A wintery lunch to feed a crowd
This is a lunch I made for a workshop some time ago, and is basically everything I believe about cooking in four dishes; good, simple, tasty and seasonal food shared generously without fuss and in good company.
It was a tasty spread of baked ricotta, chickpeas with spinach, aioli, fennel gratin and Erika and Hayden of Epicurean Harvest’s beautiful vegetables roasted simply with Kimbri olive oil and salt and pepper. Here are some of the recipes.
This is one of the easiest and yummiest additions to the lunch table I know of. I usually try to make my own ricotta for this because it’s cheaper and often easier than making a special trip to the shops. Serves 6.
6 fresh free range eggs, lightly beaten
1kg fresh ricotta
1 cup grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 180C and lightly grease a four-cup capacity baking dish. Gently stir to combine all ingredients (don’t use an electric mixer as the end result will, I find, become too dense), and spoon into your baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper then bake for 20 minutes or until golden and just firm to touch. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Variations; add chopped thyme or marjoram to the ricotta mixture before baking and/or dot the top of the ricotta (again before baking) with halved cherry tomatoes.
CHICKPEAS WITH SPINACH
This is a recipe I’ve been cooking for years but comes (adapted somewhat) via another favourite book, the blue River Cafe Cook Book. It’s great for lunch because, as with the ricotta above, its flavours seem to improve at room temperature so you can do all the prep way in advance. Serves 6-8.
2 cups chickpeas, soaked overnight
2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bunch spinach, leaves stripped from the stems and roughly shredded
1 red onion, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 cup white wine
2 bunches parsley, finely chopped
Juice and zest of two lemons
Fresh horseradish, optional
Drain the chickpeas from their soaking water then place in a large saucepan with the garlic, bay, tomatoes and olive oil. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or until the chickpeas are lovely and tender. Drain excess water away and discard the bay but keep the tomatoes and garlic. Blanch the spinach and chop finely.
Now heat a little more olive oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and cook the onion and carrot and cook slowly for about 10 minutes. Add the chilli flakes if using, now pour in the white wine, increase heat and cook until reduced by half. Meanwhile, squeeze the garlic from each clove and place the tomatoes in a food processor and whizz to combine or just roughly chop on a board, this will make you a lovely, thick tomato paste. Stir this into the chickpea mixture, add the chard and the onion mixture and cook for a further 10 minutes then transfer to a serving platter. Season to taste then sprinkle over the parsley, lemon zest and fresh grated horseradish if you have it, and finally, drizzle over a little extra olive oil. Serve as part of a lunch spread or on it’s own with a little fresh ricotta and a green salad.
A super tasty, simple side-dish which I love serving, particularly with our venison as it creates a beautiful sauce upon which to serve the meat. Serves 6.
4 fennel bulbs, trimmed and very finely sliced (I use a mandolin here)
1 1/2 cups cream
1/2 cup parmesan, finely grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
Preheat oven to 180C. Place the fennel bulbs in a deep-sided roasting tin. In a bowl, whisk together the cream, parmesan and garlic and season to taste. Pour cream mixture over the fennel and place roasting tin in the oven for 40 minutes or until the fennel is nice and tender. Serve warm or at room temperature.