The guests are assembled, the wine and the conversation is flowing, and you are about to present an unforgettable meal – when disaster strikes! Your sauce turns lumpy, your cake sinks in the middle, and it looks as if your carefully planned evening is going to be a flop.
But don’t despair. There are quick fixes for almost any dinner disaster and here are five of the most common:
1. Lumpy Sauce
Learning to make a sauce from a basic roux of flour and butter is a great culinary achievement, but it’s no guarantee against disaster. Even experienced chefs have seen their sauce turn lumpy just to spite them when diners are waiting. But they also make sure there is a blender handy. All you do is pour the lumpy sauce into the blender and give it a quick whiz. The lumps will be smoothed out instantly. If your sauce is too thick, add a little milk to white sauce, or stock to gravy and it will be perfect.
2. Sunken Cake
There seems to be no greater disaster than this. A cake that doesn’t rise is enough to make a grown cook cry. But don’t throw it in the bin and reach for the frozen dessert. You can still create something wonderful. Pierce the cake all over with a skewer and drizzle with sweet wine or the syrup from canned fruit. Pile the drained fruit in the centre of the cake, and cover with whipped cream. The result is so magnificent and lush, you will be asked for the recipe!
3. Roast too small
Your roast has shrunk and there’s not enough meat to go round, but you can still delight your guests with a fabulous meal. Cut up the meat into strips. Toss it in a salad with some Hokkien noodles (the kind you soak in hot water) and a quick dressing made of ½ cup soy sauce, half cup water, ¼ cup warmed honey, a piece of grated ginger and one grated garlic clove. If you have any fresh lettuce, snow peas or scallions handy, chop them up and toss them in as well. If you have no noodles, use rice or pasta.
4. The vegetables are overcooked
Sloppy vegetables when you planned something more crisp and appetizing can be disastrous, but there are many ways to overcome the problem very quickly. If your planned mashed potatoes have dissolved into mush, add one egg, some chopped parsley and enough flour to make the mixture hold its shape as quickly fried potato cakes. You can also do this with other root vegetables such as sweet potato. The other rescue is to change courses – add cream, cracked black pepper to the soft vegetables and puree. Serve as a first course soup instead of a main course vegetable.
5. Greasy soup or stew
If the meat was fattier than you thought, there will be a thick layer of grease over your stew. The quickest way to remove it to chill it – but that doesn’t mean you have to put your stew in the fridge and wait for hours. Use cold lettuce or cabbage leaves, chilled bread or ice cubes in a slotted spoon to coagulate the fat and draw it off the stew. Once the fatty layer is removed your stew will be good as new.