The Big Dinners Project: Feb.

Although I am the presiding monarch of the Kingdom of All the Best Intentions, located in the land of Too Many Resolutions (twinned with Never Effing Sticks to Anything), we have actually kept up with our Big Dinners Project.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that we haven’t stuck to the challenge as we have just entered the fourth month of the year and I’ve only written about one instalment of the project, which also just happened to be my birthday (I have subsequently received a ‘Queen of Cop-Outs’ nomination. Thank you). Of course, that post is now so far back in the annals of my blog that if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, a brief tl:dr is that my boyfriend and I made a joint New Year’s Resolution to have a dinner party, where we make our pals sit shoulder to shoulder around our tiny fold-out dinner table with people they don’t know to eat sub-par food, chat and have some wines, once a month. It’s more fun than it sounds, I promise. But despite the distinct lack of documentation, we actually have had three dinners to date, and have the fourth round in the diary for a few weeks’ time. To act as a little diary and to keep us accountable, here’s what happened at Big Dinner number 2.

When I was young and cool and adventurous (RIP, past me and all your of-the-moment music preferences and carefree student loan-fuelled existence) I lived in north-east Brazil for a year. Beau came out to visit me and ended up staying for five months. We miss it desperately: I still swear in Portuguese, the low hum of bossa nova is always in our flat and we make black beans which pale in comparison to a proper feijoada as often as possible. As it was mid-February, and just past Carnival time, it seemed only appropriate to honour that time by cooking up some Brazilian food for our friends.

And so Beau headed down to the supermarket with a backpack akin to those we travelled around Brazil with and came back brandishing dried prawns and plantain and palm oil and enough coconut milk to sink a ship. Even though we managed to fit in a tiny run in the afternoon, we pretty much spent the entire day chopping and peeling and seasoning and sweating (both in the gastronomic and physical sense) and chilling (just in the gastronomic sense, unfortunately). I can’t actually claim that much credit for any of the cooking, as this is where Beau really came into his own. In fact, apart from cobbling together a crumble, I actually spent the majority of the prep time armed with some Dettol and a Henry Hoover. The flat, for once in its shabby, scuff-marked life, looked pretty sharp but it did mean that I spent a lot of the evening mentioning the fact that I had spent the whole day cleaning: nothing like a co-host that deflects any compliments on the menu by pointing out how the shiny laminate flooring looks, eh?

And so, once the guests had arrived, the long and short of the evening was:

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8 of us: me, him, two friends from uni, four friends from school.

We ate: pão de queijo and quejio coalho with sweet chilli dip to start (queijo is cheese, just so you get a vibe for the theme of the starter). Pots and pans of rice, black bean stew, a fish moqueca and veggie equivalent made with plantain for me, topped with a farofa for main. Caramelised banana crumble and ice cream for pudding.

We drank: Caipirinhas (ones of exceptionally shoddy quality when I was entrusted with the mixing) made with proper 51 cachaça, G&T and prosecco.

And then: tried to settle this argument. Three rounds of telegrams. This Brazilian playlist. Teared up from laughing so hard. Took one photo. Everyone left by about 1.30am, except one particularly angelic guest who helped move tables and collapse camping stools and sweep floors and generally clear up the carnage the morning after. And a good time was had by all (I hope).