An easy Spanish-style lunch with friends
Recently, friends of ours, Polly and Pete came to Sydney for a short visit. The main purpose was to attend the Vivid Lights festival and participate in a photographic workshop, as well as catching up. We go back a very long time ( 25 years?) and both Polly and I love eating out as much as entertaining at home. So while we briefly debated which new restaurant to try in the city, we eventually decided to do lunch at our place where a 2-hour table reservation is not required and guests could come and go as they pleased ( with a husband and a son working different hours on weekends, ours is very much a revolving door! )
It has been a busy few weeks lately. Some travelling, new projects, and family gatherings have taken a lot of our time, forcing me to take short cuts in the kitchen ( rather than resort to takeaway… I know I am a food snob!) For this occasion I decided to make a Spanish tapas inspired themed lunch, mainly because I had a few ready-to-eat starters like spanish olives, octopus, manchego cheese and some duck ham. The rest of the meal was easy to put together, after (re)discovering a long forgotten cookbook I had purchased shortly after our mediterranean cruise: Culinaria Spain. As luck would have it, all the ingredients were already in the fridge, saving me a trip to the shops: garlic mushrooms are everybody’s favourites and a perfect vegetable option in that meat heavy feast. I served it with some fried fresh sardines, a special treat for me as the kids don’t like the bones and Terry ( who drives fishing boats ) consider them no other than bait fish! Luckily our guests love them, so more for us!! For the main course I settled on a slow cooked Moorish style lamb shoulder roast, which took very little hands-on time to prepare, most of the work being done while braising in the oven. Dessert was an orange sorbet served with madeleines. I used orange blossom water in both, the scent is so heavenly, I am totally in love with it! If you have an ice cream maker, the sorbet is a cinch to make, and it has proven so popular in our house, it seems to disappear quicker than chocolate!
With our guest arriving bearing gifts ( i.e French Champagne ), it was a perfect linguering lunch remembering old times and promising to do better than a yearly catch up from now on…Lunch at their place next time!!
Mushrooms with Garlic
This is a pretty easy dish to put together and also very versatile. You can use small button mushrooms ( for a dainty look and subtle flavour) or thick juicy portobello mushrooms as I did, which gives the dish a darker rustic look and a much stronger taste. Either way, don’t be shy with the garlic, serve at room temperature as tapas. It also works very well as a side dish with meat or mixed with pasta or rice for a vegetarian meal.
Serves 6, as shared snacks
1/2 cup olive oil
6 cloves or garlic, peeled and crushed
500g mushrooms, thickly sliced
a pinch of hot paprika
a picj of salt
3 tbsp sherry
2 tbsp chopped parsley
- Heat the oil in a large frypan, but do not let it reach smoking point.
- Brown the garlic slightly ( don’t let it burn!) then add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring regularly, until all the oil has been absorbed and the moisture has evaporated ( mushrooms give out a lot of liquid)
- Season with paprika and salt, add the sherry and let it reduce for a few minutes.
- Sprinkle with parsley just before serving at room temperature.
Fried Fresh Sardines
I love sardines but have never liked cooking fresh ones in the past, because I always feel squirmish at the idea of gutting them. It always seems like a lot of trouble when I am the only person in the house who will eat them anyway. Then, I found out that our local fish shop sells them conveniently vaccum-packed fresh, gutted and headless. All that is required it a little wipe to dry the fish, throw them in a ziploc bag and toss them in flour and seasoning of your choice ( salt and pepper in our case), shallow fry them in olive oil ( somewhere between sautee and deep-fry) , drain and serve with lemon wedges. It is ok to eat with your fingers!
Do you need a recipe for this?
Moorish Style Lamb Shoulder roast
The combination of fruits and meat in Spanish cooking, reflect the arab’s culinary heritage as Spain was conquered by the Arabs in the Middle Ages. This lamb dish is a particularly rich one, owing to the fatter shoulder meat, the sweetness of the raisins and the almonds. I added chickpeas to the original recipe, to keep with the middle eastern theme, as well as roasted capsicums for added flavour and served rolls of fresh bread on the side to mop up the delicious juice. You could substitute rice or couscous as an accompaniment.
Serves 6-8 as a main
1 green capsicum
1 red capsicum
2 kg lamb shoulder roast, bone in
Salt and pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3 cups cooked chickpeas ( canned ok )
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp raising, soaked in 2 tbsp of sherry
1 tbsp slivered almonds
- Pre-heat oven to 200C. Cut the capsicums in quarters, discard the stems, seeds and white pit inside. Coat with olive oil and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake in the oven for 45mn, until slightly charred and soft.
- Pat dry the shoulder of lamb and rub thoroughly with salt, pepper, cinnamon and cumin.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil and brown the meat well on all sides. Put aside and in the same pot, fry the garlic and onions until translucent. Place the meat back in the pot, pour in the stock and add enough water to just cover the meat. Bring to the boil, reduce temperature to low heat and braise, covered for about 2 hours until the meat is tender and nearly falling apart.
- 30mn before the end of cooking time, add the cooked chickpeas. Add more water if necessary.
- 10mn before the end of cooking time, add the roasted capsicums, raisins and almonds. Take the lid off and cook uncovered for a few minutes to reduce the sauce a little.
- Season with salt and pepper. Serve in bowls, with bread on the side.
Super refreshing at the end of a heavy meal, it is also very easy to make with or without an ice cream maker.
2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 1/2 tbsp orange blossom water
2 egg whites
- Mix the orange juice with the sugar and orange blossom water. Whisk well until the sugar is dissolved.
- Place in the ice cream maker and churn for about 25 minutes. If you do not have an ice cream maker, transfer the mixture to a bowl and freeze until softly frozen.
- Beat the egg whites until partly stiff and carefully fold into the frozen orange juice. Finish freezing in the freezer for a minimun of 2 hours.