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8 March 2005

I had a few friends round for dinner at the weekend. First time for ages: Iíve cooked in other people's houses, but not let people into my own. I'd forgotten, how much I enjoy it: even the drudgework, the cleaning up has merit, before and after. And once youíve done the washing-up - which, when you live alone, you can take three days over if you want to, as I have - then it's like starting again with a clean house, all this open space where clutter was, it's kind of refreshing.

We started with various smoked-fish pâtés (well, not all smoked - one was a sort of devilled crab, which was definitely my fave; otherwise smoked salmon with goat's-cheese, and smoked mackerel in lemon butter), then had my classic duck confit with fried breast of duck on Puy lentils, with chilli greens and red cabbage (this is 'classic' only because I do variations of it often, because it's nice). A complex dessert, caramelised apples in a sort of filo sandwich with date puree to hold it all together, and then the bit I made up altogether, or at least enough to give it a name. You know about angels on horseback (oysters, wrapped in bacon) and devils on horseback (prunes, ditto ditto); well, now meet saints on horseback. Smoked mussels, as it happens. Wrapped in thin half-rashers of smoked streaky bacon, packed tightly into an oven dish and given ten minutes in a hottish oven 'til gorgeous. Eat with cocktail sticks, straight out of the dish. And then somebody tell me why wrapping something in bacon puts it "on horseback", because I confess I do not know.

And I made chocolates to finish: white truffles with cocoa nibs (which if you donít know, these are shards of the pure roasted cocoa bean, and wonderful) dipped in deep dark chocolate. They were kind of misshapen, because I hadnít done this before and so they sat at the bottom of what I hope to be a steepish learning curve, but they tasted scrummy.

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© Chaz Brenchley 2005
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.