Daily Archives: March 20, 2011

Tray bake, potato cake, crumble and custard: The joy of the communal dinner

Much as I love cooking, entertaining and running supper club, it is very nice sometimes for someone else to do the cooking. But unlike many city dwelling singletons, I haven’t always got the time or the money to splash out expensive restaurant meals. Bangor doesn’t really have a big eating out culture and much of this is due I believe to the lack of good eating places. It’s not just variety for which we yearn but just anywhere reasonably priced and offering food cooked with a bit of thought put into it.

What we do a lot of around here is home dining and often the best kind of dinners are the last-minute impromptu suppers. Here everyone contributes a bit,  brings a dish or helps to prepare. The event is a labour of love and it doesn’t matter if its perfect, or gourmet, it’s just unpretentious hearty home-cooked food.

I was busy enjoying a peaceful weekend for a change. Between filming and working I haven’t had many days off recently, so I took the opportunity to grab an hour or two with Sean to pootle off to the farmers market where we somehow managed to acquire as many freebies as we did purchases.

Maisy mixing and spreading crumble

We returned home later and dropped in to visit our friend Molly (previous waitress at supper club and as readers will know, a dab hand with bottle tops and rowan jelly). She suggested a small evening get together since we hadn’t seen each other for a while (what with work, illness and general end of winter fatigue) so it was the ideal opportunity to catch up. The event then proceeded to take on a life of its own, snowballing from a nibbles and drinks affair to full on dinner; numbers increased, until finally it turned into a huge meal for fourteen! Well if anyone could do it Molly could, she too is an accomplished home-cook; mistress if the big hearty dinner, the generosity to feed all and sundry and an ability to assemble a feast at almost a moments notice.

We pooled resources; I brought olives, cheeses from the farmers market and made (fresh) custard, Molly made pizza tray bakes, salad, baked potatoes, guacamole and a massive rhubarb and apple crumble, Iona (another friends daughter) brought along her home-made chocolate cake, some lovely buttery potato cakes and falafel. The effort was a communal one with kids and adults alike chopping, spreading, rolling and mixing. The house fast became a melee of raucous excitement, small boys charged about shooting rubber darts across the table with nurf guns whilst the adults engaged in their various jobs around the kitchen table, the wine flowed, and the soundtrack, a bizarre mix of 80’s ska, Underworld and Mumford and sons played around us!!!


Jim chopping

Molly's new shredding implement...she made me photograph it since she was so impressed

A feast is served



By 8 O’clock we all sat happily tucking in…dinner tasted so much better for the cooperative effort involved in its preparation.

Molly’s Simple tray bake to share…we had six kids as part of the group and they just loved this simple cross between and pie and a pizza. For 14 Molly used…

2 defrosted packs of all butter frozen puff pastry, rolled out and used to line two greased baking sheets

2 sliced red peppers

mushrooms washed and sliced

cherry tomatoes halved

a handful of pitted olives

two to three tablespoons of tomato puree mixed with two tablespoons green pesto

enough grated cheese (mozzarella or cheddar is perfect) to cover both trays

I barely need to give the method!! Simply cover the pastry base with the tomato puree mixture, liberally scatter the mushrooms, peppers, olives and tomatoes over the base, then top with cheese. Bake in a medium hot over until the pastry has risen well and is nice and brown and the cheese has melted.

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Filed under baking, British food, family budget cooking, home cooking, local produce