We made the most of this past weekend’s sensational weather with a light spring lunch with friends. I’m happy to say my catering style has loosened up of late – gone are the ridiculous Vietnamese banquets, Japanese yakitori parties or failed attempts at handmade xiao long bau. These days I’m all about easy entertaining: a shared starter served on a platter, a main course of barbecued meat or seafood with a couple of colourful salads, and a dessert I can pull together after downing a few wines. As a bonus, you can prep most of this light spring lunch in advance. Serves 4.
200g fresh ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp chilli flakes,
plus extra to sprinkle
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves,
plus extra to sprinkle
Cherry tomatoes on the vine
2 bunches asparagus
1 baguette, sliced 5mm thick
Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a 250ml ramekin with oil. Combine ricotta, egg, chilli, thyme and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Spoon into the ramekin, smooth over to fill any gaps, then sprinkle with extra chilli and thyme. Bake for 30 minutes until set and golden (it might puff up like a souffle while cooking, but don’t get too excited… it’ll sink back down again). Stand for 20 minutes to cool.
Place tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes until blistered and squishy. Toss asparagus in oil, then add to the tray for the final 8 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, preheat grill to high, brush baguette slices with olive oil, then grill bread, turning once, until golden on both sides.
Arrange ricotta, tomatoes, asparagus and toasts on a serving board. Spread toasts with ricotta, then top with a squashed tomato or an asparagus spear.
Leg of lamb (whole or butterflied)
4 garlic cloves
4 fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
3/4 cup white wine
Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut slits in the lamb. Make a paste by pounding garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper in a mortar and pestle. Add a dribble of olive oil, then spread the paste over the lamb. Set lamb on a rack in a roasting pan, skin-side up (if you don’t have a wire rack, make a trivet by adding 1 chopped carrot and 1 chopped onion to the base of the pan, then balancing the lamb on top). Pour in white wine, then roast for 20-30 minutes. Once nice and burnished, turn lamb over and roast for another 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 170°C, turn lamb so the skin is facing up, then roast for a further 2-3 hours until tender.
Rest the lamb for 15 minutes, then slice and serve with the salad. If you’re feeling fancy, skim the fat off the pan juices, reduce the remaining meat juices slightly over medium-low heat, then drizzle the wine-spiked jus over the lamb.
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1/2 red capsicum, cored, chopped
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1/2 block good-quality feta (such as Dodoni), crumbled
Fresh mint or dill leaves
Soak onion in vinegar for 30 minutes to soften and knock back the pungency. Toss remaining salad ingredients in a bowl. Add drained onion, reserving vinegar. Make a dressing by whisking some of the vinegar with olive oil, salt and pepper, then drizzle over the salad.
1 punnet strawberries, hulled, chopped
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 punnet blueberries
300ml thickened cream
1 pkt store-bought meringues (or go ahead and make them if you can be bothered)
Toss strawberries in 2 tablespoons sugar, then cover and set aside for at least 1 hour to macerate. Place 2 tablespoons and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over low heat, swirling pan to dissolve sugar. Bring to a boil to thicken slightly. Reduce heat, add blueberries and return to a simmer. Once the berries start to burst, remove from the heat, then chill until ready to serve.
Whip cream and remaining sugar until light and fluffy, then tip into a bowl. Crumble in the meringue and add the strawberries and any juices. Gently stir to combine (you want it to be quite rustic – it’s a mess, after all). Spoon into serving glasses, then drizzle with the blueberry syrup.