As I am now firmly in my mid-twenties, I feel I am at an appropriate age to be engaging in regular dinner parties. This sounds very Emily Post of me, what can I say….it feels right.
How fabulous is it to create a theme, dress up a little, decorate your dining room and bake?! Clearly my friends agree with me. On Saturday night, my gorgeous friend, Peta, hosted a dinner party. We’ve had lots of dinners together in our little group, mainly involving take-out with the occasional cook-up. But nothing like this…
Peta invited nine of us over for a lovely catch up and to help celebrate our beautiful friend Vicki completing the 6 hour GAMSAT that day. What better way to say “congratulations, thank goodness that is over, now you can go back to having a life” than with fondant?
Peta decorated the table with cream cylinder candles and little white flowers in crystal cups. She also put golden hearts atop of the serviettes and scattered Turkish Delight along the middle of the table. It was stunning.
White hydrangeas and tea lights adorned the side tables.
We started off with Turkish bread dipped in a lovely extra virgin olive oil and dukkah.
Me and my man.
For our mains, Peta made roasted lamb rack with a coriander crust (recipe link). It was absolutely beautiful! I am yet to really work with this cut of meat, but I am so keen to after tasting this delectable dish. They were incredibly succulent, Peta cooked them perfectly. She pressed the coriander mixture onto the fleshy side of the lamb rack rather than along the bone.
Look at those beautiful coriander seeds…heavenly.
There were also fish cakes and corn cakes for those who didn’t eat meat. Peta picked them up at Camberwell market. These babies are air-vacked and were fast and flavourful.
I contributed my beetroot, goats cheese and candied walnut salad (recipe at the end of this post) and Peta also made a lovely, fresh roquette and parmesan salad with a lemony dressing.
We sipped wine as we ate and chatted about all the exciting things that have happened recently. We’re at the stage when we’re making big decisions in our lives, whether it be work, travel, buying a house or getting engaged. So it was really nice to catch up over a special dinner.
The stunning hostess with the mostess delicious lamb!
For dessert, Peta blew us away with a chocolate fondant (recipe link). They were all perfect, and although Peta calls it a “cheats fondant”, as you put a bit of chocolate in the centre to ensure the centre is gooey, they were utterly divine.
Fluffy and rich with a devilishly, oozing centre. We all agreed that the almond meal added a lovely texture and flavour. They were served with vanilla ice-cream, strawberries and raspberries. Perfection.
Thank you, Peta, this was such a lovely night, a real touch of delicious class. I cannot wait to return the favour when we move into our new place. I’m thinking a Moroccan or Thai theme…
Roast Beetroot Salad with Goats Cheese, Candied Walnuts and Pomegranate Dressing
This salad serves 6 and works beautifully alongside some chargrilled eye fillet or roast lamb (it could also serve 4 as more of a main, or 9 as a smaller side salad).
4 medium Beetroot, ends trimmed
150g Baby Spinach
1 large Red Onion
200g Goats Cheese (use good quality cheese here, it makes all the difference! I use Meredith Marinated Goats Cheese or Blue Bay Goats Fetta)
1 cup* Walnuts pieces
2 tablespoons Caster Sugar
2 tablespoons Water
A few pinches of Sea Salt
1.5 tablespoons Pomegranate Molasses (from gourmet grocers or middle-eastern delis. I get mine from the Red Hill Cellars, Oakleigh Market or Oasis Bakery)
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
* It is best to double this amount so you can all stand around the kitchen chatting and nibbling on candied walnuts as your fondant is standing.
Preheat the oven to 200 Degrees Celsius.
Wash the beetroot and wrap them individually in foil. Place them on a baking tray and bake in the oven for ~1 hour (it may take longer, depending on your oven and the size of your beetroot). Be careful not to overcook them. You will know it is cooked when you can pierce the beetroot easily with a skewer.
While the beetroot is cooking, you can make the candied walnuts.
Line a baking tray with baking paper and toast the walnuts in the oven. Be careful not to burn them! They will take 3-5 minutes.
Place a sheet of baking paper over a chopping board, and have two forks at the ready, close by.
Put a heavy-based saucepan over a low flame. Add the sugar and water and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar melts into a syrup and turns a slight golden colour. Add the walnuts and stir to coat. Once the walnuts are evenly coated, quickly pour them onto the baking paper covered chopping board. Using the forks, work very quickly to separate the walnuts – they will cool and clump together otherwise. Once separated, sprinkle with sea salt and allow to cool.
As the walnuts are cooling, roast the onion.
Cut the onion in half and then slice into wedges. Place the pieces on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Toss the onion in a good glug of olive oil and pop the tray in the oven to cook for ~15-20 minutes (once again, this depends on your oven and how big your onion wedges are). Once they’re roasted and soft, remove the tray from the oven and allow them to cool.
Once the beetroot is cooked, take them out of the foil and run them under cool water. Using disposable rubber gloves (and wearing an apron!!) gently rub the skin to peel the beetroot, discarding the skin. Be careful, it is messy work and beetroot can stain!
Once the beetroot is peeled, cut it into chunks or wedges.
Wash the spinach and add it to your favourite salad bowl, along with the beetroot, onion and goats cheese.
To prepare the dressing, add the pomegranate molasses and olive oil to a jar. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon (or a whole lemon if it is not a particularly juicy one) and then use a little whisk or spoon, stirring briskly to incorporate the liquids. Add more molasses if you like a sweeter dressing or a touch of water (or more olive oil) if you want to dilute the sweetness a little.
Drizzle the dressing over the salad and gently mix the ingredients with serving spoons or tongs. Scatter the walnuts over the top and voila!