Dinner for dummies

25th Jun 2013

Waded through a battalion of cookery books and still don’t know what to cook for your dinner party? Enter chef Paul Colllins at stage left, complete with his Muddy Stilettos June dinner party prompt sheet. Delicious. Or as my children like to say, de-yummy!

When I first saw this menu I thought it sounded a bit complicated but Paul assures me it’s actually easy, and much can be done before the party. Also, if you get stuck or want to ask questions, just write in the comment box below the feature and he’ll answer your queries. Such a nice man!


Entree: Gruyere soufflé

Main course: Casserole of salmon, shellfish and baby spinach

Dessert: Chocolate and olive oil mousse


Gruyere soufflé

paul collins greyere souffle with watercress
This souffles is light and easy to make (I promise!) but will definitely deliver gaps of delight when you put it down on the table. The base can be made in advance, so it only requires a bit of time to whip up a couple of egg whites when your guests arrive. The moulds can get buttered beforehand and the cream can be boiled and cheese grated in advance too.


140g Butter

70g Flour

700ml milk

5 eggs separated

Salt & Pepper

500ml Double Cream

200g Gruyere Cheese


  1. Grate the gruyere cheese, set aside.
  2. Make a roux with the butter and flour by mixing the two together to make a soft paste. When cooked out remove from the stove and whisk in the egg yolks.
  3. Cover with parchment and set aside until required.
  4. Butter the moulds you are going to use twice.
  5. Whisk the whites with a little salt.
  6. Add to the roux and place in to the moulds.
  7. Cook at 200c for 5-6 minutes until firm enough to turn out.
  8. paul collins gruyere souffle
  9. Boil the double cream and season.
  10. Pour the cream into a dish that you can serve the soufflé in when finished.
  11. Remove soufflés from the oven when done.
  12. Turn out on to the dish with the cream in.paul collins greyere souffle in cream
  13. Cover with the gruyere cheese and return to the oven for 5 minutes
  14. Remove and serve with a garnish of watercress.


Casserole of salmon, shellfish and baby spinach

paul collins salmon casserole
I love this dish as the colours and flavours are gorgeous, but it’s just incredibly easy to make. Its light, healthy ingredients balances out the indulgent starter and again if everything is cut up and stocks are made ready before anyone arrives, so it can be put together very quickly with minimal hassle. I love to whack this onto the middle of the dining table so that friends can help themselves.


200ml fish or vegetable stock

50g unsalted butter

2 tbsp double cream

200g organic salmon fillet, cut into chunks

100g monkfish fillet or any other white fish, cut into chunks

20 local crayfish tails, cooked and peeled

a handful of mussels

a handful of baby spinach

potatoes, cooked and sliced


1. Place a suitable pan on the stove and add the stock.

2. Bring to the simmer and add the double cream and then straight away add the salmon and monkfish.  At this point the liquid barely needs to be simmering as you don’t want to ‘shock’ the fish by overcooking it, as it could start to resemble a fish soup!

3. Add the mussels and move them about so that they all get cooked evenly for 3-4 minutes. If some don’t open simply discard them.. The beauty of this dish is at this point the dish is almost complete.

4. Check that the seasoning is ok and adjust if necessary with a little salt and pepper and perhaps a squeeze of a lemon.  Add the cooked potatoes and cooked crayfish tails which only need to be warmed through.  Finish with the baby spinach and serve either in a big dish to let people help themselves or into individual bowls.

5. You could add any number of other fish or vegetables to it depending on what you like personally. There is a similarity to a Provençal fish stew such as bouillabaisse or a bourride where all of the ingredients are cooked in the stock thus retaining all of the nutrients in the final dish.


Chocolate and olive oil mousse


paul collins chocolate mousse
This is a really good way to finish a dinner party as you can jazz it up with fresh raspberries some wafer thin biscuits and a little pouring cream if you so wish. The diet can wait till Monday! The mousse can be made a day or two in advance and sits in the fridge nicely until needed. Just take out once you have served the starter so that it can come up to room temperature.

Ingredients for 4 / 6

150g Dark Chocolate

140ml Olive Oil, not too strong oil

4 Eggs separated

1 Tbspn Cointreau / Grand Marnier

125g Caster Sugar



1. Melt the chocolate and the olive oil together. Be careful not to make the mixture too hot, as it will split the rest of the ingredients when mixed together.

2. Whisk the yolks and ¾ of the sugar; reserve the rest of the sugar for the meringue

3. Whisk the egg whites with the reserved sugar until you have stiff peaks.

4. Pour the melted chocolate and the olive oil mix in to the egg yolk and sugar mix along with the liqueur you are using.

5. Now gently add the whipped egg whites to the same mix and fold in very gently

6. Place in to the serving glasses and allow to set in the fridge overnight (or if you can’t wait that long, a couple of hours!)

7. For extra visual effect and flavour, you could also put a few raspberries in the bottom of the glasses, and serve with candied oranges, raspberry compote or even mango.

Paul Collins is a bespoke private chef living in Oxfordshire, formerly head chef at Daylesford Farm. www.chefpaulcollins.co.uk. Tel: 07774866902/01844 279461.

Photos courtesy of Tory McTernan  www.torymcternan.co.uk



Posted in: Recipes

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