During the summer season we crowd around the dinner table at meal times, discussing our day, points of interest and news from home. In winter however, when it's dark from early evening and there's only four of us, things get more informal. TV dinners become a regular thing and meal times vary depending on when people fancy eating. Routine though is the best way to stay sane so we keep up our formal three-course meals on Saturdays.
It's nice to be able to put more thought into what you're making, maybe try something new for starter, put aside a day to preparing a memorable evening. Here's the menu from my most recent Saturday cook:
Starter: Italian-style spring rolls.
Slightly odd, they were inspired by a Gino D'Acampo recipe and by the fact that I had some spring roll casings that I'd managed to bring from the Falklands (I've never seen them anywhere else but there, they sounded like a good idea for something different).
They didn't necessarily turn out as I'd intended. One of the problems was that when dropped into the fryer the air inside them expanded rapidly and burst them open.
Main course: Gnocci roasted pumpkin and tomato sauce and chorizo (or chorizo-style quorn). Garlic bread.
This was a course I had much higher hopes for. I've made my own gnocci before but only about once a year because of the huge faff it is, despite taking as many short cuts as I can (mash tinned potatoes in the blender, mix with flour in the bread maker). Nevertheless it does allow you the joy of brightening up the meal with food colouring.
Ok, I was pleased with how this course turned out.
Dessert: Double chocolate brownie in white-Russian ice cream.
We've been experimenting a bit with our ice-cream maker this season, and what is more natural to make into ice cream than The Dude's drink of choice? Like many of our attempts I didn't leave it long enough to freeze properly so it was better the next day, that that was left over. The brownie recipe is heart-stoppingly calorific, so just a small chunk is enough, and it makes a great snack for taking into the field on subsequent days.
It is the responsibility of the chef to come up with the entertainments for the night too. Often this will be a board game or a quiz... something to bring everyone together having a laugh. We have variously appropriated Monopoly, Cluedo and Guess who to give them more Bird Island relevance.
Recently Tim hosted a Saturday Nintendo night, with a set of challenges based around wii games and costumes essential.