Dinner for Six


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I have heard my friends say to me that having people over for dinner is daunting and I’m going to try and convince you that it isn’t. I’m in Sydney and when I’m here I love to catch up with old friends and it’s easier to have them over for dinner than to try and organise a date at a restaurant. This is especially the case if you have friends with young children.

Firstly my advise is not to cook anything new. Cook something you have made many times before and you’re confident with. It doesn’t have to be a meal that belongs in a top restaurant, people want to be able to relax and talk and that’s much easier if the host is relaxed.

I made a special roast chicken that is easy and succulent. This was served with hasselback potatoes and freshly cooked zucchini and carrots. Have you heard of hasselback potatoes before? They are so simple and so delicious. You cut the potatoes into thin slices and then roll in olive oil and salt. Place in an oven at 180 degrees celsius and watch them become crunchy and delicious. You can add rosemary or any herb or spice that you think enhances your meal.

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Another hint is to make a few special garnishes like roasted pistachios and slivered almonds. If you sprinkle these through the salad or on top of the roast chicken it will make your guests feel like it’s a special meal.

Roast Chicken marinated in Avjar

Ingredients

1 Free range chicken (a size that you think is right for your dinner party)

4 tablespoons of virgin olive oil

freshly ground salt and pepper

three cloves of garlic diced

A jar of Avjar

1/2 cup of pistachios (toasted in the oven)

1/2 cup of almonds slivers (toasted in the oven)

1 onion sliced

Grated lemon zest

Method

Heat oven to 200 degrees celcius.

Line a baking tray with alfoil to save on cleaning up later.

Unwrap your chicken and tuck the wings under the body.

Mix together the Avjar, olive oil, salt and pepper and diced garlic cloves.

Massage this into the bird, all over the skin and around the legs and wings. Make sure there is plenty of the sauce on the bird.

Place the chicken on the tray and place half the sliced onion into the chicken and sprinkle the other half on top.

Leave in the oven until the top of the chicken looks roasted and crunchy (see photo). Take out occasionally and spoon juices over the bird.

Then turn the oven to 150 degrees and keep roasting until very succulent, around an hour and a half.

Before taking to the table grate some fresh lemon zest on the top of the bird.

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Tomato Based Risotto


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I have to admit winter is my favourite month to cook. The cooler weather makes me hungry and I spend more time in the kitchen when it is not favourable outside. There is something so comforting about a hot healthy meal on a cold winter’s evening.

One of my favourite meals to prepare is risotto and I find it very easy to whip one up if we have more around our table than I was expecting. There is a myth that risotto is difficult to cook. I have never found this, and there is no need to stand over the pot stirring the whole time just as long as it doesn’t boil or stick to the bottom.

This recipe is for a tomato based risotto. You can add any vegetables that are in season. I added fresh peas and zucchini and some left over roasted pumpkin that I blended into the stock and tomato puree. Fresh peas take a little longer to cook than the frozen ones or canned but they are so full of flavour and I don’t mind if the peas are a little crisp.

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Here is the recipe.

Ingredients

1 can of tomato puree
1 litre vegetable stock
100g butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 rosemary sprig, finely chopped
250g risotto rice
4 pieces of well cooked pumpkin (mine was pre roasted)
1 cup of shelled fresh peas. (you can substitute frozen or canned peas)
1 zucchini sliced finely
Some Basil, roughly torn
5 tbsp grated parmesan or more if you like.  Reserve some for decorating before serving.
Freshly ground pepper

Method

Firstly put the oil and butter into a large saucepan and melt and stir together.  Add the diced onion, garlic and rosemary.

Now add the Aborio rice and stir until every grain is coated in the mixture.  (There are a few types of risotto rice but Aborio is the easiest to find). Stir for a little while longer and then add the stock and the tomato puree all at once. This is also when I added the cooked pumpkin mashing it into the stock mixture while stirring. Once the pumpkin is pureed into the liquid you can leave the risotto on a low heat, just stirring now and then.

Prepare you shelled peas, zucchini and torn basil. After around five minutes add the vegetables and half of the torn basil and stir again.  The rest of the basil can be used for garnish. Eventually the stock and tomato puree will start to be absorbed by the rice. You can add salt and pepper to your taste at this point. I don’t usually add salt as the cheese is salty enough.

The only tricky part in making risotto is making sure you keep enough liquid around the rice to keep it from going “gluggy”. You can do this by keeping an eye on it while it is cooking and if you feel the liquid is not enough you can add half a cup of water at a time until it is the consistency you want.

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I always make too much risotto and end up with left overs. You can just re heat in a pan with a little water or stock or my other favourite thing to do is to make risotto balls. I have the recipe on an earlier post but here are a few photos of how they come together. You leave the risotto overnight in the fridge and then roll it into balls and leave those in the fridge for a few hours. Then coat and fry. These ones had an olive in the middle.

Delicious and great as a lunch box treat.

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Eataly New York


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If you visit New York you must discover Eataly  Situated on Fifth Avenue near Madison Square Park this place is a feast for your eyes and your taste buds. The owners of this establishment are in love with food just like me. You can sit down and eat here, buy your groceries, pick up something special to eat later, and loads of other things to occupy food lovers. You can watch the professionals make pasta, purchase some and then choose the cheese and the sauce that you want to serve with it. You could even sign up for a cooking class. Oh how I wish I lived near a place like this!

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We stopped and had lunch at one of the restaurants called “Le Vedura” Just next to the produce department this restaurant focuses on vegetables. The seasonal vegetables lightly fried in olive oil where amazing. Of course you can enjoy a glass of wine with you meal and don’t forget to take the stairs to the roof top where there is a seafood restaurant.

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Have you ever seen so many mushroooms? Some of them I had never seen before! Wonderful fresh produce is on show and it is hard not to go home with too much.  Unfortunately I did not have a kitchen to cook in while staying in New York. Next time I will rent an apartment so I can buy all these wonderful ingredients and take them home to cook with. Fresh pasta with mushrooms would be so delicious.

Will write up the recipe for fresh mushrooms with pasta on the next post. Buon Appetito!

 

 

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