Tender lamb shoulder. Photo / Annabel Langbein Media
Have you ever noticed, when you are invited to dinner at someone’s house, that whether or not you have a good time depends largely on how relaxed your hosts are and whether the
scene was set up for you to relax and have fun?
If, when you show up, there’s no indication that you’re expected – no drinking and snacking glasses, no music, no candles or flowers – and no sign of a table ready to eat – you almost feel like ask if you came on the wrong night (which can happen).
Worse still, if the atmosphere is tense and the person in charge of the kitchen panics that what they plan to serve will be a disaster. You must remember that your house is not a restaurant. When you invite people over for a meal, it’s not about performance and wowing people with clever culinary tricks. Main course, main course and plated dessert for 12? I do not think so. Save all that drama to the pros. Remember, the higher the bar, the further you can fall.
I loved the adrenaline rush of putting it all together at the very last minute. But not anymore. It’s a stress I don’t need and no one else wants to see me through.
Setting a fabulous table and dressing up a little creates an instant feeling of spice for your evening. Polish silverware and wine glasses, break out grandma’s old china and iron your favorite linen tablecloth and napkins.
Including an extra course, excluding main course and dessert (yes, you have to serve dessert, even if it’s chocolates), always makes a meal feel a bit special. You might like to start your meal with a large platter of ceviche or slices of fresh raw fish dressed with a little soy sauce and sesame oil and garnished with thinly sliced radishes and microgreens. When tomatoes stop being so expensive, I’ll often opt for a caprese salad as a starter. Simply slice the tomatoes on a platter (ideally a mix of traditional varieties), tear the burrata or mozzarella, season with salt and pepper and drizzle a good drizzle of the best olive oil you can put the hand. The last thing to do before serving is a scattering of fresh basil leaves.
A platter of melon or grilled peaches, with mint and finely grated prosciutto is another super simple and timeless platter combination.
My friend Lois, who is a fabulous cook, often mixes things up with a cheese dish before dessert, serving a big chunk of a delicious cheese with a simple green salad (dressed in a tangy Dijon dressing) and a baguette crispy.
Feeling relaxed and enjoying a meal together at home is one of life’s great pleasures. Dim lighting, cruise music, friendly conversation, a comfortably warm dining room and good, simple cuisine… you’ll never want to leave the table again.
Tender lamb shoulder
Ready in about 4h30
For 8 to 10 people
It’s so simple but still gets rave reviews. I like to use oyster shoulders because they are much less oily and much easier to handle when it comes to carving (just pull them apart with a few forks). Depending on your guests and what else you are serving, one oyster shoulder will serve 4-5 people.
Several large sprigs of thyme or rosemary
2 lamb oyster shoulders (bone in)
Salt and pepper
Per shoulder: 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds and coriander seeds
1 cup of water
SPICY LEMON YOGURT
1½ cups Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pomegranate seeds and coriander leaves, to garnish
Preheat the oven to 150°C or 140°C convection heat.
Arrange the herbs in a large Dutch oven or deep roasting pan and place the lamb on top. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with spices. Pour water around the meat, cover tightly with aluminum foil then a lid and cook for 3h30 to 4h (make sure the lamb is well sealed). Remove the lid and check for tenderness after 3.5 hours – the lamb should yield to the pressure of a spoon or your fingers. If the top has not yet browned, increase the heat to 200°C and continue cooking until golden – another 15 to 20 minutes, adding a little water to the dish if it has dried up.
While the lamb cooks, prepare a lemon-spiced yoghurt by mixing the yoghurt with salt, cumin and lemon juice.
Serve the lamb with a bowl of lemon-spiced yoghurt and sprinkle with pomegranate and coriander seeds. Serve with roast potatoes and salad.
Broccoli salad with orange and almonds
Ready in 20 minutes
For 8 to 10 people
This time of year, juicy oranges make a great substitute for tomatoes in salads. This vibrant salad makes a stunning side dish or, if you want to make it a main course for non-meat eaters, toss in some fried halloumi.
2 broccoli heads, cut into florets
6 large handfuls of watercress leaves or baby spinach
200g pea shoots and crunchy lentils
1 cup edamame beans, thawed, optional
3 oranges, peeled and quartered
½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1 cup toasted tamari almonds, coarsely chopped
SOUR HONEY DRESSING
2 teaspoons of honey
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons neutral oil
½ garlic clove crushed into a paste with ½ teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
Cook the broccoli in a pot of salted boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain, rinse under cold running water to refresh and drain well again.
To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a small jar and shake to combine. Put aside.
To make a salad, combine blanched broccoli, watercress or spinach, sprouts, orange segments, pumpkin seeds and almonds in a bowl and toss to combine. Just before serving, add the vinaigrette and toss gently.
Lemon and ginger ice cream
Ready in 30 minutes + freezing
Makes about 9 cups
No need for an ice cream maker to make this velvety dessert. The two secrets are to use lots of sugar, which prevents ice crystals from forming, and to whip in lots of air so it’s light and fluffy. Combining the cream and yogurt makes it lighter and tangier than using all the cream, but if you prefer, you can replace the yogurt with cream. Serve with bottled fruit, such as apricots or plums.
1½ cup caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
¾ cup lemon juice, strained
½ cup very finely chopped crystallized ginger
4 egg whites
1 cup cream
½ cup Greek yogurt
Lemon zest, grated, optional garnish
Combine sugar, lemon zest and juice, and ginger in a medium saucepan and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
While the syrup is simmering, whip the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. On low speed, gradually add the hot syrup, then increase the speed and beat until it cools and the mixture has formed a very thick meringue consistency (about 10 minutes).
In a large mixing bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks (you can use the same beaters, you don’t need to wash them in between). Gently stir in the yogurt, then stir in the beaten egg whites a little at a time, folding in gently until evenly incorporated. Pour into a freezer safe container, cover and freeze for at least 6 hours. It will keep for 3 to 4 weeks in the freezer. Serve garnished with grated lemon zest, if desired.
Associate them with
by Yvonne Lorkin
(melting lamb shoulder)
Carrick Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2019 ($45)
This Pinot Noir is delicious, but unusual in several ways. First, it’s unusual that the 25-year-old certified organic vines that produce this wine grow on their own roots (instead of the common practice of using pest-resistant rootstocks) and second, that it weighs 14 percent of alcohol, but also manages to feel soothing, refreshing and calm in the mouth. Scented with subtle floral notes, black tea and spice and displaying soft tones of cherry and tamarillo on the palate, it cuddles up against that tender shoulder of lamb like a cashmere cardigan.
(Crunchy broccoli, orange and almond salad)
Yealands Reserve Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2021 ($16)
Yealands head winemaker Nat Christensen said this wine was one of his favorites and I was like, ‘Girl, we’re better now.’ Chardonnay is my favorite whenever I see almonds and citrus in a recipe, so prepare for layers of nectarine and grapefruit goodness stitched together with sweet, toasty oak and tons of fresh acidity. It’s generously elegant, I love its peachy complexity and terrific tension and it’s the perfect sip for this citrusy nutty salad. I can’t say it strong enough.
(Lemon and ginger ice cream)
Zeffer Hazy alcoholic lemonade (6 pack 330ml $25)
Ice cream has gone perfectly with things in cans since the invention of the coffee float. However, rather than being a “mixer”, the folks at Zeffer went to create something you’ll want to enjoy as a standalone citrus sip to enjoy with this lemon ginger dessert. A creamy and complex base made from freshly squeezed, unfiltered Hawke’s Bay lemons has been enriched with a unique blend of spirits made from local apples and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. These spirits are the repurposed by-product of Zeffer’s 0% cider and 0% wine products, products that would otherwise go to waste. So you can wrap your durability chops around this great workout and enjoy this delicious dessert combo.