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How to cook a 3-course gourmet meal to impress your family

By Charlotte Franco on 15th May 2020

With the fine dining scene at a standstill due to Covid-19, many of us foodies are craving a night out at a Michelin star restaurant to indulge in our favourite activity. While some restaurants have stayed open to try their hand at offering a gourmet delivery service, it might just be time to try your hand at some top-level dining at home.

If the thought of preparing a three-course meal for four fills you with dread, fear not, as LLM foodie at large and owner of Cooks by Charlotte, Charlotte Franco gives us her go-to family meal that you can whip up at home and truly wow your diners with.

The Starter: Tomato and basil soup

This is the easiest and tastiest store cupboard soup, perfect for those looking for a simple introduction to cooking. It is packed full of flavour and happens to be a great source of vitamin C, providing you with an added bonus of maintaining healthy skin during the current lockdown. This is the perfect way to start your three-course dinner but would also make for a mouth-watering and quick lunch too.

You will need:

Olive oil
1 brown onion, chopped
2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes (I always use Napolina as they are super sweet and delicious)
Salt and pepper
Vegetable stock cube
500ml of water
A handful of basil, chopped

Serves 4

Method:

Heat a little oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, cooking until softened. Add both tins of plum tomatoes and season well. Add the stock cube, water and your chopped basil and simmer for 15 minutes before blending with a stick blender. Serve with some warm, crusty bread.

The Main: Chorizo pan fried cod with crushed potatoes

This dish is tasty and, with a little effort on the presentation side, looks like something that would be served up at any fine dining eatery. The addition of the spinach to the mash is simple but effective and I just love the punchy flavour of the chorizo alongside the flaky cod. Yum.

You will need:

400g Maris Piper potatoes, peeled
A knob of butter
200g of chorizo (I like to use Waitrose cooks ingredients already diced)
4 cod fillets, skin on
Butter and milk or cream – however you like your mash
Salt and pepper
200g spinach

Serves 4

Method:

Pop a pan of water onto boil and add your potatoes. While these are boiling away, melt the butter in a frying pan, add the chorizo and cook until it begins to colour, then leave to one side. Add the cod fillets, skin side down, to the same pan and cook for 3 minutes on each side making sure it absorbs that lovely chorizo butter. I prefer to leave mine a little longer on the skin side as I like it crispy.

Once the potatoes are boiled, drain and roughly mash to create that rustic texture, add a little butter and a dash of milk or cream and season well. Wilt the spinach in a pan then combine with your potatoes. For the presentation, add the potato mixture to four round cooking rings and leave to set, while you plate up your chorizo. Sit your potato tower on top of the chorizo, then add your cod. And voila!

The Dessert: Mini pavlovas

These mini pavlovas are super easy and super tasty, trust me. They are beautifully light and fluffy, making them a perfect sweet treat for the warm late spring weather and, of course, enjoyed best in the sunshine with a glass of white. The meringues are not as difficult as they appear and are best made in advance, leaving you with little preparation on the day.

You will need:

4 medium egg whites
225g of caster sugar
500ml of double cream (clotted works well too)
40g icing sugar
5g vanilla paste
Fresh berries

Makes 20 – store unused baked meringues in an airtight container for up to two weeks (or freeze) and create and add the filling when needed.

Method:

Preheat your oven to 170ºC (150ºC fan oven), gas mark 3.

Add the egg whites and sugar to a bowl and place the bowl on a pan of simmering water. Use a wooden spoon to stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm – it tends to take about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and use an electric whisk to blend until the mixture is cool, glossy, and forming stiff peaks – this will take approximately 15 minutes. Cover a large baking tray with baking parchment and spoon on dessert sized spoonfuls. Bake for 15 minutes then leave to cool (preferably over night).

When they are ready to be filled, whip 500ml of double (or clotted) cream with the icing sugar and vanilla paste. Spoon into the meringues and top with a mixture of fresh berries to create a pretty dessert that will leave your diners in awe.

Follow Charlotte and her culinary journey on Instagram today at @cooksbycharlotte