a casual meal with friends
It’s been a busy few days celebrating 30ths – last saturday we had informal dinner at home with a few close friends as an early bday celebration for B and monday was M’s 30th at The Ark which continued on to the next day with a day at Novelli’s Academy at crouchmoor farm (more about the latter in another post). For the saturday meal I pulled out my trusty Ottolenghi cookbook and tried several new recipes, I was a little worried as I attempted any of them before but I need not have been as everything turned out beautifully. On the menu that evening was Roasted Aubergine with Saffron yogurt, Chargrilled Asparagus, Courgettes and Cherry Tomato salad, Marinated Rack of Lamb with Coriander and Honey, Barbecued Chicken with Garlicky yogurt and Lemon Couscous – all served together, family style. And to finish we had a Sticky Chocolate Loaf, kind of an adult sticky date pudding with Armagnac soaked prunes instead of dates, with vanilla ice-cream on the side. What was great about the dishes (apart from tasting great!) is that they can all be made ahead of time – I made the both the aubergine and cake the day before (they just needed to be taken out of the fridge and brought back to room temperature before serving), as well as marinating the chicken and lamb. So on the day itself all I had left to do was make the salad, grill the meats and make the side of couscous – simple! Even better, everything can be served at room temperature so even the grilling can be done before the guests arrive, leaving you free to be the perfect host!
Here are the two vegetarian recipes from the evening – I myself am always thrilled to find delicious and exciting vegetable dishes as there are so many uninspiring ones around. I would seriously recommend you getting the cookbook for the other recipes which were all scrumptious (the conversation at the dinner table was dead for the first 10 minutes as everyone was busy tucking in – the dishes from this book are just that good!)
Chargrilled Asparagus, Courgette and Cherry Tomato salad
(from the Ottolenghi cookbook)
350g cherry tomatoes, halved
coarse sea salt and black pepper
24 asparagus spears
for the basil oil:
75ml olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
25g basil leaves
a pinch of salt
¼ tsp black pepper
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Mix the tomatoes with three tablespoons of oil and season. Spread them out, skin-side down, on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, and roast for about 50 minutes, until semi-dried. Set aside to cool.
While the tomatoes are cooling, trim the woody bases off the asparagus and blanch in boiling water for four minutes. drain, refresh in cold water until the spears are completely cooled, then drain, transfer to a bowl and toss with two tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper.
Slice the courgettes very thinly lengthwise (use a mandolin or, if you’re scared of taking off the tips of your finger as I am, a vegetable peeler) and mix with a tbsp of oil, salt and pepper.
Place a griddle pan on a high heat and leave for a few minutes until very hot. Grill the courgettes and asparagus, turning after a minute – you want nice char marks on all sides. Remove and leave to cool.
Make the basil oil by blitzing all the ingredients in a blender until smooth. To assemble, arrange the rocket and vegetables in layers on a flat serving plate and drizzle with basil oil (extra oil can be kept for future salads).
Note: The original recipe calls for the inclusion of Manouri cheese. I found it wasn’t really needed and the salad was perfectly delicious without, but if you wish to include it – slice 200g manouri cheese into 2cm thick slices and fry for three minutes each side in olive oil until golden. Drain on kitchen paper before combining with rest of salad ingredients.
Roasted Aubergine with Saffron Yogurt
(again, from the fabulous Ottolenghi cookbook)
3 medium aubergines, cut into 2cm slices
olive oil for brushing
2 tbsp roasted pinenuts*
a handful of pomegranate seeds
20 basil leaves
coarses sea salt and pepper
for the saffron yogurt:
a small pinch of saffron strands
3 tbsp hot water
180g greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
For the sauce, infuse the saffron in the hot water for 5 minutes. Pour the infusion into a bowl containing all other saffron yogurt ingredients and whisk well until you get a smooth golden sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Chill if not serving immediately (this will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days).
Preheat the oven to 220°C. Place the aubergine slices on a roasting tray, brushing both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-35 minutes, until the slices take on a beautiful light brown colour. Let them cool down (the aubergines will also keep for up to 3 days in the fridge, just take them out an hour or so before serving).
To serve, arrange the aubergine slices on a plate and drizzle with the saffron yogurt. Sprinkle with pine nuts and pomegranate seeds and lay the basil on top.
* I actually forgot to add the pine nuts when I was plating up, hence the lack of nuts in the photo.