Last week, as I was peering into the insane schedule on my blackberry, I remembered I had invited one of my dear friends with her hubby for dinner on Friday evening... She is in her second pregnancy so my usual fall-back solution of paella and tapas was out of the question (mussels and cured meats don't really feature in a good pregnancy diet...)
So I was starting to contemplate the rather nerve-wracking prospect of having to come up with a good idea of a menu, then email Hubby Dearest from Helsinki with a list of ingredients to buy from the supermarket as there was no time to go to the market (and of course brace myself for the fact that organic goodies are not the top priority for my local Sainsbury's...), before rushing home on Friday evening and cooking a meal that I knew would not really be up to par.
Now might be a good time to disclose that the friend I had invited just happens to be one of the most impressive hostesses I've ever met, so the pressure was on and the idea of my flustered self serving a less-than-perfect dinner was impossible to bear. After toying with the idea of booking a table at the River Café (a stupid thought if there was ever one: have you ever tried booking a table there for Friday night with less than three weeks notice?), I decided to apply one of my favourite professional skills to this rather stressful situation: de-le-ga-tion!
After a little googling (I know, I rely too much on the Internet to sort my life out!), I found the wonderful Nikki, and her business, Book A Cook. London-based, Nikki is a fabulous lady who will teach you cooking lessons, help you with parties, or simply, as in my case, cook a meal for you and have it ready for you to do the final preparations and have a really enjoyable time.
I emailed Nikki with my idea of Autumn dishes and after a couple of emails we agreed on the menu:
- Creamy Parsnip Soup with a hint of curry, served with coriander and a home-made walnut soda bread;
- Venison Casserole with breaded potato and spring onion patties and sprouts;
- Pear Tarte Tatin.
And guess what, whilst all of this was being prepared and then collected by Hubby Dearest on his way back to work, I was in my office meeting with colleagues for the year-end evalutions then went and got a manicure to take all that stress out. I arrived home quite relaxed, to find the food duly waiting on our kitchen island, wrapped in foil and cling film and with clear label instructions as to what was what and what I needed to do to each. There was also a typed note from Nikki with even more detailed information about the dishes.
All I had to do was follow the instructions, make a pretty table, and enjoy Monsieur Baby's bedtime instead of slaving away at the hob. The food was delicious and everything was freshly prepared (only not in my own kitchen, which by the way also has the advantage of not making a mess of it!), and I can honestly say everyone was very impressed. The soup and tart were the clear stars of the day for me.
Of course this isn't something I'd do all the time, as I adore cooking and experimenting with recipes, but for a week when really there is no time to do a good job out of it, I'll be coming back to Book A Cook.
Here are the details, which all busy London girls should have in their little black book!
Book A Cook London
184 Cavendish Road
0 208 673 5061