January may be the month when we would all like to cocoon ourselves away and drink cocoa under cashmere blankets – but life must go on. Like it or not we will have to cater the occasional event. Coming after a month when at every gathering everything that touches our lips seemed to come in rich buttery pastry (with which there is nothing wrong at all) a clean, quick buffet full of fresh ingredients makes a refreshing change. Here is our tried and tested menu of four dishes for a casual evening with friends.
Mozzarella & Chargrilled Courgette – this dish takes the longest so we would suggest starting this whilst getting on with the others. The key to this to make sure the courgettes do not turn to mush or blacken too much, you want them sweetly caramelised in their own juices. The best solution – although it is slow – is a health grill using no oil. Cut courgettes in half, making sure you grill ones of the same thickness at the same time and top and tail so they fit. Get on with the other preparation whilst regularly checking and placing cooked courgettes to one side. Once you have a grilled sufficiency, and they have been allowed to cool, cut into bit size pieces, lay on a plate and cover with an equal amount of cut mozzarella. Dress with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Le Puy Lentil, Beetroot, Pomegranate and Feta Salad – a simple and delicious dish. Simply cover your serving platter with a thickish layer of Le Puy lentils, layer on cubed, bit size pieces of cooked, chilled beetroot. Top with diced feta cheese and lots of pomegranate seeds and sprinkle with finely chopped parsley and mint. I drizzle this with a little honey and some pomegranate molasses that you can get from any store that sells southern Mediterranean produce. To cook Le Puy lentils, rinse them thoroughly in a sieve, place in a saucepan covered with water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 25 minutes. Drain and allow to cool before assembling this dish.
Smoked Mackerel with Quinoa, Orange and Kale – possibly the quickest party dish ever. Simply layer quinoa on a platter, use a mixture of red and white. Take filets of peppered smoked mackerel, remove the silvery skin from the underside and flake over the grains. Take one or two seedless oranges – depending on the size of the dish you are making – and peel them. I do this over the plate so any juice of saved. Remove any pith and break into bite size pieces. Take a hand full of shredded kale and sprinkle over your dish. Dress with the juice of another orange.
Grilled Halloumi with Rhubarb and Chili – grill halloumi until golden brown, stew rhubarb with a little brown sugar or honey, drain, removing excess liquid. Stir in dried chili and allow to cool. Allow guests to spoon onto cheese slices.
Happy and healthy New Year!
Lawrence Roullier White writes the Hectic Host for SE22.
This feature first appeared in the January 2017 issue of SE22 magazine.