Very special thanks to Shared Table’s lovely sister for uploading the pics.
Every year Olive Magazine, published in the UK by the BBC, has a special readers’ edition where readers are invited to submit recipes in a number of categories as well as whole menus. Last August I was one of the featured readers with my “relaxed, Italian inspired summer menu for six”. I have to admit there was a bit of insider trading going on – my former boss’s wife is the editor of Olive and knows I’m a big foodie so I was approached to submit something.
But, contacts notwithstanding, this is a really great entertaining menu because it gives you just the right ratio of pre-party kitchen pottering to maximum guest enjoyment time. I made a version of it for Easter lunch last year, which started as lunch and continued through the afternoon till past midnight, all six of us comfortably squashed round our table in our ‘bijoux’ sized north London kitchen.
The published menu starts with Guacamole and babghanoush with crudites, marinated olives and baked ricotta with grilled peppers. I don’t tend to make formal three course meals so the dips are something to get people in the mood and look lovely – all different colours.
Although lamb is the traditional Easter lunch offering (seems a bit gruesomely symbolic…) I chose porchetta, an Italian slow roast, fennel scented pork shoulder and served it with green bean & hazelnut salad and potato salad. In my family, I am the authority on potato salad.
I should also add that for the Easter lunch, but not included in the Olive feature, I made the outstanding Ottolenghi baked mushrooms with pearl barley, preserved lemon and feta for a vegetarian friend. They are so good they’re now regulars in my repertoire. Again, genius because they can be made in advance.
And for dessert, the delicious almost trifle-like zuccotto. Although we’re not remotely Italian, the zuccotto has become something of a tradition in my family for Easter. My mum has made it several years running to follow the roast lamb, which we usually eat outside in the autumn sunshine.
Introducing the menu, I said that my inspiration was that, to me, cooking is about creating a shared, convivial space that brings people together around the table. I’ve learnt (the hard way) that it’s impossible to have happy people in your kitchen if you’re a ball of “oh God the potatoes still haven’t been peeled” stress! So I designed my menu to create not only delicious food, but also a welcoming environment for my guests which means low-stress hosting for myself.
I am still so chuffed to have been featured and have to thank L, editor of Olive Magazine, for so kindly inviting me to be part of their readers’ edition. What a 15 minutes of fame!