Celebrating Effortless Summer Fare
I am so inclined to repeat my menus that it takes a luncheon with friends to inspire me to delve into old recipe books, files and faded food magazines, those I hoard. I always find inspiration as the clock ticks ever nearer and my “to do” list gets longer.
Our guests arrived dressed to the nines with their lavish hats befitting the occasion. It was a festive affair, with laughter ringing well into the night. I had no left overs to speak of. A success. Messages poured in asking for recipes. Here they are.
Festivities were kicked off with a self-help Gin Bar. Guests did their own thing adding one or more of the following botanicals which were laid out in small bowls or cocktail glasses.
Star anise, green cardamom, lemon, lime, (slices of orange and blood orange ae also winners) strawberries, blueberries, ginger root, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, juniper berries, edible flowers, elderflower, mint and basil.
We had a good selection of locally crafted Gins and filled ‘em up with excellent tonics. Keep things pink with Angostura’s Bitters. Do keep in mind that not all guests take alcohol, supply non-alcoholic beverages these can be dressed up too. We always keep a dozen or two Duchesses for the occasion. Have plenty of ice. A pestle and mortar was there for anyone who wanted to free the oils from spices. Tongues are loosened as the party gets into full swing. A great way for guests to mingle and reacquaint before being seated.
When I cook for a crowd (more than 12 guests) I would not prepare individual servings but, opt for a buffet style table, plating my dishes on large platters or large bowls and dishes. Desserts are once off too and not individual servings. I balance flavours and repeat core ingredients e.g. ginger in more than one dish to have a continuation of flavours and not just a mish-mash of flavours which can confuse the palate. This makes catering simpler, quicker and stress-free.
My menu is planned meticulously so that I can make a few dishes in advance, prep some the day before to cook later and leave as little as possible for last minute cooking. I like to plate and garnish two hours before my guests arrive and leave a tidy kitchen one hour before my first guests arrive.
BEEF TONGUE WITH A FRESH APRICOT SAUCE
A South African favourite festival dish, always goes down well with guests and is really simple to prepare. Can be made two days in advance and kept in the refrigerator. Buy your tongue from a reputable butcher (Van Blommenstein in Hermanus is excellent, orders must be placed in advance)
1 Corned Beef Tongue
6 whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves
3 medium carrots, scraped and cut into large chunks
2 medium onions, peeled and cut into quarters
In a large saucepan cover the corned tongue with cold water and soak overnight.
Remove tongue from the water and discard the water. Wash the tongue thoroughly using a food brush. Return the tongue to the large saucepan. Add the rest of the ingredients and once again cover with fresh cold water. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a very low simmer. Simmer for 3-3.5 hours until tender. Remove from the saucepan, leave to stand for a few minutes until the temperature has dropped sufficiently to remove the skin without burning. Start at the wide end of the tongue and work downwards.
Place the prepared tongue in a bread tin, cover with tin foil and weight the meat down with a heavy object. I cover two washed bricks which have been covered in two layers of tin foil. Refrigerate overnight. Before serving carve the meat into thin slices, drizzle a little of the warm sauce over the meat.
FRESH APRICOT SAUCE
1 punnet fresh apricots, halved, stones removed
1 large onion, sliced
500ml beef stock
200g brown sugar
125ml white wine vinegar
30ml mustard powder
50ml corn flour stirred into 60ml cold water
Saute the onion in the butter until glassy, stir in the mustard powder, add the apricots, raisins and beef stock. Simmer for a few minutes before adding the sugar and vinegar. Do not overcook the sauce, make sure the apricots are still chunky. Add the corn flour mixture. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes until the corn flour has cook sufficiently. Add the cream and stir. Pour the sauce into a container, cover with cling film firmly pressed down on top of the sauce to form the “skin”.
Serve at room temperature in a pretty jug with some sauce dribbled over the tongue before serving.
A sweet mustard sauce goes just as well with this dish.
GAMMON WITH CHARRED ORANGE SLICES AND BLUEBERRIES
2 bay leaves
2 onions, peeled and sliced
2 carrots, cut into rings
Wipe the gammon with a clean, damp muslin cloth, place in the middle of two sheets of tin foil, shiny side to the inside. Add the rest of the ingredients. Fold securely. Bake in a 180֩C pre-heated oven. Calculate time as follows 20 minutes per 500g and 20 minutes over. Remove from the oven once cooked. Cool. Remove the rind. Score the skin in a diamond pattern, apply a glaze, return to the oven and grill for another 20 minutes until the glaze has caramelized and orange rind has charred slightly.
ORANGE HONEY MUSTARD GLAZE
1 orange sliced thinly
4 tablespoon honey
15ml Dry English mustard
Brush the honey mustard mixture over the entire gammon. Place slices of orange covering the top of the gammon, secure using toothpicks. Place under the grill for 20 minutes until the orange rinds have charred.
In a saucepan empty one punnet of blueberries, 5 star anise and 3T of sugar. Bring to the boil gently and cook until some berries have popped and oozed.
Garnish your Gammon by spooning some blueberry sauce over the gammon. Pour the remaining coulis into a pretty jug or bowl, set to the side or pool on the platter.
MY OLD FASHIONED SWEET MUSTARD SAUCE
This recipe is an excellent store cupboard addition, kept refrigerated and used for left over slices of tongue, gammon or beef on the days following parties.
25ml Olive oil
30ml mustard powder
Pinch of salt
250 boiling water
Mix all the ingredients, whisking well. Bring back to the boil over a gentle heat, stirring all the while to prevent burning. Remove from the heat. Some whole mustard seeds can be added for extra texture and flavour (30ml)
50ml white grape vinegar
50ml pouring cream
Stir well. Bottle until required.
RARE BEEF FILLET WITH MARINATED VEGETABLES
1 Fillet (approx. 1,5kg)
Seasoned. I used a butter made up of 2T olive oil, 2T Dijon mustard 2T cracked black pepper and 5ml Maldon salt. Rub all over the meat, place the meat on an oven rack and bake in a preheated oven of 160֩C for 30 minutes turn up the oven to Grill and brown the meat quickly. Should not take more than 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Cool. Slice once cold, fillet can be carved into very thin slices or slightly thicker as you wish. Plate on a platter and serve with the marinated vegetables.
1 sweet red pepper, cut into strips
1 sweet yellow pepper, cut into strips
250g button mushrooms, sliced, I used tiny button mushrooms and kept them whole
1 punnet young green beans, steamed for 3 minutes
30ml capers, drained
60ml olive oil
30ml red wine vinegar
Grated lemon rind and juice of half a lemon
15ml chopped mint leaves
15ml chopped Italian parsley
Season with salt and pepper
Saute peppers in a little oil until wilted. Fry the mushrooms in a little oil, until soft but do not let them steam and become watery. Remove from the heat, season, add capers, and fold all the vegetables and herbs in together.
In a small bowl mix the olive oil, wine vinegar, rind and juice of lemon and season. Pour over the vegetables. Keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Arrange the carved meat in a circle on the outer edge of a platter and heap the marinated vegetables into the center.
BAKED RED ONION AND BEETROOT WITH WALNUT SALSA
2 bunches of small beetroot, well scrubbed and washed. Leave the stalks and leaves on if they’re still in a good condition and not too long.
Place on a baking tray covered with baking paper or tin foil (saves the elbow grease needed to clean the tray later)
Rub the entire root with a good dollop of olive oil
Bake in a pre-heated hot oven 200֩C for 30 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from the oven and while still hot refresh the vegetable with more olive oil and a good squeeze of fresh orange juice and two generous tablespoons of pomegranate seeds.
6 medium red onions topped and tailed and halved width ways.
Place the onions on a prepared baking tray (covered with baking paper)
Brush using a generous amount of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 40 minutes until cooked and slightly browned around the outer edges. Cool.
½ packet of walnuts, broken into smaller pieces
1 small red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
45ml red wine vinegar
150ml olive oil
In a small bowl mix all the ingredients together.
1 roll of soft goat’s cheese to serve with the salad.
On a platter arrange the onions and beetroot with the rocket leaves and slices of goat’s cheese. Carefully spoon the salsa over the salad. Serve.
FAMILY FAVOURITE BAKED BUTTERNUT WITH CRÈME FRAICHE DRESSING
Cut a medium size butternut into wedges, keeping the skin on. Place on a prepared baking sheet (cover the baking sheet in baking paper/tinfoil)
Cover the wedges with a generous sprinkling of olive oil.
Season with a mixture of ginger powder, curry powder, coriander and a little salt and pepper. A good finger of fresh ginger cut into very thin slices sprinkled over the butternut. (Delicious to eat afterwards!)
Bake in a pre-heated oven 220֩C for 40 minutes until the butternut is cooked, the skin is soft and the outer edges slightly charred.
Remove from the oven and serve with the crème fraiche sauce ladled over the vegetables
CRÈME FRAICHE SAUCE:
1 lemon grass stalk
200g crème fraiche
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2,5ml salt and a good grind of black pepper
½ punnet coriander leaves
Mix all the ingredients together. Arrange the butternut on a large platter, sprinkle a finely sliced red chili over the vegetables together with the coriander leaves. Spoon the sauce over the vegetables. A little sauce can be served on the side to be added later by guests.
GET YOUR GREENS
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add half a lemon cut into chunks and 5ml salt.
Steam various green vegetables e.g. asparagus, young beans, long stemmed broccoli and sugar snap peas individually for a few minutes. Not more than 3 minutes. Asparagus and sugar snap peas for 2 minutes. Dunk the vegetables into ice cold water to stop the cooking process immediately. Refresh with a good splash of Virgin Olive Oil (use local oils), salt and a good grind of black pepper. Plate on a large platter, add some dried cranberries, cracked walnuts and some snipped chives. A good squeeze of lemon juice will add panache! Serve at room temperature. To ring the changes shave some parmesan cheese and add that too.
VEGETARIAN AUBERGINE BAKE
65ml Olive oil
2 medium aubergines, cut into 2cm round slices
150g feta cheese, crumbled
150g cream cheese
60ml double thick cream
1 punnet Rosa tomatoes
Handful of torn fresh oregano
Salt and black pepper
Punnet of Rosa tomatoes on the vine baked in the oven for 15 min.
Slice the aubergines, brush both sides with olive oil and bake in a hot oven 200֩C for 40minutes. Remove from the oven and cool down.
Pack the aubergines into a buttered oven proof dish, fill the gaps with the tomatoes.
Beat together the cream cheese, egg and cream. Add the seasoning and herbs then fold in the Feta cheese.
Pour over the aubergines. Bake at 180֩C for 35-40 minutes until the custard has set.
Remove from the oven, dust with a good grating of Parmesan cheese and garnish with a baked Rosa tomatoes and oregano.
THAI MELON MELANGE SALAD
1 small watermelon
1 small Spanspek (sweet melon)
1 bunch radishes, washed and thinly sliced
Handful of rocket leaves, washed
60g cashew nuts roughly chopped
Handful of chopped mint
Handful of chopped basil
Handful of chopped coriander leaves
Cut 1 small watermelon into WEDGES, using 1 wedge, peel and cut the wedge into thin slices (the slices will be triangular). Cut just enough for the table – approx. 2 slices for each guest. Wrap the rest of the watermelon in cling film, keep cold for the children returning from the beach later!
Repeat the above with 1 Spanspek (sweet melon).
Arrange the fruit, rocket leaves and radishes on a large platter keeping the various varieties separate. Sprinkle the mint, coriander and basil leaves on all the ingredients. Dress with the Thai dressing. Garnish with the nuts.
THAI SALAD DRESSING
5ml fresh ginger, grated
1 red chili, seeds removed, finely chopped
30ml soya sauce
60ml Olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
In a small jar shake the dressing ingredients. Just before serving dress the salad.
EASY TO MAKE DOLLED UP ICE-CREAM
Line a bread tin (any mould will do, I always use a half round tin or bread tin, makes portioning easier) with two layers of cling film (cut two strips of cling film place one on top of the other on a flat surface and then line the tin. Doesn’t have to look perfect it will work, as long as the tin is covered on all sides.
Half melt good quality 1liter full cream vanilla ice-cream (here one must splurge to impress)
HAZELNUT ICE CREAM
(Ice cream can be made a few days in advance)
120g of hazelnuts, chopped into chunks (hazelnuts can be replaced by nuts of your choice)
1 tin caramelised Condensed Milk, stirred while still in the tin
1 slab 70% dark chocolate
60ml Brandy, or Tia Maria
Leave the ice cream out to half melt in a large bowl. Lightly fold the nuts into the ice-cream, then the dark chocolate, then the Brandy and lastly swirl in the Condensed Milk. Do not overwork the ice cream.
Pour into the tin, cover with cling wrap and freeze until needed.
Plate the ice cream on a large platter, remove the cling film and garnish.
Melted chocolate can be drizzled over the top. Add some chopped nuts or a caramel sauce
BERRY ICE CREAM
1 packet frozen berries (any variety will do, I used mixed berries)
60ml Limoncello or a berry liqueur if you prefer
Line a bread tin with two layers of cling film making sure all the sides are covered.
Leave the ice cream out to half melt in a large bowl. Gently fold in the berries and liqueur. Remould in the lined tin, freeze.
Remove the ice cream from the tin, plate on a large platter and garnish with fresh berries, mint leaves and a dusting of icing sugar.
ORANGE FLAVOURED ICE CREAM
Line a bread tin with two layers of cling film.
Half melt a litre of ice cream (just leave it out for a few minutes, it’s normally fine by the time one gets back from the village) in a large mixing bowl.
Gently fold in a tin of frozen orange juice, which has also half melted. Add the rind of one orange and 60ml of Brandy or an orange liqueur.
Pour into the bread tin and re-freeze.
Plate on a large rectangular platter, garnish with thin slices of orange.
Serve with a chocolate sauce.
CRUSTLESS TARTE AU CITRON AND CARAMEL SAUCE
125ml granulated sugar
Pour sugar into a frying pan, add the water, and shake until all the sugar is wet. Heat the pan fairly quickly, turn the heat down to low. Leave the sugar to melt. It takes quite a while. Once the sugar melts, watch carefully as sugar burns quickly once it’s bubbling and really hot. A good caramel has a fairly dark colour, the sweet sauce with a slightly bitter edge is what makes a good sauce.
Pour this sauce into a cake tin, making sure the sides are covered before the caramel comes to rest on the base and harden.
9 extra large eggs
350g castor sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 5 lemons
250ml double thick cream
75g icing sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 160֩C
Whisk the eggs with the castor sugar and zest until light and creamy. Stir in the lemon juice and then gently fold in the cream remove any froth before pouring into the tin. Place the tin in a water bath by carefully placing the tin into a larger baking tin half filled with boiling water. Bake for 30 minutes or until the filling has set. Cool completely.
To serve: loosen sides with a rounded blade. Place a rectangular plate on top of the mould turn over swiftly.
MY EASY FESTIVE PANNA COTTA AND BERRIES
1 litre cream
2x 10g gelatine soaked in 120ml cold water
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
Fresh berries of your choice
250ml granadilla curd
Heat cream slowly to just below boiling point, add sugar and vanilla and stir until completely melted. Add soaked gelatine and stir until completely melted. Pour into a cling film lined bread tin or mould. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours until gelatine has set properly.
To serve: turn the Panacotta out onto a rectangular platter pour granadilla curd over the top and garnish with a selection of festive berries.
2 tins of granadilla pulp
Rind of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
Place the grated lemon rind and sugar in a bowl. In another bowl whisk the granadilla pulp together with the eggs, then pour this mixture over the sugar. Add the butter cut into little pieces, and pour the mixture into the top of a double boiler. Gently simmer water in the bottom saucepan. Stir the custard frequently until the mixture thickens. It should take about 20 minutes. Pour the curd into a small plastic container, cover with cling film pressing the film down so that it forms the skin and not the custard.
Bon Appetito amigo!
Of course the show stoppers were two desserts made by my dear friend the Queen of Tarts, a Berry Pavlova and the other, a heavenly Chocolate Mousse, by my celebrated friend the a barefoot cook! Their recipes I hope to inherit!
I didn’t have time to photograph my dishes, but, a friend kindly took some pictures. Photo credits go to Lilly la Cock. Thank you. My inspiration for this menu came from Yotam Ottolenghi he has mastered the art of cooking with vegetables. Let his books PLENTY and PLENTY MORE be on your wishlists!