Sobremesa: (n.) the time spent around the table after lunch or dinner, talking to the people you shared the meal with; time to digest and savour both food and friendship.
Isn’t that heaven? It conjures up images of my childhood, lying in bed listening to the muffled voices rising up the stairwell from the dining room table as my parents and their friends enjoyed each others company. My Mothers distinct laugh cackling away. It was her time of the evening to really enjoy herself after an afternoon of preparations and an evening of relaxed but concerted effort to produce a menu for her guests that she was proud of.
Vertically stacking food is challenging and exhausting.
I loved nothing more than being her sous chef on those afternoons. She knew how to make life enjoyable and boy could she throw a dinner party.
There was always a lovely energy in the house on those days. Everyone had a job, we all knew our roles and once play was hit on the surround sound system and Billy Joel belted out the first cords to Running on Ice we were off like a well-oiled machine.
The garden hedges trimmed, edges done, lawns mown, driveway raked. Inside the glassware was meticulously steamed and polished with a linen cloth, our Great Aunt’s silver salt cellar and pepper shaker polished, followed by the cutlery, white linen napkins starched and ironed, the table then laid, flowers arranged and unscented candles placed.
All of that before we had even picked up a knife.
The menu would have been planned and researched, produce sourced and purchased, all part of the divine practice of throwing a dinner party by my mother.
She made it all so enjoyable.
She was in her element in the kitchen. She delegated tasks, planned ahead and knew exactly what needed to be done when and how. It was a joy to be a part of. She could have run a kitchen brigade with her eyes closed.
It all sounds so organised and serene but the reality is there was always the obligatory half hour of sheer panic right before the guests were to arrive. After running around like a mad woman for ten minutes as we scrambled to achieve the final touches to the Roast Quail with wild rice stuffing and walnut mustard sauce with Frutta Mostarda or rearrange a vase of flowers that just wasn’t quite right from all angles, she would disappear upstairs and just as the doorbell rang she would reappear, immaculately dressed, lippy on and calmly say ‘smile’ as she opened the door to her guests.
And the party would start.
There were always canapés at my Mother’s dinner parties and I was recently reminded by an old friend of one of her go to recipes “Pouff du Fromage” – Cheese puffs to the layman.
They are a timeless classic.
I share with you her recipe that my dear friend Mary Lou recently reunited me with.
Pouff du Fromage
500gms grated cheese (I use a mix of parmesan and gruyere)
5 eggs beaten
Large pinch of mixed herbs (dried or fresh from the garden finely chopped)
Large teaspoon of French mustard
Milk or cream to moisten the mixture
Preheat your oven to 225° C.
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until combined.
If you are keen please make your own, if you are time poor or just can’t bear the idea – shop bought is fine, buy the best quality you can find.
Cut the puff pastry into 7cm squares and place 1 rounded large teaspoon of the mixture into the center of each square to fill it.
Lift each of the four corners up together and join them at the top. Lay them out on baking paper on an oven tray.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until brown.