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5th February 2013

Entertaining on a budget: French dinner party

Catering en masse isn’t as expensive as you’d think

While most students were recovering from the previous Saturday night, we set out on an uncharacteristically sunny Sunday morning for Sainsbury’s, Fallowfield. Inspired by our mutual love of all things French and the desire to line our stomachs after a weekend of drinking, we had ambitiously invited about 20 friends over for a French-themed dinner party. French cuisine is renowned for its liberal use of cream, eggs, cheese and meat, so we were preparing ourselves to live on nothing but Basics bread for the next few weeks. However, we were pleasantly surprised – it is possible to entertain on a student budget.

We began with a smoked salmon and asparagus quiche, which sounds very fancy – but with various cheats is both cheap and incredibly tasty. For the pastry, combine 75g unsalted butter with 175g plain flour until crumbly. Then add a little water to bring everything together. Chill the pastry for 30 minutes and line a 20cm tart tin with it.

Smoked salmon trimmings and tinned asparagus sound nowhere near as appealing as their proper counterparts but, once cooked, give the same flavour. For the filling, combine 425g can asparagus spears with 120g smoked salmon trimmings, 4 eggs, 100ml milk and 200ml single cream, then bake at 180°C for 45 minutes or until cooked through.

To make sure that our guests did not go hungry, we whipped up a Dijon Potato Salad. Boil 1kg baby potatoes, allow them to cool and cut them into bit-sized chunks. Combine 2tbsp olive oil; 2tbsp cider vinegar; 2 tbsp wholegrain mustard  pour over the potatoes.

The French are renowned for their pastries, and we felt it was time to bring out our pièce-de-resistance. Despite being notoriously difficult to make, this cheat version of profiteroles proved straightforward.

Most importantly, don’t panic! This is all about timing so make sure you have everything weighed out and at hand. Heat 250ml water in a saucepan. Slowly add 100g butter in even-sized chunks and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and quickly add 125g flour and a teaspoon of sugar. Beat, and once the mixture is coming away from the sides of the bowl, allow to cool. Beat in 4 eggs, spoon the mixture out, in blobs, onto a baking tray and bake at 200°C for 20 minutes. Once cooked, they need to be left to cool and dry out. Although terribly messy to eat, they were a massive success and a brilliant end to the evening.

For the chocolate sauce, heat 4 bars of Basics chocolate slowly over a bain marie, and serve with a tub of Basics vanilla ice cream.

And what was the damage of this lavish affair? Well, having supplemented these dishes with 2 more quiches, a savoury tarte tatin and a green salad as well as copious amounts of Basics Brie, we managed to spend no more than £30. In other words, we made an elaborate two-course meal for £1.50 per head. Bon appétit!

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