The last roses, deep red and heavy-scented

My poetic title isn’t something I have written, nor a line from a verse y someone else,; in fact it is the suggested table decoration for an October dinner-party from my ninety year-old cookery book.

The last roses, deep red and heavy-scented. Arrange them loosely in a silver bowl, and your table will look hospitable – and quite perfect.

On the menu, apart from the savoury, are dishes which I’m sure guests today would enjoy even though they are traditional and quite hearty. This early October is beautiful, pellucid skies and a warm sun – out of the shadow! It might not be fancy (unless there is a Masterchef type ‘twist’) but I can’t imagine anyone not liking it – although for a vegetarian, something would have to take the place of the main course!

Cream of tomato soup
Saddle of mutton and red currant jelly
potatoes and spinach
Apple meringue
Soft herring roes on toast

I think I would be tempted to serve Heinz tomato soup because I have never been able to make, or taste anyone else’s home-made soup, which to my palate tastes as good, Maybe I’d garnish it with chopped basil, or a spoonful of real pesto, or tarragon flavoured cream, but it would have to be Heinz.

Mutton is very difficult to come by now, and I dread to think how much a saddle would cost – but how delicious! I would have to serve it with onion sauce as well as the red currant jelly, and gravy of course. The potatoes on this menu are plain boiled – I think roasties would be better, and I definitely would not cook the spinach for twenty-five minutes!

The apple meringue is like an apple custard with meringue on top – no pastry – which I think would be nicer. I would follow the recipe for lemon meringue pie but use cooked apple in the custard instead of lemon (although a squirt of lemon and the zest would be nice!)

… and then we come to the savoury… the soft roes on toast. Not only have savouries to finish a meal gone completely out of fashion apart from cheese and biscuits, but soft roe is rarely seen anywhere. I do remember having it as a child for tea – we had a proper cooked lunch so in the evening we only had a little something, usually on toast, beans, cheese, sardines, Heinz spaghetti, tomatoes, mushrooms… my sister wouldn’t eat roe either soft or hard, but I loved it! The soft roe on the menu is cooked in butter, served on toast rounds and garnished with lemon.

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