Hosting a dinner party is a bit like the duck analogy. Above water it appears to glide serenely by while below its little legs are working hard to keep up the momentum. Of course, you want your guests to feel that your little soirée has been no effort at all. For the most part this year’s Christmas party wasn’t, especially as we had the luxury of a huge house and no need to move furniture around to fit in the dining table. But I must say, desert was a near run thing.

The concept of hot caramel sauce melting a chocolate ball to reveal the desert beneath seems simple enough. It looks impressive on You Tube. But not since ‘Forest in a jar’ has so much effort gone into a single dish. For a start Gretta bought the moulds for the balls from overseas, only to have all but two broken in transport. After weeks of experimenting she got the chocolate mix, thickness and method down pat.  Getting the balls out of the mould intact was a real problem and more were lost than saved. With each ball taking a week to make and only two moulds to work with, any that survived were treated with reverential care.

The duck was busy, but composed, when disaster struck.

Gretta’s only two complete chocolate balls melted in the freezer when it was left off after a garage reshuffle. There was much yet to do and the dinner night was fast approaching.  Litres of caramel were made, tasted and discarded until we settled on butterscotch sauce. Two ice cream makers worked overtime until Gretta was happy with the brown bread ice cream she had chosen to sit beneath the ball.

Our duck’s legs were paddling hard.

The night before the dinner, Gretta pulled the last ball out of its mould and ran a desert dress rehearsal. The result was perfect. We just had to get through a hot night and even hotter day.

The duck could relax a little.

We made it through the night, but our poor little freezer with its precious cargo of sorbet, ice cream and chocolate wasn’t going to make it through the day. At 8am the mercury was already in the high twenties and powering on remorselessly towards thirty and beyond. Our garage was like an oven so there was nothing for it but to quickly relocate the freezer to a cooler part of the house.

There was nothing serene about the duck by this time. Legs going and wings flapping it looked like it was being taken by a croc.

The atmosphere in the kitchen was distinctly tense until finally, thirty minutes after being moved, the compressor on the freezer wheezed into life and dinner was saved.  There was an audible sigh of relief.

As guests arrived our duck was back in its element. Gliding effortlessly about the room serving drinks no one knew how close they had come to getting Streets Viennetta for desert.

P.S You’ll have to wait for a picture, we didn’t take any on the night.