Many students may find themselves presented with an opportunity to host a dinner during their time at university. To take advantage of it can reward the host with a sense of accomplishment, pride, and satisfaction. I advise that students seize these opportunities, however they should do so seriously to forge a memory of an unforgettable evening for both themselves and their guests. There are a series of faux pas which I have witnessed (and on occasion committed) at student dinner parties, and in this short piece I hope to provide inspiration from someone who made so many feel at home when cooking along to her on the television, or when following her recipes in her famous books.
In 1961, Julia Child, along with Luoisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, published the book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, and the three authors provide helpful pointers which ensure that the preparation of food is just as enjoyable as the consumption of it is. The planning for such a dinner event should begin a day in advance, where one has the time to assess a chosen recipe and collect the ingredients or equipment required. Child recommends the careful visualisation of each step to avoid surprises, along with many other useful tips which readers are recommended to read for themselves. However, a personal suggestion which applies to Oxford students in particular is to be realistic. Many student kitchens here are under-equipped, so it is vital that you take stock of the equipment you have available to you. If you do not have an oven, then stick to the many dishes you can make on the hob or in a slow cooker. If you have only a microwave, then consider a cold buffet. Stick within your means, as often the best results stem from limitation.
If you are fortunate enough to have access to an oven, I recommend the recipe for Beef Bourguignon which is provided in the aforementioned text. When correctly made at home the taste will rival that of meals found at this city’s finest restaurants. If you can stretch to it, try purchasing a Burgundy wine from one of Oxford’s many wine shops. There is no shame in buying their cheapest, since the wine will mainly be used for cooking, but it is traditional, and a good quality wine will add an unparalleled depth and richness to the sauce. I used a 1.5kg cut of beef brisket, which can be found online or at the various farmers markets in the city (I recommend Headington on a Saturday for a selection of free range and ethically farmed meat). This dish along with potatoes would easily feed six and will probably have you go down as the greatest chef in your flat! I hope that this piece inspires you to go that little bit further when hosting a dinner party for your friends, and I assure you that the results of your efforts will truly be worth it. Join me next time for a delve into traditional Italian cuisine.
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