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The Jewish Chronicle - JC Magazine - - Appetite For Life -

SUM­MER 2013 ACK IN the 1980s, a din­ner party was hard work. You needed two straight days to pre­pare, an in­ti­mate knowl­edge of nou­velle cui­sine and cor­don bleu, a size­able pair of shoul­der pads and a very large din­ing room ta­ble.

There was also a level of com­pe­ti­tion among hosts and hostesses which would make Come Dine With Me look like a ca­sual get-to­gether. Even if the re­sults were amaz­ing, the cook would be dis­solv­ing in a pool of sweat in the kitchen while guests nib­bled on their sculpted cour­gettes.

In the past few years, din­ner­party trends have shifted markedly, mir­ror­ing those in the restau­rant world. The trendiest new places in the West End tend to be small, de­lib­er­ately in­for­mal, with a pared-down menu, of­ten of­fer­ing only one or two op­tions. En­ter­tain­ing is gen­er­ally more ca­sual now too, with­out the in­tri­cate ta­ble set- tings and elab­o­rate menus. This does not mean that the qual­ity of the food has suf­fered, sim­ply that the per­son who is cook­ing it ac­tu­ally gets to en­joy the com­pany of the guests, rather than merely slav­ing in the kitchen. Pro­fes­sional cooks gen­er­al­lly do not want the fuss of elab­o­rate en­ter­tain­ing when they have been slav­ing in the kitchen all week, so what do they do when they have com­pany at the week­end?

Fa­bi­enne Viner Luzzato is a cook­ery writer and teacher who also cooks din­ner par­ties in peo­ple’s homes. But when friends come to visit, she likes it to be re­laxed. “The only time I serve a for­mal din­ner is on Fri­day night. If I have friends or fam­ily over on Satur­day for lunch it will be very in­for­mal — lots of sal­ads and meats set out on the ta­ble.”

If she has friends over on a week night then it will be equally ca­sual but dif­fer­ent in style — with what she calls “lots of lit­tle Ot­tolenghistyle things”.

This will con­sist of a few tapasstyle dishes. “Th­ese are things I can make be­fore­hand that just need to be warmed, so I can be with my friends and not too much in the kitchen. I re­cently made some tiny chicken gou­jons with peanuts and caramelised red onion sauce and roasted aubergine with gar­lic purée, tomato and basil.”

She says that when she cooks at peo­ple’s homes for din­ner par­ties, around half go for the ca­sual ap­proach, but many still want an old-school din­ner party. “It de­pends on the style of the party, but if they want to im­press they still go for starter,

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