I am relatively new to entertaining people at supper because until recently we lived in such a tiny London flat it meant having extra people over was impossible. Now that we have a big house in the country however, this is all changing and I’m finding that I love being the host (it’s the Monika in me), We’ve had friends stay from London a few times since we moved as well as old friends from Norwich coming to visit the new pad and I’m ejoying the experience of being able to entertain.
This weekend was about having new (and old as I’m from Norfolk and already knew one friendly face) friends from our village for supper and despite the weather (grey and raining) a summer menu was on my mind. I may be new to playing host but I’m not new to Aldi which is the perfect place to shop for a big party for so many reasons. The prices of the food makes it infinitely more affordable, not just slightly so but rather significantly and, I find, the quality of food is easily on par with M&S and Waitrose so… You may not get a free coffee and the till experience is definitely a little bit of a race (just be organised, throw the food in the trolley then stand over to the side for the packing – this is Aldi etiquette) but it’s all about what’s important to you and frankly when there’s no contest with food quality I’d rather get the shopping done quickly so saving LOTS (no exaggeration) of moola is by far my best choice.
I decided to go for an Italian summer theme as Aldi do cold meats, olives and the like with brilliance and a starter is easy to prepare when all you have to do is assemble. I bought a selection of their cold meats (the antipasti and salami are my faves), fresh pesto olives and olives with peppers which were divine, some anti pasti jars of grilled peppers and artichokes and mini mozzarella balls which were so beautful and literally popped in your mouth they were so soft. I lay them on my board, drizzled olive oil and balsamic vinegar over then gave a quick grind of black pepper to finish it off before serving with home made pesto and extra virgin olive oil with balsamic vinegar drops in it, yum!
To make the pesto you will need: A handful of grated hard Italian cheese (choose the Specially Selected range at Aldi for the best quality), a clove of garlic, a handful of fresh basil leaves (I bought a basil plant from Aldi about 4 weeks ago and it’s still going strong) a pinch of pepper (no salt necessary because the cheese is salty), a large handful of pine nuts and a big glug of Specially Selected Oilve oil. Blend the ingredients (I use a hand held mixer) and then serve. I find it lasts in the fridge for about a week and is SO much nicer than shop bought jars!
For our main course I made a Tagliata which is basically just a rare sirloin steak salad. There were six of us but because the meal is quite substantial I bought just 4 steaks and marinated them out of the fridge for a few hours before cooking. Just lay them in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper, cover then leave until ready to cook. I like to choose the best quality steak possible and was rather hoping to pick up the Wagyu steaks that Aldi have been selling recently but they obviously had flown off the shelves and I was out of luck. Instead I chose big meaty and marbled sirloins which are from the Specially Selected range and aged for 28 days. Under a fiver each makes them cheaper than anywhere else I know and we have them often because, why not?
The trick to entertaining for me is to do as little work as possible and practically nothing when my guests are there. This dish requires a griddling on each side for the steaks (I do 3 minutes on each side for a medium rare cook), an assemble of rocket (I used three bags from Aldi) and a cutting of baby plum tomatoes. Mix the leaves and tomatoes in a bowl with a little drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt and pepper and then lay the steak strips on top before adding a good drizzle of home made salsa verde. Make sure the steaks are at room temperature when you cook them and try to rest them for a few minutes before slicing. I also served ready to microwave potatoes which come in a herby butter. 85 pence and all you have to do is stab the film sleeve then microwave for 7 and a half minutes… Can’t go wrong!
The hardest part of this dish is the home made salsa verde and this can be done way in advance so that it’s ready and wating in the fridge.
You will need:
A lemon, sea salt, black pepper, fresh flat leaf parsley, a tablespoon of capers, Specially Selected Olive Oil and chopped garic. Roughly chop or blitz the capers, garlic and parsley, add the juice of the lemon, a big glug of olive oil and with a hand held blender finish it all off. And that’s it, Tagliata seved with some herby potatoes on the side.
Then it’s onto a desert and there’s nothing more impressive than a Tiramisu in a tall glass – yum! It’s one of the easiest no cook deserts ever but always makes people think WOW!
You will need: A packet of Lady Fingers, 400g of Mascarpone cheese, good quality coffee to make in a cafetiere, Amaretto Luqueur (which is just £4.39 in Aldi),120g of Caster Sugar, cocoa powder and 6 medium sized eggs.
Make 400ml of coffee and add as much or as little of the Amaretto as you like then let it cool. Separate the eggs and whisk the yolks with two thirds of the sugar until pale and creamy. Whisk the whites in another bowl with the remaining sugar until it forms stiff peaks. Whisk the mascarpone cheese in another bowl until soft and then mix the yolks into the cheese. Lastly, fold (don’t whisk) the whites into the mixture. Lay the lady fingers (you could make your own if you’re really diligent) in the bottom of the dish if making one big desert or break them up for the bottom of glasses if making (like me) individual ones. Drizzle with the coffee/Amaretto mixture and then a layer of the cheese and egg mixture. Repeat for a second layer then dust with cocoa powder to finish off the look. These then need to go into the fridge for at least 4 hours before you eat them but hey, it gets them out of the way! I love putting them into glasses so that you can see the layers. I THINK everyone enjoyed them and we even broke a glass (whoops) but that’s the sign of good dinner party revelment eh?! We were drinking Prosecco (From Aldi of course) and it was flowing…
So, that was it! I’d bought some cheese and some chocolates (Aldi do these wicked choceur Belgian chocolate waves which are super delicious) but everyone was too full to continue eating which meant we had left overs for the next day, always a bonus! Jonny added two eggs to the steak salad and had it for breakfast… Different!
For these Italian summer recipes I managed to get everything from Aldi aside from three ingredients, one from each dish. I find you can get most things in Aldi but there are still the odd bits and bobs I have to go elsewhere for which is a tiny bit of a shame. But hey, I don’t mind too much as I get to save money on all the other ingredients which are fresh, well looked after, decently packaged and most importanly they’re of brilliant quality. The things I couldn’t get from Aldi this time were the capers, lady fingers and the pine nuts… Still, I’m sure they’ll be bringing more and more things in as they’re always adding to the ranges so hopefully they’ll add these ingredients soon.
I really enjoy Aldi food but tend to buy the Specially Selected range more than anything else and I thoroughly recommend everything I’ve used for these Italian summer recipes. Steak is my best buy (I WILL get hold of the Wagyu steaks next time they’re in, I will) when shopping there because it’s SO good and such excellent value! What do you lke to buy in Aldi?