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How to Chose Your Wedding Meal

How to Chose Your Wedding Meal
By Karen T Rhodes

If you haven't yet decided on your wedding menu it may be an idea to keep it simple and concentrate on the ingredients. We've just come back from a week in France and only had one bad meal. Ironically it was the first night in the English pub. The food was bland, uninteresting, poorly presented and simply not worth going back. Even the chips (which we are supposed to be good at) were lukewarm. The pub atmosphere was great but let down hugely by the quality of the food. It was packed that night but there wasn't a Frenchman in sight!

From then on things got better.

We had a huge variety of meals throughout the week from a steaming tartiflette (potatoes, bacon, onions, cream and reblochon cheese baked in the oven) to a simple salad. Every single meal without exception was delicious. The salads were basic but the dressing was to die for, the pasta was tasty with freshly grated parmesan and the chicken just melted in your mouth (not quite the same as the insipid offerings we get over here). We had a particularly great last day, sat outside in the spring sunshine, we pushed the boat out and opted for dessert when there really wasn't any room. Here the French come into their own. A chocolate souffle with ice-cream was simply the most delicious thing I have ever tasted and the lemon meringue pie bore no resemblance in taste to its English cousins.

It's not just the meals that were in a league of their own but the shops. Every village has its own boulangerie bursting with a hundred different varieties of breads, croissants, pain au chocolat and pastries. Why would you ever make a dessert with the quality on offer? The boucheries with joints of dried ham hanging in every window and the shop owners delighted to carve you a slice before you buy. The fromageries that don't conform to our ridiculous health and safety systems over here and have the cheeses on display at room temperature rather than tastelessly cling wrapped at 4 degrees totally killing all the flavour. Next to every cheese there is a little pot with offerings that you can taste before you buy. If you want the perfect picnic don't go further than the high street. Delicious bread, slices of prosciutto, cheese and pate make the perfect lunch.

What does this have to do with weddings I hear you ask? Well its simple. Get the best ingredients, cook them simply and present them beautifully. Use the seasons to choose your meal so that the produce is at its most perfect. Obviously the occasion and atmosphere make any meal and it's not just what you eat. Fresh fish and chips in a newspaper are hard to beat when starving and walking along the seafront and this is the feeling you are trying to replicate when choosing your wedding meal. A salad can be fantastic as long as all the ingredients are at their best. Some locally smoked salmon or thinly sliced smoked duck breast are fantastic or buffalo mozzarella with some freshly grown cherry tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and fresh basil leaves takes some beating especially if you add some freshly baked bread. If you don't fancy a starter just serve bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar alongside some juicy marinated olives and dishes of hummus. If that not enough add trays of thinly sliced salami and prosciutto or pots of rich country pate for guests to nibble on before their main course. If you are having a June wedding why not have spring lamb with jersey royals and fresh asparagus and broad beans. Just get the best cut possible and it will melt in your mouth. If you are getting married in the winter its a whole different ball game.

A wedding breakfast doesn't have to be soup, chicken and profiteroles (if it does it needs to be the best they can possibly be). If you are having a winter wedding why not have pots of beef bourgignonne with buttery mash and roasted winter vegetables. They can be put on each table and everyone helps themselves. Equally if steak and chips is your favourite, have it for your wedding.

Everyone's tastes are different and if you eat at Michelen star restaurants you may want something a bit fancier. However if that's the case it may be worth finding your perfect restaurant and taking it over for the day, have a small wedding of say twenty of your closest family and friends and dine in style. Use local produce. Here in the Lakes we have the most amazing suppliers and farm shops. The Cumberland sausage is amazing, Cartmel has its own smoke house (as well as sticky toffee pudding) and can produce the best smoked salmon ever, certainly giving those French a run for their money.

If you aren't going for a sit down meal then a buffet gives you unlimited options. Seafood looks and tastes amazing and if the budget allows you can feast on fresh lobster, crab, king prawns and mussels. You can add curries, joints of meat, casseroles, stir fries to your heart's content. Salads give a buffet table colour and texture but don't go for the British version with grated carrots, hard boiled eggs and beetroot. Served roasted Mediterranean vegetables with garlic and olive oil, cous cous, rocket with freshly grated parmesan and roasted Spanish onions, feta with toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh water melon drizzled with olive oil, tastes and looks divine. Serve bowls of garlic croutons and tiny bits of crispy bacon and delicious choices of dressing. Finish the table with a 'cut your own' bread display and baskets of seasonal fruits.

If you are having a barbecue don't go with the obvious. Camenbert in wooden boxes wrapped in tinfoil and drizzled with white wine makes a fantastic starter when baked on the barbeque. Serve individual ones to each guest with big baskets of different breads to dip. Whole fillets of salmon or fillet of beef can easily be cooked on the barbeque and it makes it dead easy to serve one per table complete with hot buttered potatoes and big bowls of salad. If you are having a hogroast which is a fantastic (as well as cost effective) way to feed a lot of people make sure they use proper home-made bread buns not Warburtons best pre-cut ones. The apple sauce and stuffing should be home-made and the pig, well they should at least be able to tell you were it comes from.

Afternoon tea has made a complete comeback and is now often offered instead of canaps. Tiny finger sandwiches with crusts off served with tiny freshly baked scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam accompanied by tiny chocolate eclairs, fruit tartlets, macaroons and our new love affair, decorated fairy cakes can be a complete hit if everything is made to its very best. Serve with pots of tea and freshly brewed coffee or even better glasses of icy champagne or prosecco and you are definitely onto a winner.

What seems to let us down over here are our desserts. Very rarely have I been somewhere that does really good desserts and now very rarely order one to prevent being disappointed. However if you are looking for the perfect wedding dessert flavour should always come first. Strawberries in summer are hard to beat but have them in January and you are bound to be disappointed. If you can pick them up and they smell divine nothing can beat them when served with fresh cream. If you want to go slightly more elaborate add fresh raspberries, giant meringue nests and hot chocolate sauce for a decadent feel. If you aren't a pudding person, get big platters of your favourite cheeses on each table and give everyone a slice of wedding cake to keep the sweet toothed happy. Another simple idea is to offer fruit tarts. What can beat a delicious sugar pastry filled with a mixture of mascarpone cheese, cregraveme fraiche and vanilla, topped with an array of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and finished with a dollop of chilled cream. If the weddings in winter simply swap for a crumble and serve custard instead of cream you really can't go wrong. Apples, pears, blackberries are fantastic in autumn and if its early spring you cant beat new season rhubarb. Just make sure its presented beautifully because however delicious it is, if it looks like school dinners it's a turn off straight away.

Don't forget the coffee. Many an amazing meal has been ruined by dodgy coffee. Ask your caterer or venue for a sachet of their coffee and try it at home. It should reflect the quality of the meal you are offering. Don't settle for second best and make sure you don't get mint imperials to go with it! Price


Karen Rhodes has helped plan and catered for weddings for over twenty years. She has helped brides choose the perfect wedding meal. To get free articles to help plan your wedding join our mailing list by filling in your name and email address at

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