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13 April 2009

Easter Saturday Extravaganza

This time we entertained friends Scott and Amber. Normally when Scott and Amber come for dinner (which is quite regularly) it is a last minute affair. This time we knew in advance, so I wanted it to be more formal.

On the menu was:

- Gnocchi with Prosciutto, Sage and Caper Sauce
- Thyme and Rosemary Lamb served with Roasted Vegetables, Salsa Verde and Red Wine Sauce
- New York Cheesecake

This menu allowed much to be prepared in advance, which in turn allowed me to relax with our friends. To prepare, I prepared the following in advance (and remember, the salse verde had been prepared the day before as part of the Good Friday Feast).

1. Made the gnocchi and stored it in the fridge until ready to cook.
2. Made the red wine sauce (it was prepared until just before the point where the additional butter is added).
3. Marinated the lamb.
4. Peeled the potatoes and stored them in cold water until ready to cut.
5. Washed and drained the capers.
6. Cooked the cheesecake (this was done the say before actually).

Gnocchi with Prosciutto, Sage and Caper Sauce

I love homemade gnocchi. It is so light and fluffy - not heavy and glue-like as some commercially made gnocchi can be.

It is not hard to make. One tip is not to handle the gnocchi too much as it will become tough. It needs to be handled lightly and it does not need to be kneaded anywhere close to the extent that fresh pasta does. I barely kneaded it at all really.

The gnocchi can be made in advance, dusted with flour and stored on a baking tray in the fridge until serving time. Make sure the gnocchi are separate and are not touching as they will stick together. In fact, for this dish, I baked the potato the day before and then stored it in the fridge until I finished the recipe off the next day. It was a very straight forward process.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

4 potatoes weighing around 230g, each washed and dried
3 eggs
Approximately 2/3 cup plain flour
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
8 slices prosciutto sliced
2 tablespoons capers rinsed and dried
1/2 cup sage leaves
150g butter
Extra parmesan cheese to serve


Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Cook the potatoes in their skins for one hour. Allow to cool slightly and then scoop out the flesh. Pass the potato through a potato press and allow to cool completely.

Once cooled, mix the eggs, flour (start with 2/3 cup flour and add extra if necessary) and parmesan with the potato. Season with salt and pepper. Lightly knead for a minute or so or until a dough has been formed.

Mould dough into a ball and cut into 8 portions. Using your hands, roll each portion into a long strip. Use a knife to cut the strip into 2 cm pieces. Dust with flour and store in the fridge until ready to serve.

When ready to eat, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the capers, prosciutto and sage and cook until crisp (it will taste better if the butter browns also).

Cook the gnocchi for about a minute in the boiling water. Drain and serve with the butter sauce. Serve with extra parmesan if desired.

Thyme and Rosemary Lamb served with Roast Vegetables, Salsa Verde and Red Wine Sauce

I saw a very similar recipe on the Lifestyle Channel and it looked so delicious I just had to create my own version.
The lamb used in this recipe is wonderfully tender and moist. As Scott described, it melts in your mouth. And again, this dish was very easy to prepare. I will definitely be making it again.

It is important to marinate the lamb for a sunstantial period of time (at least a few hours). Apart from flavouring the meat, the marinating process helps ensure the meat is tender.

I strongly suggest you give this recipe a go!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

800g lamb sirloin or fillets
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bunch fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic chopped
1 lemon, zest removed and cut into slices
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 slice prosciutto chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 cup beef stock
1 cup red wine
1/2 tablespoon butter (extra)
4-5 potatoes peeled and cut into halves or quarters (depending on size)
4 tomatoes
1 head garlic, cloves separated
3 red onion cut into quarters
Olive oil
Salse verde to serve (see post from 12 April 2009)


Place the lamb, half the thyme and rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper and olive oil in a plastic food storage bag. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and add to the bag along with the lemon itself. Mix well to combine the ingredients. Set aside for 4 hours. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before serving to bring to room temperature.

To make the red wine sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the proscuitto and cook for a few minutes until crisp. Add the flour and cook for 3 minutes. Now add the thyme, beef stock and red wine and stir well. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until reduced by half. (At this point I let the sauce cool and then just reheated it when serving). Strain the sauce and discard the prosciutto and thyme. Just prior to serving, whisk in the extra butter (this adds a glossy sheen).

For the vegetables, preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Place the vegetables and left over thyme and rosemary in a roasting tin. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 40-50 minutes untill cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat a fry pan over high heat. Sear the lamb on each side until well browned. Transfer to a roasting tray and roast for 5 minutes or until cooked to your liking. Rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Serve the vegetables topped with the lamb, red wine sauce and salsa verde.

New York Cheesecake

Mark loves cheesecake, and while we were in New York, he particularly loved New York Cheesecake. So when I asked him for a dessert suggestions, that was what he said.

I used a recipe I found on taste.com.au - here is the link http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/19621/new+york+cheesecake

It was really lovely and also quite simple to make. As the picture suggests, it was very much enjoyed!

Good Friday Feast

Our friends Renee and Todd were coming over for dinner on Good Friday. I therefore wanted to create a delicious, and different, meal that they would enjoy. After much thought, I decided on the following menu.

- Caramelised Onion and Haloumi Tarts
- Twice Baked Feta and Chive Souffles
- Spiced Crumbed Flathead with Cauliflower Puree, Salsa Verde and Sauteed Spinach

I also made a New York Cheesecake, but we were all full, and not really dessert people anyway, so we skipped dessert. I served it the next night - the blog will be updated with that menu shortly.

This menu allowed me to prepare a very large portion of the food in advance so that I could sit and chat to our friends rather than be stuck in the kitchen. So, during the day I prepared the following.

1. Made the salsa verde and stored it in the fridge.
2. Prepared the souffles and baked them once. They were then stored in the fridge until I was ready to cook them again.
3. Crumbed the fish. Crumbing the fish early and storing it in the fridge also ensured that the crumbs stayed on.
4. Caramelised the onion for the tarts.
5. Cut the haloumi.
6. Washed and dried the baby spinach.
7. Trimmed and washed the beans I served as a side dish.
8. Made the pureed cauliflower and kept it warm in a bowl placed in a large saucepan of simmering water.

Caramelised Onion and Haloumi Tarts

I have seen a lot of recipes around for onion and goat's cheese tarts. As I am not keen on goat's cheese, I decided to try one and use haloumi instead.

With respect to the caramelised onion itself, I wanted to use a combination of spices in order to enhance the flavour. I decided to use a combination of coriander seed, lemon myrtle, wattleseed and akudjura (bush tomato). Once combined, these spices were so deliciously fragrant I decided to use this same combination with the crumbed flathead I was serving as the main meal. The caramelised onion tasted wonderful - I had to quickly put it in the fridge to stop myself from constantly eating bits of it. It would also be lovely served with steak.

These tarts are easy to prepare. I caramelised the onion in advance and then stored it in the fridge until I was ready to put the tarts together. Just before Renee and Todd arrived I cut out the pastry rounds and placed them on the baking tray and then a bit later topped the pastry with the onion and haloumi and popped them in the oven. Very simple!

Ingredients (Makes 18)

Olive oil for frying
3 brown onions peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon lemon myrtle
1 teaspoon wattleseed
1 teaspoon ground akudjura (bush tomato)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 sheets puff pastry thawed
250g haloumi cut into 18 slices
Olive oil for drizzling


Combine the spices in a mortar and pestle and grind to combine. Set aside.
Cover the bottom of a medium sized saucepan with olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and stir to cover with the oil. Add the garlic. Cook for 30 minutes or so until the onion is very soft and has caramelised. The quantity will look quite a lot smaller.

Add the spices and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool and store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Close to serving time, preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Use a cookie cutter to cut 8-10 cm round from the pastry. Use a slightly smaller cutter to cut partway through each round to that a border is formed.

Use a teaspoon to divide the onion evenly among the rounds. Top with a piece of haloumi. Drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden. Serve immediately.

Twice Baked Feta and Chives Souffle

I was hesitant to serve a cheese based souffle as an entree when we were having a fish main. It just didn't seem to "match" to me. But, Renee told me that she had never had a savoury souffle, and I knew how much she would love it given how much she loves cheese, so I decided to make it anyway. And I take it back - it did "match".

Because souffles are made with whisked egg whites they normally cannot be made in advance. When entertaining I like to make as much as possible in advance, so decided that a twice baked souffle would be the best option. This recipe is really very easy, and very tasty.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

15g butter (as well as extra butter for greasing)
30ml milk
55g plain flour
5 eggs separated
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
150g creamy feta (such as Danish feta) cut into small cubes
100g parmesan cheese grated
1 bunch chives chopped
150ml thickened cream
Salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Grease 4 ramekins with butter. Place the milk, flour and butter in a small saucepan and heat slowly, whisking, until the mixture thickens and boils. Let the mixture simmer for about a minute and then remove from the heat. Beat in the egg yolks, feta, 3/4 of the parmesan, dijon mustard and chives. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stir about a third of the egg whites into the milk and cheese mixture. Carefully fold in another third of the egg whites until combined and then repeat with the remaining third.

Divide the mixture evenly among the ramekins. Place the ramekins in a roasting tray and half fill the tray with water. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

After cooking, remove the ramekins from the roasting tray and allow to cool on a wire rack. The souffles will fall - this is normal. Once cool, the souffles can be placed in the fridge until ready to serve.

About half an hour before you want to serve, preheat the oven again to 200 degrees. Run a knife around the edge of the ramekins and remove the souffles. Place each souffle in a baking tray. Sprinkle with parmesan and thickened cream. Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden. Serve immediately.