut slices about 1/4 ” (6 mm) thick and fry in butter until crispy. Drain on kitchen towel and serve on a plate with toothpicks for picking. These taste better hot than cold, so best to fry just as people are getting their drinks organised.
These sausages are generally strongly flavoured and need a lighter and fresher drink for balance, so I’m suggesting the Bloody Mary. A Bloody Mary is essentially 1 shot (1 ½ oz or 45 ml) of vodka with 2 shots of tomato juice (3 oz or 90 ml). Some people spice it up with a splash of Worcester or Tabasco sauces, prepared horseradish or mustards, lemon or lime juice, or just a little salt and pepper. It is often garnished with a celery stick, green (spring) onion, or a small bunch of herbs. You might like to make a jug of the basic mix and let your guests spice and garnish their own to taste.
7.00 Entrée: Lamb Brains with a dry Rosé
Brains are mostly fat, so they have a creamy texture and a sweet mild flavour. You might have difficulty getting some; you will probably have to ask your butcher to order them in. Or you might get lucky at an Asian or Mediterranean supermarket or at a wholesale meat market. You should eat it (them) the same day.
You will need one brain per person, but if you’re all a bit squeamish, save your money and halve the recipe. You could also use pork or calves brains if they are easier to get.
- The first thing to do when you get home is to soak them in a large bowl of water for at least two hours. Change the water every half hour or so until the water stays clear.
- Heat 4 ¼ quarts (4 litres) of water, then add one large onion, 2 medium carrots, 2 sticks of celery and a large leek; all roughly chopped. Add 5 smashed cloves of garlic, 3 bay leaves, a small bunch of thyme, small handful of parsley stalks, 2 teaspoons of peppercorns and 3 tablespoons of salt. Simmer for around 15 minutes.
- Add the brains and simmer for 4 minutes.
- Remove and leave to cool and drain on kitchen towel.
- Cut them in half, remove the membranes and any icky bits, and cut the halves in half.
- Season with salt and pepper, dredge in some fine flour, dip in beaten egg and dredge in a 1:1 mixture of breadcrumbs and grated parmesan. You could double dip the egg and crumbs for extra crunch if you want. And you could add chopped parsley to the crumb mix for colour and extra flavour as well.
- Melt butter in a frypan and cook the brain pieces until golden brown.
- Serve on a bed on bitter salad greens with a squeeze of lemon juice over the top. Or offer some spicy red sauce or mayonnaise.
8.00 Main: Liver and Bacon with smashed potato, steamed green vegetables, onion gravy and Bordeaux
Vegetables: Scrub about 1 ¾ lb (800 g) potatoes and cut out any ugly-looking bits of root or scars. Cut into quarters, put in the bottom half of a steamer set with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. Prepare your choice of vegetables, e.g. broccoli, beans, brussels sprouts, 4 – 6 pieces per person. Cut into 1″ (2.5 cm) chunks. Set them aside in the steamer section and put them on 10 minutes before the potatoes are cooked. When they are done, drain, add olive oil, salt and pepper and smash up a bit leaving chunks.
Gravy: Peel, halve and slice an onion. Warm a splash of olive oil in a small pan and sauté the onion, 2 crushed cloves of garlic and the chopped leaves of a rosemary sprig. Stir occasionally. After about 20 minutes, (when you put on the veg) stir in a tablespoon of flour. Then add 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and a glass of Bordeaux, and stir again to make sure it doesn’t go lumpy. Then top with 10 oz (300 ml) of beef stock. Stir again and simmer until you are ready to serve.
Liver: Fry 12 streaky rashers of smokey bacon on both sides until golden. Remove the bacon to a plate. If it isn’t already, slice 1 lb (450 g ) calve’s liver into 1/4 ” (6 mm) slices. Season with salt and pepper and dust with flour. Fry in a hot pan with olive oil for 3 minutes. Turn, add the rosemary and bacon to the pan and cook for 2 minutes.
Divide the vegetables between the plates, top with liver and pour the gravy over.
9.00 Dessert: Ground Rice Pudding with Bourbon poached strawberries and Moscato
Prepare this earlier in the day, and mix it up so it looks suitably gory. Add a little milk, give it a stir and reheat it in a 300° F (150 °C) for 20 – 30 minutes.
Rice: Preheat the oven to 400° F (200° C). Heat 20 oz (600 ml) milk on the stove and sprinkle 1 ¾ oz (50 g) ground rice over the top. Stir continuously until it thickens. Stir in 1 oz (25 g) of sugar (or to taste) and turn into a greased baking tray. Bake 25 – 30 minutes until golden brown.
Strawberries: heat ½ cup of sugar with ¼ cup of water and 2 tablespoons Bourbon. Wash, hull and halve 5 ¼ oz (150 g) strawberries and add to the syrup. Simmer for 15 minutes.
It will be even tastier with a little grating of dark chocolate.
9.00 Digestif: chocolate, liqueur of choice and cheese (tea and coffee).
I would usually suggest three cheeses but for tonight, just one lovely, very ripe and runny, stinky French camembert or brie. With black crackers. And to go with that, Calvados or some other apple brandy or hard liqueur. And a dark bitter chocolate.
This is one of those Dinner Parties where you have to get up early to go shopping and get your brains while they are at their freshest.
12.00 soak the brains
2.10 prepare and simmer the stock
2.30 simmer the brains
2.35 leave to cool
3.30 prepare the vegetables
4.00 cut and crumb the brains
4.15 prepare the rice
6.10 make up the Bloody Mary basics and prepare your garnishes
6.20 slice the sausage
6.30 fry and serve the sausage
6.55 fry the brains
7.00 serve the brains
7.30 put the potatoes on to cook, start the gravy.
7.50 put vegetables on to steam. Add the flour and liquid to the gravy. Start preparing the liver.
8.00 serve the liver
8.25 prepare the rice
8.30 Put the rice in the oven to reheat
9.00 serve desert