We had fifteen friends over for a farewell dinner last weekend. We only have a couple of weeks left in this house and I wanted to throw an outdoor dinner with lots of goodies from the local farmers market.
I hit the Saratoga farmers market in the morning with a very loose menu in mind (and for an impromptu shoot with my photographer friend). Then, I picked what looked good and put it together with some old faithful recipes that I knew I could make without stressing out later that day.
I was inspired by my new favourite book, A Lot On Her Plate by Rosie Birkett (available through ‘the books that inspire me’ section in my shop). Links to some of the recipes I used are below. I’ll be posting all my recipes very soon, along with a time plan for how to throw this stress-free dinner.
I don’t do plated, sit-down appetizers or starters as I don’t want to fill people up before they get to the main part of dinner. So I just made a couple of platters of good stuff and let everyone pick while we had drinks. I made the romesco sauce earlier in the day – a bung it in the food processor recipe – that I’ll post soon. I quickly cooked the spring onions once everyone arrived and served them alongside the romesco, smoked salmon, pickles, some bread from the market and some pretty radishes. Easy.
The main course
I’d already decided to make my pulled fennel pork as it is hands-off, delicious, great for a crowd and hangs around happily without drying out. I also knew I wouldn’t be up for much cooking the following day and this leftover pork is amazing stirred into pasta or in tacos. My fennel pulled-pork recipe is here.
Pork needs something to cut through the fattiness so I made salsa verde. It was probably the star of the evening and everyone asked how to make it. Again it is easy and make ahead and leftovers are great for the inevitable next day hangover. Recipe coming soon.
I also had some apple sauce in the freezer so grabbed that and stirred chili flakes in to serve alongside the pork. You could easily use a jar of organic, unsweetened apple sauce and add the chili.
The hassleback potatoes are a great way to feed a crowd. I half baked them earlier in the day and then just finished them off in the oven for half an hour once everyone had arrived. Cutting the potatoes almost the whole way through makes them fan out as they bake and gives lovely crunchy edges. I stuffed a sprig of rosemary into the center of each potato and put about half a teaspoon of leftover bacon fat and a pinch of Maldon on top so that it melted into the potato. I’ll post a full recipe soon.
I threw together a baby kale, cucumber and shredded raw fennel salad at the last minute and tossed it with sherry vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. The fresh crunchiness offset the pork perfectly.
I knew this crowd (and I) would be getting through a few bottles of wine, so I needed an easy-to-serve dessert if we were blurry around the edges. I bought some stunning berries at the market from Prevedelli farms – a mixture of strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and Olallieberries (which are very specific to the west coast). I had some homemade grapefruit curd in the fridge (you could use a good bought lemon curd), so I whipped up my food processor Victoria sponge earlier in the day. Just before everyone arrived I topped each half of the cake with the curd and berries. I finished it with some freshly ground black pepper, but some limoncello – poured on top – would have been lovely too. The leftover cake was delicious even a couple of days later as the curd and berries had soaked in to the sponge.