A very Jamie dinner party

I really enjoyed Jamie Oliver’s recent series of five ingredient, easy to cook food. I’ve made loads of the things from the show, but some of the recipes called for larger quantities and feeding a crowd – so I decided to invite some friends around just so I could cook the food and try to get them to drink some of the weirder things from the liquor shelf that have been hanging around for a while.

No starter for once, just nibbles and some of the last of the basil wine, which for all its worrying in the fermentation stage has actually ended up delicious.

The main was slow cooked lamb – almost a tagine, with its ras-el-hanout and preserved lemons and an unorthodox and worrying way of cooking chick peas which seemed to work out OK.

You do wonder, with the limiting yourself to 5 ingredients, if it would have been a little better with 6 or maybe 7?  Cooking lamb without garlic?  In the final dish, the flavour of the ras-el-hanout and preserved lemons don’t come through particularly well. I wonder if this would work in the slow cooker?  The recipe calls for a 2kg lamb shoulder for 8 servings – I was feeding four, and Sainsburys only had a joint slightly over 1kg and it just about went far enough. I didn’t reduce the other ingredients at all, so have ended up with massively more lamby chickpeas than anyone can use!

Final lamb with fattened chickpeas

I wasn’t sure if the one-pot would enough to feed us all by itself, so made a side of small hasselback potatoes. I’m glad I did as they were delicious, and a good avenue for garlic and salt.

Main in serving plates - lamb, hasselback potatoes, chickpeas and tomatoes

The dessert was frozen banoffee cheesecake, moderated from the original. I used half the ingredients and made it in a 1L  / 1lb loaf tin. There was enough leftover mix to make a few ramekins as well so those can stay in the freezer till an appropriate time.  The idea of piling the chopped chocolate on the top is brilliant – it looks pretty rough and ready straight out of the freezer and slightly clumsy greaseproof lining left it misshapen as the grease creases ate into the sides. But the extremely simple garnish, a work of 90 seconds, made it look awesome and it got a nice ooh! as I brought it to the table.

Frozen banoffee cheesecake

I do like to try and do some chocolatey things – nibbles for the digestif as well as the aperitif – so I had made white chocolate salami and homemade after eight mints.  Both straight forward to make, but slightly trickier to slice!

White chocolate salami and home made after eights

In all one of the least stressy dinner parties I’ve ever done. The dessert and chocs were finished two days ahead in just over an hour; the main went on seven hours before the start time and essentially looked after itself, as well as making the house smell awesome after the first few hours. Some very enjoyable cooking and company.

More photos on flickr here.

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Pudding club: Lancashire hotpot II

I’ve tried this once before – this one worked out better, I think.

Lancashire hotpot for last pudding club of the hols.

I didn’t really read my recipe from last time, just had a quick glance at Delia’s version and the BBC Good Food for quantities. Yes, I did need to buy two supermarket blister packs of lamb chunks at more than a fiver each. (A main course that works out at around £2 each is not unreasonable, really, though is it?) No, I wasn’t going to include kidneys (I wouldn’t mind but P would and I’m guessing two small boys wouldn’t be keen.) Basic stew, chop up some potatoes for the top, uncover halfway through cooking, brush potatoes with butter and brown off.

I liked Delia’s factoid:

This has acquired its name from the time when it was baked at home, then wrapped in blankets to keep hot and provide lunch for a day at the races.

Hotpot then is super appropriate for taking to a friend’s house.

I also liked Delia’s potato topping – more like chips or roasted potatoes than the food processor slices I did last time. I was going for that, but completely failed!

It wasn’t quick, by the time you have browned the meat a fair bit, then given the onions a good long time to almost caramelise on their own, in the juices, then add and soften the celery and carrots. After all that, a further two hours in the oven, which it can almost do on its own apart from the uncovering / browning stage when I felt the need to keep checking that it wasn’t actually burning.

Anyway, pudding club with friends, followed by watching #GBBO as part of a crowd, was an awesome way to end the holidays and not give too much thought to the first day of school tomorrow…