5 tips to transform your dinner parties

Gone are the days of starched linen tablecloths, evening wear and passing the port to the left. Today’s dinner parties are all about a relaxed atmosphere, great conversation and simple, fresh food.

Kitchen as theatre

Contemporary kitchen dining room

Contemporary kitchen dining room

The formal dining room has given way to an open plan living area that incorporates the kitchen/dining area and comfy sofas where guests can relax. This lo-key luxe was epitomised by last week’s photo showing Samantha Cameron and Michelle Obama sitting on a mustard yellow sofa in front of slim grey units in the newly refitted kitchen at Downing Street.

Inspired by TV shows and chefs like Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal, people’s confidence in their cooking skills is growing and they want to show them off – hence the new kitchen-come-living space. Couple this with a desire to bring people together over good food and wine, and you have the winning formula for a convivial and laid back evening.

What to serve

Fruit on sale at the market

Seasonal fresh food is always a winner

Local, fresh and seasonal food is the order of the day when planning your menu. Plan ahead so you’re not preparing everything at the last minute.  Go for a theme (Italian, Mexican etc) or select the main course, and decide on the other dishes to complement it. If your main course is rich, choose a lighter pudding and vice versa. Cheeseboards are popular too, and a great opportunity to introduce different wines.

Décor

If the evening goes well, your guests will be basking in a warm and inviting atmosphere conducive to great conversation. Keep the décor simple but elegant. Large colourful blooms in short vases can be stunning while a simple candelabra adds a perfect dash of romance to a table. And don’t forget, music really adds to the atmosphere.

Dining al fresco

Candles on the dining table

Dining by candlelight

If you’ve got the space, outdoor dining can be magical. Serve drinks at low tables surrounded by large scatter cushions. Paper lanterns along pathways and tealights in trees transform a garden into an enchanted space. Outdoor fires are a huge hit if your guests are staying late into the evening – go for chimineas or fire pits.

 

Guests – getting the perfect mix

Somewhere between 4 and 8 guests (including hosts) is the perfect number. Choose people you know get on, or have common interests. If you’re mixing singletons and couples, resist the temptation to play matchmaker. Let people know what the mood of the evening will be. Guests usually arrive up to half an hour late so be prepared beforehand and don’t overdo the chablis while you’re waiting for them to turn up.

Each week we publish some of our favourite recipes from the Constance kitchens for you to try at home.

Recipe: Salad of smoked duck and leeks with vanilla citrus dressing

This week’s recipe from the Constance kitchens is a light, refreshing smoked duck and leek salad with vanilla citrus dressing. Perfect for warm summer days and al fresco dining.

Vanilla pods

Salad of smoked duck and leeks with vanilla citrus dressing

Let us know how you get on and send us your comments and pictures of your own smoked duck salad. You can get in contact with us via Twitter, Facebook or the comments section below.

Serves 4
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Marinating time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 leeks
  • 1 smoked duck breast
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small bunch of chives
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • curly endive and lettuce to serve

1. Clean the leeks, cut them into strips (like tagliatelle) and wash them well. Blanch them for 3-4 minutes in boiling salted water, then drain and refrigerate.
2. Finely slice the smoked duck breast.
3. Cut the vanilla pod in two, lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a knife. Set aside.
4. Peel the oranges and grapefruit, cutting into the flesh, then cut off the segments while keeping any juice that drops. You will need about 4 tbsps of juice for the dressing.
5. Mix honey, vanilla seeds, orange and grapefruit juice, and 3 tbsps olive oil. Add salt and pepper.
6. Cut chives into 2 cm lengths.
7. Put the leeks in a large dish, add dressing, chives, orange and grapefruit segments, salt and pepper. Let this salad marinate for 5 minutes.
8. Just before serving, wash and drain the curly endive and lettuce. Line each plate with a few salad leaves, top with some leek salad and a few slices of smoked duck breast. Pour a thin streak of olive oil over this and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.

You can also purchase the Prince Maurice recipe book that contains this recipe and fifty more from our online store.

Latest action in week 2 at the French Open 2011

The French Open 2011 is well into its second week at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris.

Tennis player at French Open 2011, Roland Garros stadium

French Open 2011 at Roland Garros stadium, Paris

The men’s world no 1, Rafael Nadal is through to the semi finals and will face Andy Murray (4) on Friday 3 June.  In the other men’s semi, Roger Federer (3) comes up against Novak Djokovic (2).

In the women’s semis playing on Thursday 2 June, Maria Sharapova (7) faces Na Li (6) and Francesca Schiavone (5) will play Marion Bartoli (13).

Learn to cook with the professionals at Constance Belle Mare Plage, Mauritius

There’s a special cookery class taking place at Constance Belle Mare Plage in Mauritius on Thursday 30 September.

Colourful spices of Mauritius

Colourful spices of Mauritius

Seasoned and novice cooks alike can enjoy a day learning about Mauritian cuisine.

The event will be hosted by two of our chefs, Rajesh and Frederic Goisset, and wine tasting is led by our head sommelier at Belle Mare Plage.

Against the backdrop of the Deer Hunter restaurant, situated at the Legend golf clubhouse, our chefs will reveal some of our island secrets for creating subtle and lingering flavours.

Deer Hunter restaurant at Constance Belle Mare Plage

Deer Hunter restaurant at Constance Belle Mare Plage

Guests will learn about roasting spices using traditional local Mauritian methods, and how to prepare them. One such method involves a rock, known as the roche carrie, which is used to crush and mix the spices.

This relaxed and informative day includes:

  • 2 hour cookery lesson, where guests will make chicken with garam masala
  • Presentation by the Z’épices Experience shop
  • Recipe sharing including traditional methods
  • Wine tasting with our head sommelier
  • Three course lunch dining with the chefs (includes wine, drinks and coffee)
  • Gifts to take home including an apron, recipe CD and diploma for the course

As this special day will be popular, you can avoid disappointment by booking your place in advance. Email us at: info@bellemareplagehotel.com or visit the Constance Belle Mare Plage website to find out more about our luxury hotel.

Discover the Coco de Mer at Vallée de Mai on Praslin Island, Seychelles

Lying in the heart of Praslin Island, Seychelles, is Vallée de Mai  –  a National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the highly revered Coco de Mer seed.

Coco de mer

Coco de Mer is found at Vallee de Mai nature reserve on Praslin Island in the Seychelles

Vallée de Mai is the only place in the world where you’ll find Coco de Mer  - or the sea coconut.

Believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac and fertility symbol, the Coco de Mer is famous for its size and likeness to the female reproductive area.

The seed can weigh up to 30kg and grow to nearly 20 inches in diameter.

General Gordon of Khartoum believed that the prehistoric rainforest at Vallée de Mai was the original site of the Garden of Eden, and that the Coco de Mer was its forbidden fruit.

Today, visitors to the reserve can wander along sheltered pathways beneath the giant palm trees, whose leaves can measure 6m wide and 14 m long. Vallée de Mai is also home to five other endemic palms and fauna, and the rare the Seychelles Black Parrot.

Prince William and his wife the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, were presented with a rare Coco de Mer during their recent honeymoon to the Seychelles.

Find out more about our luxury hotels in the Seychelles, the Constance Ephelia Resort and Constance Lémuria Resort.

2011 Seychelles Regatta

Jeremie Beyou has won the 3rd Seychelles Regatta. The event took place on 21-29 May 2011. Renowned Frenchman Beyou was racing on the Hyundai Boat and came in just 2 seconds ahead of Michel Desjoyeaux on his Nicholas Feuillate Yacht.

Catamaran in the Indian Ocean

Catamaran in the Indian Ocean

Catamarans race from the main island on course to some of Seychelles’ jewel islands. The annual event attracts some of the world’s most experienced sailors and skippers. They’re drawn by the idyllic location and the opportunity to test their skills against the South Easterly trade wind that cuts across the Seychelles between May and September.

Results for the 2011 Seychelles Regatta

  • First: Jeremie Beyou – Boat Hyundai
  • Second: Michel Desjoyeaux – Boat Nicholas Feuillate
  • Third: Francois Gabart – Boat

Find out more about the 2011 Seychelles Regatta