Well actually its more like 27hours but you have to be flexible with the details if you want to steal someone elses clever movie title for your post. Now to most people the thought of a 27 hour cook-a-thon for a dinner party would seem insane. Actually to be fair the thought of cooking for 27 hours simply wouldn’t enter most people’s heads in the first place.

I should point out that the vast majority of that was preparation time, it wasnt like I was spit roasting a blue whale. Let me set the scene, this time last year my father’s family were all in Cork for a family funeral. It was the first time that all the brothers and sisters had been together in decades and having had to endure the post removal and post funeral reception they wanted to eat together in a proper family environment before the all left for parts unknown again.

I offered to cook dinner in my parent’s house for everyone. Now let’s be clear on something from the start, I wanted to show off! There is no point saying other wise, you simply don’t spend that amount of time preparing a dinner unless your intention is dazzle your diners.

I am the first to admit that given free reign over any culinary occasion and I will completely lose the run of myself. I am the proverbial kid in a candy store, I want complete control over every detail, I come down with temporary OCD. Nothing pre-made, store bought, no matter how new improved or lemon scented it may be will be allowed anywhere near a dish.

Ironically choosing the menu was (as always is with me) the fastest part. I decided on 3 courses, the starter would be a duck and chive risotto with a slice of pan roasted duck breast, surrounded by an asian infused tomato broth, served with a hand-made tomato bread roll. Main course would be a loin of pork stuffed with black pudding and apples, garlic mushroom mash, chantenay carrots in cumin butter, roast coriander dusted turnip, parsnip puree and a cider and grain mustard sauce. And for dessert, poached pears with a toasted pistachio crust, with a vanilla and bitter orange marscapone and a chilli and blueberry sauce.

Now don’t get me wrong here I am as fond of a cheese sandwich as the next guy and I am more than happy to knock you up a quick omelette if you’re feeling peckish but give me a special occasion and I am incapable of stopping myself getting carried away. Even a family sunday dinner will see me happily putting in 6 or 8 hours in the kitchen.

I havent actually factored shopping time into this but a trip to the English Market is a relatively painless experience so I don’t count it as work. The pork was free range outdoor bred with a nice bit of fat. Now I don’t subscribe to the rare breed pork movement, as I simply don’t see the sense in eating an endangered animal. I think these breeds should be protected until such time as their stock levels reach a sustainable level. I am about as likely to eat a Tamworth pig or a British Lop as I am to tuck into a Panda burger.

Ok so where do, or rather where did I start?

Hours 27 to 20:

Well I started with the stocks, first I made a vegetable stock and then having removed the breasts and legs (they were used to make a duck ballontine the following day) I roasted the carcasses and the duck necks and added them to the veg stock along with some new stock vegetables and a few herbs. Once the stock was made it was transferred to a container and placed in the freezer. Once frozen it was placed in a muslin lined collinder so that the fat and impurities would be taken out as it melted. I also used this time to make the chilli and blueberry sauce for the dessert and to de-shell and peel the pistachios before blitzing them to a sort of breadcrumb.

Hours 20 to 10:

This was taken up with making the stuffing for the pork then stuffing it so it had a day to rest (this causes a lot less stuffing to come out during cooking) and take on the flavours of the stuffing. Making the vanilla and bitter orange marscapone and the poaching stock for the pears as the flavours will have more time to develop. 6 cans of peeled whole plum tomatoes were chopped and hung in muslin suspended over a bowl to give a wonderful clear tomato base for the broth devoid of any of the pulp. The parsnip puree was made (just the one boiling over of the milk this time) and 2 pints of cider were reduced and added to some of the vegetable stock I had reserved with some garlic, shallots and grain mustard to make the sauce.

10 hours to plate down.

First thing was make the dough for tomato bread and while the oven was preheating I lightly toasted the pistachio crumbs. I added the asian spices (Szechuan peppercorns, cloves, star anise, chilli flakes and fennel seeds) to the tomato base and left it on a rolling simmer with the lid tightly on to avoid it reducing. The tomato rolls were baked and taken out 2minutes before they were done so they could be quickly finished just before serving. The veg was prepped, the pork put in to slow roast on a bed roughly chopped apples and onions to act as a trivot and allow a nice long resting time. Mushrooms were finely chopped and cooked with butter, garlic and white wine before being set aside to add to the mashed potato later. Throughout the day kettles were boiled, immersions turned on and a small mountain of pots, pans, plates and other cooking paraphernalia were washed, dried and reused. As a man I reserve the right to use ever scrap of delph, pan and cutlery when I cook. I can boil you and egg and leave you with 2hours of washing up to do.

When the guest arrived the risotto was started, after 10hours of constant cooking doing a risotto for a large number of people is near suicide but when spirit, good humour and ambition are long faded, sheer brute force and ignorance will carry me through. At the same time I seared the duck breast which had been seasoned with salt, pepper and chinese five spice powder, before putting it in the oven to finish for 8minutes and allowing it time to rest before placing a slice on top of each risotto.

3 days after the invite was extended, after 27hours of cooking, at exactly 7pm the starters hit the table. I had moved an armchair into the dining room and I sat briefly during the starter but considerably longer during the main course and dessert and happily took the praise for my food and fielded questions about what I had done and how I had done it.

Then shattered but dizzy with praise I took my leave, as much out of modesty as out of fear of my mother seeing the bombsite I had left where her kitchen used to be!

Would I recommend to someone to put 27hours into preparing a dinner party, God no! Would I do it all again, Hell yes!

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