My ‘Abigail’s Party’ party

Abigail's party collage copy

  1. Abigail’s party style dress from Second Hand Rose
  2. Tone? A little cheesy-pineapple one?’
  3. Pre-dinner snacks – bombay mix, twiglets and olives
  4. Pre-dinner drinks – Lambrini, Babycham, Sherry
  5. ‘Wing’s of Love’ by Steven Pearson with the moutashed birthday boy
  6. Vol au vents
  7. Retro egg mayonnaise starter with vintage William Morris ‘Blackthorn’ table runner
  8. The main course – coq au vin and duchess potato nests filled with peas
  9. Mateus Rose and prawn cocktail
  10. Gateaux
  11. Profiteroles before being filled with cream and covered in chocolate
  12. Demis Roussos ‘Forever and Ever’
  13. Katy Stewart’s pineapple cheesecake
  14. Cocktail time – ‘Tequila Sunrise’
  15. Katy Stewart’s butterscotch tart

I haven’t posted much in May because I’ve been rehearsing recipes for my husband’s 40th birthday party. He was born in the 70’s so we had an Abigail’s Party themed sit down dinner with cocktails afterwards.

It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed rummaging about in my mum’s old cookbooks for inspiration. I also followed the fabulously funny 70s Dinner Party twitter feed – which is great entertainment even if you don’t like cooking. This provided inspiration for my main course.


My mum gave me the Katie Stewart recipe book she used when she was first married. I’m not sure why Delia has remained so popular while Katie has been forgotten but I’m fond of her because she wrote my first ever cook book ‘The Pooh Cook Book’.

The final menu looked like this:


Coronation chicken and mushroom vol au vents
Cheese and pineapple on sticks
Bombay mix

Prawn cocktail OR egg mayonnaise

Main course
Coq au vin with duchess potato nests filled with peas

Dessert trolley
Pineapple cheesecake
Butterscotch tart
Raspberry gateaux (my husband doesn’t like cherries)
Profiteroles with chocolate sauce
Pavlova with strawberries and squirty cream

Some of the recipes I used are below. Some I won’t be repeating. Vol au vents are a complete nightmare even with a shop bought block of puff. The gateaux looked much better than it tasted.

The profiteroles were the dessert trolley winner by a mile. I vaguely remember a competition to dip one in chocolate sauce and down it in one, but due to the vast number of cocktails consumed by that point my memory is hazy.

There were tell-tale signs of chocolate all over the carpet.

But it was a good party.


Coq au vin

(from ‘Mary Berry’s Foolproof Cooking’ and Raymond Blanc’s – ‘Cooking for Friends’)

Serves 6 (I tripled the recipe as there were 18 at the party)

  • 400g baby shallots, peeled and halved
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 600ml of red wine
  • 6 small skinless and boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 75g of butter
  • 3 tablespoons of plain flour
  • 350g of smoked streaky bacon, chopped into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato purée
  • 1 tablespoon of light muscovado sugar
  • 400g of button mushrooms, halved
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the shallots in a large bowl with the garlic, bayleaf, thyme, chicken breasts and season with salt and black pepper.

In a saucepan bring the wine to the boil, then skim and leave to cool.

Pour the wine over the chicken pieces, cover with cling film and marinate for 24 hours.

When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 160oc.

Sit a colander over a large saucepan and strain the marinated chicken, reserving the shallots, bay leaves and thyme. Dab the chicken with kitchen paper to dry it.

Heat the oil and 50g of the butter in a deep ovenproof frying pan or casserole dish. Add the chicken breasts and fry on a medium-high heat, for 5–10 minutes each side, or until browned all over – you may need to do this in batches. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Meanwhile, set the pan with the wine marinade over a high heat and boil, for 5–10 minutes, until the volume of liquid has reduced by a third. Add the flour to a bowl with 150ml of water and whisk until smooth. Stir in a little of the hot wine, and add this mixture to the rest of the wine in the pan. Keep hot.

Add the bacon to the frying pan or casserole dish and fry over a high heat until brown and crisp. Add the reserved shallots and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, or until they start to soften.

Add the hot wine sauce and tomato purée to the frying pan or casserole dish with the sugar, reserved bay leaves, thyme, salt and black pepper and bring to a boil. Stir until thickened and add the browned chicken.

Bring back to the boil, cover with a lid and bake for 20–25 minutes, or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a medium pan and fry the mushrooms over a medium heat for 5–10 minutes, or until just cooked. Add to the chicken casserole just before serving.

NOTE: I made this the day before and then reheated for 45 minutes in a 180oC oven.


Butterscotch tart

(from ‘Cooking with Katie Stewart’ with some amends)

For the sweet short crust pastry (makes 200g of pastry – enough to line a 23cm diameter tart tin)

  • 200g of plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g of margarine
  • 2 tablespoons of castor sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of cold milk

For the filling

  • 100g of granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons of water
  • 4 tablespoons of golden syrup
  • 4 tablespoons of cornflour
  • 2 tablespoons of light muscavado sugar (my addition)
  • A good pinch of sea salt (my addition)
  • 1 pint of milk
  • 2 eggs (should have been four but I accidently used two and the result was good)
  • A few drops of vanilla extract

Measure the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the margarine and then rub together with the flour until you have a mix the consistency of fine breadcrumbs. Measure the milk and sugar into a cup and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add to the flour/margarine mixture.

With a knife stir until well incorporated. Then using your hands with a light touch bring the mixture together to form a ball and knead very lightly a couple of times until smooth. Press the ball down roughly to form a thick flat circle, place in a plastic bag and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200oC.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out with a rolling pin until it is big enough to line a 23 cm tart tin.  Prick the bottom with a fork all over. Trim the edges and line with baking paper and baking beads and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the beads and the baking paper and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes. Set aside while you prepare the filling.

Turn the oven down to 160oC.

Put the granulated sugar in a dry pan and heat, stirring all the time until the sugar has melted and turned a pale golden colour (be careful not to overdo the syrup – the sugar will suddenly turn very quickly). Add the water and stir until dissolved (the mixture will bubble up and may even set a little but it will dissolve if you keep stirring). Add the syrup and stir over the heat until dissolved.

Blend the cornflour with the milk and stir into the caramel. Put back onto a medium/high heat and stir until the mixture has come to the boil and thickened. Add the light muscavado sugar and salt and stir until dissolved.

Draw off the heat and leave the mixture to cool for 5 minutes.

Mix the eggs and the vanilla extract, then add these to the caramel mixture, stirring continuously until well incorporated.

Pour the filling into the prepared case and return to the oven for 30 minutes. There will still be a wobble in the middle but don’t worry about this – it will set when refrigerated.

Chill in the fridge and serve chilled.



Makes 15 profiteroles

  • 125ml water
  • 60g butter
  • 75g plain flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • A pinch of salt (leave this out if using unsalted butter)
  • Whipped cream and chocolate sauce (see below) to serve

Heat the oven to 220oC and line two flat baking sheets with baking paper.

In a sauce pan add the water and butter and place it on a medium heat until the butter has melted.

Take a large square of greaseproof paper and fold in half. Open out and sieve over the flour and salt.

Turn up the heat under the saucepan and as soon as the water/butter mixture comes to the boil turn off the heat. Quickly shoot the flour into the mix and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined, return to a low heat to eliminate any extra moisture in the dough. Once the dough forms a solid mass and comes away from the sides of the pan remove from the heat.

Cool the dough briefly to prevent the eggs from setting when they are added. Stirring will help the dough to cool more quickly.

Add the eggs one at a time and beat the dough thoroughly using an electric mixer until the mixture thickens.

Spoon teaspoons of mixture evenly on the two trays leaving plenty of room between for the dough to expand.

Place in the oven for 20 minutes undisturbed.

Remove from the oven and with the sharp point of a knife pierce the bottom of each bun to release the steam.

Return to the oven for a further 5 minutes to crisp up.

Allow to cool completely on a rack before filling with whipped cream and serving with hot chocolate sauce. If you don’t have a piping bag to fill the buns then just cut them in half, fill and then sandwich back together again.

NOTE: It’s best not to fill with cream until the last minute as the cream will soften the pastry.

Profiterole chocolate sauce

  • 100ml of water
  • 80g of caster sugar
  • 200g of good-quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • ¼ – ½ pint of double cream to your preferred consistency

First place the water and sugar into a saucepan and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and place the chocolate into a heatproof bowl set over the pan. Stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted.

Take the pan off the heat and pour the syrup mixture into the chocolate.  Stir until smooth, and then add the double cream until you have your preferred consistency (I like mine quite runny, but like gravy it’s a personal thing).

You can make this in advance and then warm in the microwave briefly before serving.


Pineapple cheesecake

From Cooking with Katie Stewart published in 1974

Serves 12

For the filling

  • 3 tablespoons of cold water
  • 15g of powdered gelatine
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g of castor sugar
  • A 425g tin of pineapple rings in syrup
  • The zest and juice of half a lemon
  • 350g of cottage cheese, blitzed in a food processor until completely smooth
  • 142ml of double cream

For the base

  • 8 digestive biscuits
  • 25g of castor sugar
  • 50g of butter

In a small bowl mix together the water and sprinkle in the gelatin.

Separate the eggs, cracking the yolks into one bowl and the whites into another larger one.

Add 100g of castor sugar to the egg yolks and beat until light and creamy.

Drain the juice from the pineapple and make up to 142ml with water (you won’t need much water here, if any). Pour into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Take off the heat and gradually stir into the egg yolk and sugar mixture.

Return this to the saucepan along with the cake of soaked gelatin. Stir the mixture over a low heat until the gelatin has completely dissolved.

When the custard has cooled a little add the cottage cheese and lemon juice, zest and 3 slices of pineapple finely chopped.

Lightly whip the cream and fold this gently into the mixture.

Finally, stiffly beat the eggs whites and fold these in.

Pour into a 20cm round loose-bottomed cake tin lined on the base with a circle of non-stick baking parchment.

Put in the fridge to cool.

For the biscuit base, first crush the biscuits in a bag with a rolling pin (or in a food processor), then add the melted butter and sugar. Give everything a good stir then remove the cheesecake from the fridge and sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the surface gently pressing down to compact. When the cheesecake is turned out this will in fact be the bottom.

Return to the fridge for several hours until firm.

When you are ready to serve turn the cheesecake out onto a plate. Remove the baking parchment and decorate with the remaining pineapple cut into neat pieces.


Things get somewhat hazy.


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