Crime night in Miss Marples’s style with good food

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I feel sort of it that the old-fashioned detective stories used to have some intimate atmosphere, more than the nowadays popular stonehard, realistic bestseller novels such as Henning Mankell’s (he became world-famous with the book Kurt Wallander & the TV sequel Wallander) or Stieg Larsson’s (Milleneum). Of course it beyond possibility to set them against each other since the different characters, eras etc. But there is indeed some charm in an Agatha Christie’s novel where the aged women in peaked shoes, waddling with their umbrella or sit in a comfy armchair with a knitting needle pretending not to hear and not to know anything meanwhile they are always ready to solve a crime. The situations are more funny than bloody seroius. On the other hand in black humor there is no deficiency, because Agatha Christie’s characters in the beginning of the novels seem normal but later on they go through in a strange metamorphose, for the most part they become criminals, amidst a shocking chaos, but the glamour, the twinkling always remain in the background, so much as the love. Not by any chance that Agatha Christie’s two famous detectives became classics: the perfectly egoistic Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and the aged spinster Miss Marple..

The crime night dinner

On a chilly evening of November when people’s mood is usually spleenish, a well organized thema party with Miss Marples or with Hercule Poirot (or both) might help to cheer up everybody’s mood. We may delight our friends with a cunning puzzle or with a play, whereby we may not only tease the brains but also entice the gums with a memorable menu.

The menu

Overture: Sherry brandy or Martini. We may hand over a letter together with the brandy, we outline the crime story shortly and we hand out the roles. Menu: for a starter we serve a delicate Pumpkin soup, with crisp bacon on the top of it, then we continue with the beef Wellington (the idea was borrowed from English detective stories) “alongside with some victims” and with the Yorkshire pudding. Finale: get the clue to the crime, unveil the murderer with the dessert (trifle) and with a digestive swill. 

Setting the scene

Send invitations (on one side a cutting from a newspaper about movie or crime and on the other side with the text) and ask guests to dress a bit glamourously.

Décor: accented with old-fashioned crystal pieces, like vases, candlesticks, ice buckets and coupe style champagne glasses. Don’t forget to entertain the guests with some music (some film music or dub from one og an Agatha Christie’s classic) When the case is closed wish good night to the victims and the survivors.

The menu

Pumpkin soup Ingredients: 1 small Hokkaido pumpkin, 2 small potatoes, 2 carrots, 1 onion, 1 clove of garlic, 1 leek, fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, curry, carraway seed, garam massala, salt and pepper to taste, oli or butter for sauté, 1 stock of vegetable bouillon

Heat oil in a large saucepan over low heat, add onion and leek, ginger, garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, until softened but not coloured. Add garlic and spices and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add pumpkin, potato, and stock and bring to the boil. Turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then blend in batches. Return soup to pan, stir through cream and reheat gently. Season and add a little more nutmeg if desired. Fry bacon or lard in a pan until crisps. To serve sprinkle some pumpkin oil over soup and add 1 tablespoon of balsamico vinaigrette.

The English classic Beef Wellington coated with pâté and duxelles, which is then wrapped in puff pastry and baked. A whole tenderloin may be wrapped and baked, and then sliced for serving, or the tenderloin may be sliced into individual portions prior to wrapping and baking. Many spices may be added to enhance the flavour; some examples are curry, any grilling mix, or ginger.

Ingredients: 1 lb beef tenderloin fillet, salt and pepper, olive oil, 1 lb mushrooms, 4 thin slices ham (Parmaham or prosciutto, 2 Tbsp yellow mustard, 7 ounces puff pastry defrost, 2 egg yolks beaten

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Thaw puff pastry according to package directions.

2. Filets are often irregular in shape, if yours are use a piece of kitchen twine to tie them into a round. 3. Season filets generously with salt and pepper.

4. Pre-heat a medium (10-inch) non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add butter and swirl in pan to melt. 5. Cook filets on both sides for about 3 minutes until well-browned, then brown the edges. Allow filets to cool, then wrap in plastic and chill for at least a couple of hours.

In the meantime make the duxelles:chop finely the mushrooms in a food processor. Scrape mushrooms out into a clean, cotton towel. Twist towel around mushrooms and wring out as much liquid as you can over the sink. Heat a large (10-inch) non-stick skillet over a burner set between medium and medium-high. Add 1 tablespoon butter and swirl to melt and avoid burning. Add mushrooms, shallots, a pinch of salt, a pinch of black pepper, and thyme.Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms appear dry and are beginning to brown; about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining tablespoon of butter, and, when melted, the sherry or wine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vermouth has evaporated. Remove from heat and cool.

6. Heat oven to 400F. Whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon water (egg wash).

7. Wrap the filets in puff pastry according to the steps outlined in the photo tutorial for Individual Beef Wellingtons. Brush with egg wash, and bake in center of oven until golden brown; about 30 minutes.

Trifle made from thick custard, fruit, sponge cake, fruit juice or jelly, and whipped cream. The ingredients are usually arranged in layers.

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