Anyhow, what have I cooked recently? What am I cooking next?
Dinner this week consisted of a mushroom risotto that I've already written about; another boys' night which consisted of spaghetti aglio, olio e pepperoncino, crustless quiche, shepherd's pie, caramel ice cream; risotto leftovers ... boring! boring! boring!
How about we talk about money? Always an interesting topic, eh?
How much does it cost you and a loved one to eat out?
Here, in Sydney, where we live, it's expensive. Let me give you some examples:
- breakfast at our favorite cafe, consisting of a ham and cheese croissant, scrambled eggs and toast, and two coffees is approximately $40
- a food court dinner of two main meals and drinks is about $25
- a lunch / dinner at an average restaurant, no wine, is about $75 to $100
- a dinner at a nice restaurant in the city, including wine (at reasonable prices) is about $250
- a dinner at a VERY nice restaurant in the city, including wine is about $300 upwards with food costing about $100 each, and wine on top of that
- lunch at our favorite French restaurant with wine and dessert, upwards of $300
All that I've just listed is for only TWO people.Pricey, eh? That's Sydney for you, which has recently been voted into the top 10 most expensive cities to live in. It's nothing to be proud of.
We recently took a trip to the US to visit some family and I was blown away by how cheap it was to eat there. Some examples:
- breakfast for two including full pancake meal with pancakes, sausage, eggs, bacon, plus oatmeal, and two coffees (bottomless) was $13
- dinner for 7 people at a reasonable restaurant, a few starters, mains all around, alcoholic drinks was $150 including tips
The cost of eating out is one of the reasons that I've started to prefer to cook at home and invite people over for a meal. I can control what I cook, the quality of the food, and The Boy can determine what wines to serve.
The other night, dinner with the boys cost approximately $65 for food, $40 for wine. Total cost to feed 6 people, plus enough leftovers for at least 4 meals was $105. That was made up of spaghetti starter, shepherd's pie, quiche, salad, sticky date pudding with homemade ice cream and 4 bottles of wine. The food was of excellent quality (I should know, I bought and cooked it!) and the wine was good, most of the wines were between $30 to $65 per bottle (retail price) that we picked up on sale or were given to us. Good deal, eh?
Tonight, I'm cooking a much fancier meal, or rather, the meat is much more expensive, but even then, for 4 people - soup, very high quality veal rack for the main, along with vegetables and sides, the food cost is about $85. (I don't have to make dessert because the friends are bringing that, which they often do). A little higher than the boys' dinner but still under $100 for 4 people. I expect the wines would be more expensive tonight, since the boy is wanting to drink some fancy stuff and these friends of ours really like their wines. Still, a meal like this, at a comparable restaurant would cost us about $450 to $600 for the 4 of us, and that's with having to be careful on the wines too.
Anyhow, the point of this is ... if you can cook it yourself, control the ingredients and the menu, you're better off doing it yourself. It's much more fun (if you like the cooking) and the food comes out exactly to your taste. It's also a lot more relaxing and comfortable to be sitting in your own home (to me anyway) than in a restaurant. Plus, it is just much more cost effective.
I've got the whole dinner party routine pretty down pat now (a dinner party a week will do that to you):
- people arrive, The Boy serves drinks and starts getting everyone liquored up
- I start getting the starters ready - either cooked or assembled, for people to be able to sit down to eat about 15 to 30 minutes after they arrive
- we sit down and eat the starter, meanwhile the main is either cooking or cooked but needs heating
- after the starters are done, I clear that into the dishwasher and start preparing the main (it's all very relaxed)
- preparing the main can take anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes depending on what needs to be done, in the meantime, no one's hungry, 'cos they've had the starter and everyone is just relaxed and sipping their wine and chatting
- I serve the mains when that's ready, we eat, and when that's done, I clear, it goes straight into the dishwasher (this way at the end of the night, there's not much cleaning up to do)
- after the mains are done, we sit for a little while and then I get dessert together and we chat, eat dessert, linger over wine or some after dinner ports and dessert wines
The whole meals takes between 3 to 5 hours, depending on how much lingering we do between meals. During the week, the meals might move along a little faster since it is a school night, Friday and Saturday nights, we tend to crawl along a bit more. Generally though, the meals are relaxed and fun, and that's what I aim to achieve with every dinner party I throw. I want people to feel comfortable, welcome, and feel they can just hang out. Plus the big bonus is (for some inexplicable reason) my friends seem to like to help me clean up, so by the time they leave, most everything is cleaned and put away except for the wine glasses.
Now about that expensive veal rack I talked about earlier, I'm making a chilli and lemon baked veal rack, and here's the RECIPE:
|This is the veal rack once it has been properly prepared and before it goes into the oven.|
- 1 large kumara (sweet potato) 500g sliced thickly
- 4 medium potatoes (800g) sliced thickly
- 1 large brown onion slicked thickly
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1.6kg veal rack (8 chops) trimmed
- 2 cups (140g) stale breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
- 1 fresh long red chilli, thinly sliced
- 1 fresh long red chilli, chopped finely
- 60g butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 220 degrees C or 200 degrees C fan-forced
- Combine kumara, potato, onion, oil, juice and 2/3 of garlic in large ovenproof dish. Place veal on wire rack over potato mixture in dish
- Combine remaining garlic, bread crumbs, rind, chillis and butter in small bowl, press breadcrumb mixture over veal
- Roast uncovered about 40 minutes or until cooked as desired. Stand covered for 10 minutes before serving
I did a few things differently with the veal rack from the recipe though they were not drastic differences:
- The recipe called for dressing the kumara, potato and onion in olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. I used carrots, kumara, pumpkin and onions, and I dressed mine in just olive oil and a Masterfoods All Purpose Seasoning spice, with leftover bread crumbs mix for the meal sprinkled on top of the vegetables that was not covered by the veal rack itself.
- I didn't use the wire rack as it said in the recipe, just left the veal on top of the vegetables. The veggies themselves make a nice wire rack substitute ... plus you can eat it!
- I also wrapped the ends of the bones of the veal rack in foil so that they would not burn or crack in the oven.
- I used a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the meat and took it out of the oven when it hit 62 degrees C in the middle, which left the meat at a lovely medium-rare to medium cooked state. I don't know exactly how long that took because I checked the veal after 30 minutes and then in 10 to 15 minute intervals after that until it was ready.
- The recipe also didn't call for it, but I had the butcher tie up the veal rack so that it stands better. The only problem with tying the veal rack is that when you cut it, you get bits of string, but I warned my guests about the string and told them to just pull it out before eating, if they come across the string. As luck would have it, I got two pieces of the stuff. *grin*
I probably do a lot of dinner parties right now 'cos I have the time right now, but in general, I have to admit that since learning to cook, making and serving my own food is something I prefer over eating out at a restaurant. I find it infinitely more relaxing. Don't get me wrong though, I do still like to eat out, but I prefer something quick and simple in the restaurant, as opposed to a long drawn out meal.
How do you like cooking for dinner parties? Would you rather cook for friends and colleagues or go out for a meal and have it cooked and served to you? Is it expensive to eat where you live? I'd like to know what the different costs of eating are around the world.
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