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Posts Tagged ‘Party Food’

Harissa & Goat's Cheese Buns

Try these at the weekend, they’re a good accompaniment for drinks, something fizzy perhaps. They taste best hot but you can have them all prepped on trays in the fridge ready to slide into the oven as people arrive. A nice idea from two of our very favourite cooks – Sarit Packer & Itamer Srulovich of Honey & Co.

Wine suggestion: a good crémant. For fun we opened the Taille Princess Blanc de Gérard Depardieu by Bouvet-Ladubay, a Chenin Blanc-Chardonnay sparkling from Saumur. We chuckle every time with the liberal use of Gérard’s branding and his portrait on the label and on the capsule. That said it is an excellent crémant and a good match to savoury cheese bites like these.

Harissa & Goat’s Cheese Buns – makes about 20 

  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 100g butter (at room temperature), diced
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked and divided into 2 small bowls
  • 60g grated pecorino or Parmesan
  • 125g ricotta
  • 125g soft, young, rindless goat’s cheese
  • 30g rose harissa paste
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds

Put the flour and butter in a mixer bowl with a paddle attachment and combine to a crumb-like consistency.

Add half the egg and half the grated pecorino or Parmesan, along with the ricotta, goat’s cheese, harissa paste and salt. Mix together to form a soft, pliable dough.

Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each one into a log about 20cm long. Brush each log all over with the other half of the egg.

Mix the rest of the cheese with the cumin seeds and sprinkle over the work surface. Roll the logs in the mixture until coated all over. Put the logs on a try in the fridge to rest for at least an hour or up to 48 hours.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

Cut each log into about 10 slices, about 2cm thick, and lay them on a lined baking tray. Bake for 13-15 minutes until teh cheese is golden but the buns are still soft. Serve hot.

(Original recipe from Honey & Co. At Home by Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich, Pavilion, 2018.)

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Rosemary and cheese straws 1

Who knew cheese straws could be so tasty? These are a great freezer standby to pull out and bake as needed and they work perfectly with pre-dinner drinks. They are definitely best served warm so don’t bake until your guests have arrived and have drinks in hands.

Wine Suggestion: Champagne and if not in your budget, a really good sparkling with a bit of time on the lees. We don’t know anyone who refuses this combination!

Rosemary & Cheese Straws – makes 36

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 375g pack of ready-rolled all-butter puff pastry
  • 3 tbsp roughly chopped rosemary, plus a bit extra
  • 100g gruyère or emmental, finely grated
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan
  • sea salt, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan 180C/Gas 6.

Mix 1 egg yolk with the mustard and stir until smooth, then set aside.

Lightly flour a work surface and open out the pastry, then prick all over with a fork. Brush the egg and mustard mixture over the pastry.

Sprinkle the rosemary over the pastry, followed by the cheeses and lightly press into the pastry. Cut the pastry sheet in half lengthways, then cut each length widthways into 2cm wide strips. Twist the strips gently.

Put the straws onto two large non-stick baking trays or trays lined with parchment. Press the ends of each twist onto the tray. Beat the remaining egg yolk with a teaspoon of water and brush over the twists, then sprinkle with the additional rosemary and sea salt. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until puffed and golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little but serve while still warm.

To Freeze: Make the straws up to the point of twisting, then arrange on a large baking tray and freeze, uncovered, until solid, then pack into a freezer-proof box. To serve, remove from the freezer and glaze with the egg yolk (as above) and bake from frozen for 12 to 15 minutes.

(Original recipe by Henry Harris in BBC Good Food Magazine, November, 2001.)

Rosemary and cheese straws 2

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Feta & Cucumber Bites

We served these on New Year’s Day with other canapés but by the time we’d typed up the recipe we thought everyone might be a bit partied out. So we’ve saved this post for summertime when these tasty bites would be delicious served outside with cool drinks before dinner.

Feta & Cucumber Bites – makes 24

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 200g feta
  • 100g ricotta
  • 4 tbsp chopped dill, plus extra fronds, to garnish
  • 1 large cucumber, halved lengthways, seeds scooped out and discarded

Whizz the garlic, feta, ricotta and dill in a food processor until smooth but thick.

Fill the scooped out cucumber with the cheese mixture and smooth over. Cut into 3-cm thick slices. Grind over some black pepper and garnish with some more dill.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food.)

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Crab crostini

Just when you think it’s all over and you’ve eaten enough to persuade you to try just about any diet… comes New Year. More food, more drinks, late night – resistance is futile. If you’re in charge of the first course for a New Year’s party then you can’t go wrong with these delicious crab crostini. You can toast the bread and make up the crab mixture early but don’t combine until you’re ready to serve.

Wine Suggestion: Everyone has their favourite sparkling wine which for NYE is a must; we like vibrant bubbles with a creamy mousse. For this we opened the Bouvet-Ladubay “Saphir” Sparkling Saumur which is brilliant value for money and properly sophisticated. We’ve also tried the Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Blanc which we agree with Jancis Robinson, “is really joyful, happy and upbeat, with real vivaciousness yet quite a bit of serious undertow too.”

Crab Crostini – makes 15

  • 100g white crabmeat
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • a handful of parsley, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp small capers
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 15 slices from a skinny baguette, toasted

Mix the crab with the lemon juice, shallot, parsley, chilli, capers & mayonnaise. Pile the crab mix onto the baguette slices and serve.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe for  BBC Olive Magazine, December 2011.)

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Preserved peppers with goats cheese & pine nuts

These are delicious and super easy to put together in advance. They will come to no harm in the fridge for a few hours but take them out about 30 minutes before you serve them so they’re not fridge cold. They look pretty piled into a bowl too.

Wine Suggestion: the hot peppers makes some wines, especially reds, taste a bit metallic. Sauvignon Blanc and Gruner Veltliner are the obvious match for the ingredients in this dish. However, as it’s Christmas and we’re in a celebratory mood we opened a Sparking Saumur and found that good bubbly makes a superb match too.

Preserved Peppers Stuffed with Goats’ Cheese & Pine Nuts – makes lots

  • 400g jar Peppadew peppers (or other preserved mini red peppers)
  • 300-400g soft goats’ cheese
  • finely grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 1 heaped tsp of dried mint
  • 30g of mint, leaves finely chopped
  • 75g toasted pine nuts, roughly chopped

Drain the peppers and pat them dry with kitchen paper – be nice and gentle so they don’t tear.

Put the goats’ cheese, lemon zest, dried and fresh mint and chopped pine nuts into a bowl, season generously with black pepper and mix together with a fork.

Take a small plastic food bag and snip one of the bottom corners off with scissors. Spoon the cheese mixture into the bag (it’s easier if you do it a bit at a time) and use to pipe the mixture into the peppers.

Serve straight away or keep in the fridge until later.

(Original recipe from Feasts by Sabrina Ghayour, Mitchell Beazley, 2017.)

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Beef Bourguignon Pie whole

Beef Bourguignon Pie whole

One of Jules’ classic dishes that combines Beef Bourguignon with a mash potato top. Old-fashioned in many ways but a great crowd pleaser and you can prep it all in advance. Some veg on the side is all you need for a hearty dinner.

A red Burgundy is not necessary for cooking, rather look for a juicy and easy red. Make sure it is decent though as it will still contribute to the flavours and quality of the dish. Having trialled relatively expensive Burgundy (to really find out!) in dishes like this though, we think it makes the dish unnecessarily expensive without adding anything extra over a decent, juicy, but cheaper red.

Wine Suggestion: If tempted to drink a red Burgundy with this dish, and want to impress, pick a fulsome appellation from the Cote d’Or if you can. Even if you pick a Bourgogne rouge make sure it has class and character as very easy, commercial examples are just a bit bland for the dish. This time we chose a northern Rhône, the J-M Gerin Côte Rôtie Champin de Seigneur which rivals good Burgundy for price but also matches it for aromatic thrill and velvety, earthy core with the same medium weight and great freshness.

Beef Bourguignon Cottage Pie – serves 6

FOR THE BOURGUIGNON BASE:

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil/veg oil
  • 200g pack bacon lardons
  • 900g braising steak, cut into 3cm chunks
  • 225g button mushrooms
  • 225g button onions or small shallots, peeled
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar
  • 600ml red wine
  • 400g tin beef consommé or 400ml of beef stock
  • 1 to 2 tbsp cornflour, loosened with 1-2 tbsp red wine or water

FOR THE MASH TOPPING:

  • 1.5 kg floury potatoes e.g. Maris Piper
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 100ml milk

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the bacon lardons over a high heat until well browned. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Season the beef, then fry in the bacon fat until coloured. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the cornflour and bacon, and bring to a simmer. Partly cover the pan with a lid and cook for 2-2½ hours or until the beef is tender.

When the beef is cooked, tip the contents of the pan into a colander set over another pan to catch the sauce. Tip the contents of the colander into a large pie or casserole dish along with the reserved bacon. Boil the sauce and season to taste. Thicken with the loosened cornflour until you have a sauce that coats the back of a spoon. Spoon enough of the sauce over the beef to barely cover and loosen it (don’t be tempted to add too much), then stir. You can freeze or refrigerate the sauce and offer it on the side when you serve the pie.

Boil the potatoes until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain and replace the lid, then give the pan a good shake to break them up a bit. Add the butter and milk gradually as you mash, then season well.

Spoon the potatoes over the meat and use a knife or spoon to mark a pattern over the top. You can cool the pie at this stage and freeze if you like before baking as below.

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.

Bake the pie for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until golden. Increase the heat to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6 for the final 10 minutes to get it nicely browned on top.

(Original recipe by Gary Rhodes for BBC Good Food Magazine, November 2005.)

Beef Bourguignon Pie

Beef Bourguignon Pie

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Moussaka

A rich, show-stopper version of a favourite dish. We remain torn between the richness of this version by Neil Perry and the fresh elegance of this Moussaka by Tamasin Day-Lewis. We love both.

Wine Suggestion: As this is a rich dish we looked for a similarly rich, but not too heavy wine and liked the Insoglio del Cinghiale, a Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot blend from Bolgheri. It was nice and lifted with dark fruit, blackberries, plums and hints of spice. The key was the medium weight with a youthful freshness, fine rounded tannins and a smooth finish. We suspect a nice earthy and voluptuous red Burgundy would also do very or a top quality Chianti.

Moussaka – serves 4 (generously)

  • 2 large aubergines, cut into 5 mm slices
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus a bit extra for brushing the slices of aubergine
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 500g lamb mince
  • 90g tomato purée
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • a large handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 40g grated Parmesan cheese

FOR THE BÉCHAMEL SAUCE

  • 50g butter
  • 50g flour
  • 500ml warmed milk
  • 80g finely grated parmesan

Salt the aubergine slices on both sides and leave aside for an hour. Rinse the slices under running water and pat dry with kitchen paper. Brush lightly with olive oil and cook in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side or until golden. Set the aubergine slices aside and wipe out the pan with some kitchen paper.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in the frying pan and cook the onions over a low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook until the onions have softened. Add the lamb, then turn up the heat and stir-fry until browned. Season with salt, then add the tomato purée and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, the cinnamon stick and the sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduced the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for a few more minutes to thicken slightly if needed. Remove the cinnamon stick and fold through the chopped parsley.

To make the béchamel, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir over a low heat for a few minutes or until the mixture is bubbling.Gradually pour in the warm milk, stirring continuously, and cook until the sauce starts to boil and thicken. Stir in the Parmesan and season with salt and freshly grated white pepper if you have it.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF.

Layer the lamb and fried aubergine slices two or three times in a large ovenproof dish, starting and finishing with a layer of aubergine if you can manage it. Spread the béchamel over the top and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

Bake for 25-35 minutes or until hot through and golden brown on top. Leave to settle for 5 to 10 minutes before serving with a green salad.

(Original recipe from Neil Perry’s Good Cooking, Murdoch Books, 2016.)

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Coronation Chicken

This is great for when you’re asked to bring a dish to a garden or other party. It feeds lots of people and is easy to transport and serve cold when you get there. Coronation Chicken might seem a bit old fashioned but watch it disappear – a favourite of adults and kids alike and well worth a bit of effort earlier in the day. Only perfectly ripe mangoes will do!

Wine Suggestion: There are a few options to match with this dish but our favourites are a good, but fruity Beaujolais, slightly chilled; Domaine Rochette’s Brouilly comes to mind. Alternately we also like a good, youthful Viognier and we’ve been enjoying Jean-Michel Gerin’s le Champine Viognier from the Northern Rhone where the exuberant fruit is balanced with texture and a fresh joie-de-vivre.

Coronation Chicken with Mango & Roasted Cashews – serves 8-10

  • 1.3kg chicken breasts
  • 1.2 litres chicken stock (home-made preferably for this dish)
  • 1 ½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 ripe mangoes, peeled and cut into 1cm pieces
  • 175g celery, chopped
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 125ml natural yoghurt
  • 125ml mayonnaise
  • 1 ½ tsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 150g roasted cashew nuts
  • 2 tbsp coriander, chopped

Bring the chicken stock to the boil in a large saucepan. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and simmer gently in the hot stock for 5-7 minutes, depending on how big they are. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and allow the chicken to cool in the liquid. When cooled, remove with a slotted spoon and cut the chicken into small dice.

Mix the chicken with the lemon juice in a large bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Add the mango, celery and scallions.

Whisk the yoghurt and mayonnaise together.

Toast the cumin seeds in a hot frying pan for a few seconds, add the curry powder and cook for another couple of seconds. Grind, cool and add to the yoghurt and mayonnaise. Pour the sauce over the other ingredients and toss gently. Taste and season if necessary.

Just before serving, add the roasted cashew nuts, scatter with coriander and serve.

(Original recipe from Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course, Kyle Cathie Limited, 2001.)

 

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Spanakopita

The classic spinach & feta combination never gets tired. These savoury Greek pastries are delicious and very easy to make. We worked out a production line (thanks Tricia & Orla) and had them assembled in no time! Great as a starter or snack with drinks. Perfect entertaining food.

Wine Suggestion: If you can find an Assyrtiko,  a crisp and delicious Greek white, then you’ve got a great match. Unfortunately it can be hard to find good Greek wines so stick to the Mediterranean and search for a Fiano or Greco di Tufo from Italy. Failing this we’ve had crisp Touraine Sauvignon Blancs with this as well to great effect.

Spanakopita (Spinch, mint & feta pastries) – makes 18-20

  • 500g spinach
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 100g Greek feta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp finely grated Greek kefalotiri cheese or Parmesan
  • a pinch of finely grated nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint
  • 250-275g pack of filo pastry (about 6 sheets)
  • 100g butter, melted

Wash and dry the spinach (remove the stalks if they look tough). Finely shred the leaves.

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and cook gently until soft but not browned. Gradually add the spinach, a handful at a time, until it has all wilted. Tip into a colander and drain, pressing out the liquid with a wooden spoon, then return to the pan with the scallions and cook for 1 minute. Leave to cool.

Crumble the feta into a large bowl and roughly mash with a fork – you can leave it a bit chunky. Mix in the eggs, Parmesan, the spinach mixture, nutmeg, mint and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.

Unroll the sheets of filo and cut the stack lengthways into strips about 7.5cm wide. Brush the top layer with melted butter. Put a heaped teaspoonful of the filling in the centre of one strip, at the end closest to you, and fold one bottom corner of the pastry diagonally over the filling, so that the corner touches the opposite side to make a triangle. Then fold over the filled triangular corner, and keep folding it along the whole strip in a triangular parcel. Repeat to make all the spanakopita.

Brush the undersides of each parcel with more butter and place on a lightly buttered baking tray. Brush the tops with butter and bake for 25 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.

These are best served straight from the oven while the pastry is still crispy but they are also good at room temperature.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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We love Tom Kerridge’s food but find his recipes can require a lot of work. Not so with these sticky drumsticks but you will need to find some malt extract to go in the marinade. We got ours in a good deli but health food shops should also stock it. We’re confident you’ll like the drumsticks enough to make them again and use it up.

Beer Suggestion: to complement the malt extract it makes sense to try a malty beer and we suggest searching out one of the many craft beers in your area. Our pick this time was the Five Lamps Dublin Lager which is a pilsner style but with a malty kick.

Sticky drumsticks – serves 4

  • 12 chicken drumsticks
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 3cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted lightly in a dry frying pan
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 1 green chilli, finely sliced (seeds left in)

For the marinade: 

  • 160g runny honey
  • 160ml dark soy sauce
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 120g malt extract

Pour the honey for the marinade into a small stainless steal pan and warm on a medium-high heat. Continue to cook until it starts to turn a deep shade of amber (easier to spot if you have a pot with a light coloured interior), then pour in the soy sauce and chicken stock to stop it cooking further. Bring the mixture to the boil and whisk in the malt extract. Take off the heat and allow to cool.

Put the drumsticks in a bowl and pour over the marinade. Mix in the garlic and ginger, cover the bowl with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for 2 hours at least or overnight if you can.

Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3.

Put the drumsticks in a roasting tin with their marinade. Cook for 45-50 minutes, basting a few times, until the chicken is cooked through and the meat comes off the bone easily. The drumsticks should be glossy and sticky.

Remove the tray from the oven and immediately drizzle with the sesame oil and toss in the sesame seeds. Throw in the scallions and the chilli. Roll the drumsticks around in the dish to make sure they are evenly coated.

Serve hot or cold.

(Original recipe from Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes, Absolute Press, 2014.)

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These looked so pretty! The flavours really compliment each other and the ones to the right of the picture have no chorizo and still tasted fab!

Prawn, chorizo & tomato kebabs – makes 12

  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • a couple of sprigs of thyme broken into small pieces
  • 12 raw, peeled tiger prawns
  • 12 slices from a whole chorizo sausage
  • 12 basil leaves, cut in half

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Put the tomatoes cut-side up on a baking tray, top with a thin lice of garlic, a piece of thyme, a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt on each. Cook for 30 minutes.

Fry the chorizo and prawns in a little oil in two separate pans, keeping everything warm. Push a prawn, a piece of basil, a piece of chorizo, some more basil and a tomato half on to cocktail sticks or little skewers.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

Wine Suggestion: We like to serve sparkling wine with canapés – especially at this time of year. Try a dry sparkling rosé for an occasion or a still rosé from Bordeaux or Provence which will give a bit of texture from the tannins as well as a savoury dryness.


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These are the prawns we served as a canapé at Jules’ birthday dinner yesterday. Really simple to throw together and tasty too – the mint makes a big impact.

Prawns with mint & chilli yogurt 

Mix 4 tbsp of natural yogurt with 1 small deseeded red chilli and 8 leaves fresh mint, both finely chopped, and some seasoning. Heat 1 tbsp of sunflower oil in a frying pan, add 12 large raw peeled prawns (leave the tails on if you’re peeling yourself), and fry for a minute each side until they have turned pink and cooked through. Put teaspoonfuls of the yogurt on 12 baby gem lettuce leaves, top each with a hot prawn and a couple of tiny mint leaves. Serve hot.

Wine Suggestion: Something pink and bubbly! We had a Coates & Seely sparkling Rosé from Hampshire in Southern England. This producer used traditional French winemaking techniques and traditional Champagne grapes of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Very classy looking bottle too. Available from Mitchell & Son for €42.95.

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This is our classic party dish – so popular that we have to fight to get a taste when we serve it in a buffet! We’ve just made it this weekend for our friends Nicola and Dave’s housewarming. Just to make sure we got some ourselves we made a little extra for the next day. So for all our friends that have asked … here’s the recipe 🙂

Simple Baked Lasagne – serves 6 but easily doubled (which can easily serve 20 or more strangely enough …)

  • 4 rashers pancetta or smoked bacon, finely sliced
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 generous handfuls of whole, fresh herbs (use your own mix of sage, oregano, rosemary and thyme)
  • 400g shin of beef, or skirt, coarsely minced
  • 200g pork belly, skin removed & coarsely minced
  • 2 x 400g tins good-quality plum tomatoes
  • 250ml red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 butternut squash, halved, deseeded and roughly sliced
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds, bashed in a mortar & pestle
  • 1 dried red chilli, also bashed
  • 400g dried, ready to cook lasagne sheets
  • 400g mozzarella

For the white sauce:

  • 1 x 250ml tubs of crème fraîche
  • 3 anchovies, finely chopped
  • 2 handfuls freshly grated parmesan
  • a little milk

Preheat oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4

If you are making a double quantity you may want to cook the meat sauce in two quantities as it will be easier to manage unless you have a very large casserole pot. You can also make the meat sauce in advance which makes entertaining easy –  a simple assembly and cook on the night!

In a large casserole pan slowly fry the pancetta or bacon and the cinnamon until golden, add the onion, carrot, garlic and herbs and about 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Once mixed together add the beef and pork and brown for about 5 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, wine and bay leaves and then bring to the boil. Wet some grease-proof paper and place it on top of the pan and then place a lid on top of this as well to complete the seal. Cook in the preheated oven for 2 hours.

While this is cooking rub the butternut squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and the bashed coriander seeds and chilli. Place on a baking tray and roast in the oven for the last 45 minutes of cooking the sauce. When you remove the sauce check that the squash is cooked and slightly caramelising; if not leave in oven until done.

When sauce is done season and put to one side. Mix together crème fraîche, anchovies, a handful of parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Slowly add enough milk while mixing until the sauce becomes loose and smooth. Don’t make it too runny!

Turn oven up to 200C / 400F / Gas 6. To assemble lasagne rub a large dish, or deep tray with olive oil, lay some sheets of lasagne over the bottom (and drape over the sides too if you are using fresh lasagne). Add a layer of meat, a little white sauce, a sprinkle of parmesan and then top with another layer of lasagne sheets. Make a complete layer with the butternut, topping it again with lasagne sheets. Repeat the meat, white sauce and parmesan layers. Finish with a layer of pasta covered in white sauce. Tear over the mozzarella and sprinkle with parmesan.

Cook for 30-35 minutes and until golden. Watch the hordes descend.

[Inspired by Jamie Oliver: Jamie’s dinners, Penguin 2006]

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Our friends are just home from their honeymoon in Greece and as we are still new-fangled with Vefa’s Kitchen so we invited them over for a Greek Feast on Saturday night.

These vine leaves were a labour of love (they took me hours) but were well worth it and our friends reckoned they were better than any they had in Greece – though maybe they were just being nice. Perfect party food and can be made well in advance.

Dolmadakia gialantzi (Rice-stuffed Vine Leaves) – Serves lots of people!

  • Rinse 500g vine leaves and trim off the stems.
  • Add the leaves, a few at a time, to a pan of boiling water and blanch briefly, then drain, and leave to cool.
  • Cover the bottom of a large, wide, heavy pan with some of the leaves.
  • Put 175g finely chopped scallions and 2 large chopped onions into a colander, sprinkle with a little salt, and rub with your fingers. Rinse and drain, then squeeze out as much water as possible.
  • Combine 500g medium-grain rice (we used basmati), the onions, 25g chopped parsley, 15g chopped dill, 225ml olive oil, 4 tablespoons pine nuts and 4 tablespoons currants in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  • Lay a leaf out flat, shiny side down. Put about 1 tablespoon of the mixture at the stem end in the middle, fold the sides over the filling, and loosely roll up into a parcel.
  • Arrange the stuffed leaves in the lined pan, seam side down – you will have more than one layer.
  • Pour over 225ml olive oil, 600ml boiling water, and 5 tablespoons of lemon juice.
  • Invert a heavy plate on top of the parcels to stop them from opening while cooking.
  • Cover the pan, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer until all the water has been absorbed (the recipe suggests 35-45 minutes but ours took much longer than this!).
  • Remove from the heat, put a cotton cloth between the pan and the lid to absorb the steam, and allow to cool.
  • Transfer to a serving platter and serve with Tzatziki or plain yoghurt.

Julie

These tasted great the day after too – best vine leaves ever! – Jono 🙂

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