12 December 2009

My Dinner Party Book

"One of the things Duchesses frequently do is entertain. Some find it a terrible trial, and, to be honest, aren't very good at it. I am fortunate in that I love entertaining and without sounding conceited some say that I am quite good at it!"
Margaret, Duchess of Argyll

Cecil Beaton's drawing of Margaret

For over thirty years the Duchess of Argyll entertained many of the rich and famous, the poor and famous and the rich- and-not-that famous. Like many of those with landed English homes, the Duchess' Georgian house in Mayfair with its pine panelled dining room and long Italian walnut table were sold. The Duchess kept detailed diaries of her many dinner parties, each bound in red leather and kept close at hand to remember the events and to know what worked well and what didn't.

More than recipes, the idea of keeping a detailed "entertaining" diary is a grand one. If you have even one party a year, it is well worth the trouble to compile your notes, guests, foods, wines even a snapshot of the table settings for further review. Start NOW! Don't worry yourself with the ones that got away.

Some of the best of her parties were collected in, My Dinner Party Book, a combination cookbook, entertaining treatise, etiquette manual with a bit of gossip thrown in.

In honor of all those "royals" she entertained, here is her recipe for...

Crown of Lamb

Ask your butcher to prepare a crown of lamb from two pieces of best end of neck, each with about six cutlets. He will need to be given a little notice for this. Make sure the crown is secure with string and skewers. Place in a roasting tin. fill the center with foil so the crown keeps its shape during cooking and twist some foil around the exposed bones to prevent burning. Spread the meat with a little dripping, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes per lb plus 30 minutes at 350F (180C, gas mark 4). After cooking, remove all the foil and hang little cutlet frills on the end of the bones. The centre of the crown can be stuffed with sausagemeat, sage and onion stuffing or any other good stuffing before cooking. Alternatively, it can be filled with small vegetables just before cooking.

Wether you are throwing a cocktail party or full blown dinner dance, Margaret, Duchess of Argyll can give you a hand in your preparations. And she makes stylish socks, too.

At the opening of David Hick's shop in New York.
Lord Louis Mountbatten, Margaret, Hicks, Pamela Hicks

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