Easy Cooking for Effortless entertaining Part 2

It is Christmas Holidays and it is definitely crazy season too!!! I see more and more people in the shopping malls, frantically planning and buying to make this Christmas season more special than the previous one.

The reality however is, that everyone of us has to do all this on a tight budget and in an economy that is not so buyer-friendly!

It is however a time of the year where we all want to enjoy the fruits of our labor in whatever form it is, whether it is going on a vacation, bringing your family together for Christmas or to simply just enjoy luxuries that you would normally overlook.

I have decided to do the second part of my Easy Cooking for Effortless Entertaining a little bit differently to what I had initially planned. I am going to show you a whole meal, from start to finish in other words…Starter, Main course and Dessert! My aim is to show you easy ways of entertaining that will be kind to your budget but by no means substandard!

I do not want to stick my neck out and call this an Italian Christmas, but we’re having pasta, cheese, bread and Panna Cotta for dessert…I think there are some Italian flavors there, don’t you! So without further ado…….here is…..

Nina’s Easy “Italian” Feast (4 Servings) – you can easily increase the quantities if you are expecting more guests.

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Starter – Baked Camembert with breadsticks – adapted from a James Martin recipe

2 small Camembert cheeses
rosemary
olive oil
black pepper
bread sticks – you can buy this at any deli, but it is so much more fun to get the children to help you make this. For a recipe, click here!
cold meat cuts like prosciutto, ham or pastrami
1 pomegranate

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Take the cheese and cut a circle about 1cm away form the edge, but do not cut all the way through. With the tip of your knife remove the circle that you have just cut…almost like a lid! Put sprigs of rosemary in the cheese and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat with the other cheese round! Prep these cheese before the time and pop them in the oven when needed. You need to bake them for about 10-15 minutes or until the inside of the cheese is bubbly and runny. In the meantime wrap the tips of your bread sticks with the cold meat and put on a serving platter or a clean wood chopping board. Cut the pomegranate in 1/2 and loosen the pips and membranes slightly. Serve as is, the idea is to make this a tactile and very social experience and I can guarantee you that this starter will get the conversation going.

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Butternut Fettuccine with fresh tomatoes and basil

500 gr fettuccine – I bought Butternut Fettuccini
250gr cocktail tomatoes
1 tin peel whole tomatoes
olive oil
2 cloves of garlic – peeled and crushed
1 onion – chopped
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
1 squirt of lemon juice
fresh basil leaves

Cook pasta according to the instructions on the packet.
Heat oil in a big skillet and fry onion and garlic for a minute or so. Add the cocktail tomatoes and allow the tomatoes to burst then add the tinned tomatoes. Add sugar, salt, pepper and lemon juice and reduce a a little by cooking for about 5 minutes. When the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the tomato sauce and mix through. Just before serving add the basil leaves and some grated parmesan.
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For a very decadent and dramatic dish, why not pour the melted Camembert over the pasta….it is truly delicious.

Now for the dessert. You know me by now……I use the easy way out, so here is….

Panna Cotta for a “Cheat” with fresh summer fruits ( this recipe makes 8 small ramekins)

1 tin Ideal or evaporated milk
250ml fresh cream
1 packet instant vanilla pudding – I know the purest will hate this, but try it…you’ll be amazed!
1vanilla pod – scrape inside out

Mix all three ingredients well, add vanilla paste and pour into the ramekins. When ready to serve, just heat the ramekins slightly with a blow torch or a warm damp cloth and “unmold” onto a plate. Surround with fresh fruit of your choice. I use fresh strawberries(cubed), blue berries and passion fruit.

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