Yesterday we had close friends coming over for lunch. We normally catch up quite regularly but this year has been more frantic than usual and these friends have also done some traveling so it’s been almost 12 months since we last enjoyed each other’s company.
Sunday was a beautiful warm day and just perfect for eating al fresco on our verandah. I set the table with my new placemats and napkins that yes, I had ironed. To tie in with the blue theme I bought a cushion covered in the same fabric as the place mats that I placed on the single chair in the corner of the verandah. It looked lovely but I’m not about to call myself a stylist.
I wish I could say I grew the hydrangeas but that would be completely false as I’m quite sure there’s not one flowering plant in my garden. When I was out doing the final shop for the lunch I saw the hydrangeas sitting in a bucket outside the fruit and vegetable shop and had to have them for their beautiful colour.
I find an incredible amount of inspiration for my entertaining on the blogs I follow. One of my favourite bloggers is Hannah from Wayfaring Chocolate. Hannah is Australian but currently living in Canada and last week she posted about a tapas platter she enjoyed that was served to her in a restaurant in Toronto. And she posted a photo of it! I thought that looked like a great way to start a lunch and conveniently easy to put together.
I went to the Italian deli to buy the lupini beans and was served by a very enthusiastic man from Sardinia who loved that I was serving lupini beans and said they’re perfect with a beer and asked me what else I was serving with them. I rattled off olives, sourdough bread and smoked almonds and while all of that was fine he was quite definite that something was missing.
Next thing he dragged me off into the freezing cold cheese room. The girl who had to work in there was dressed like the Michelin Man, all padded-up like she was about to hit the slopes. In my singlet top, I was freezing. My Italian friend shaved off a bit of pecorino cheese with truffle slices through it. ‘This!’ he said, ‘This is what you’ll serve with the lupini beans’.
Orders taken, off I went with my lupini beans and my $20.00 slice of cheese. We won’t mention the cost to Carl!
So that was our tapas plate that Carl said apart from the cheese was too healthy, but knowing what was coming up for lunch, I thought it completely adequate.
For the lunch I bought a boned loin of pork and made stuffing that I took to the butcher and handed over for him to do his tricks and tie it up with string. ‘That’s what we’re here for’, he said and at the prices they charge, they absolutely should be. I did ask him to score the rind and he did but he did a pathetic job. Carl had to sharpen our knife and repeat the process because if you want good crackle, you need the rind well scored and my butcher’s slashes had barely broken the skin. But if you’re also doing this at home, don’t cut all the way through the fat to the meat because otherwise you’ll end up with dry meat.
Not all of the stuffing fitted into the cavity of the pork so I wrapped the leftovers in baking paper, then in foil and placed it on a wire rack in the oven for the last half hour of the cooking process.
With the pork we had roast potatoes cooked in duck fat. I peeled the potatoes then chopped them into bite sized pieces, added them to a saucepan of cold water, threw in some salt, put the lid on and brought to the boil. I let it boil for five minutes then drained the potatoes before returning them to the saucepan to be shaken about and ‘roughed up’.
Meanwhile, I placed a scoop of duck fat into a baking dish and placed it in the oven with some sprigs of rosemary to melt and become aromatic. When the fat was all melted and the pan really hot I brought it out and added the potatoes and carefully tossed them about. They were seasoned and into the oven they went for an hour.
I made a primavera salad and Alfie was my little helper in the kitchen. He loved podding the broad beans. I wanted him to have the joy of podding fresh peas also but unfortunately they are not quite in season. ‘Two more weeks’, said the grocer.
And yes, there was dessert, but things did not go to plan in the Hotly Spiced kitchen and I’m still traumatised so I’ll leave that post for another 24 hours.
Stuffed Loin of Pork
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: I bought free-range pork and yes, it was expensive but totally worth it.
- 2.3kg pork loin from the rib end, boned then stuffed and secured with string and rind scored.
- rosemary stalks (with leaves)
- 1 tbspn fennel seeds
- 1 small handful of rosemary leaves
- 1 tbspn sea salt
- 2 tbspns olive oil
- 2 Spanish onions, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- small handful of sage leaves, finely chopped
- large handful of pine nuts
- 4 tbspns balsamic vinegar
- 6 slices of sourdough, toasted then torn into pieces
Pre-heat oven to 200C (400F).
Place a rack in a roasting dish and spread rack with rosemary stalks. Place pork on top.
In a mortar and pestle pound fennel seeds, rosemary and salt until well amalgamated. Rub this on to the rind and into the cuts of the pork.
To make the stuffing:
Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add onions, garlic, sage and pine nuts and cook, stirring frequently, until onion becomes translucent. Remove from heat and stir in balsamic vinegar. Season to taste. Mix in the sour dough and scrunch it all together. Take this to a butcher to stuff for you. (I always phone my butcher the day before to make sure he can do this for me).
You can stuff the pork loin yourself by opening up the pork and spreading the stuffing along the length of the loin then re-rolling and tying up with string. Good luck!
Place pork in the oven and cook for an hour and 15 minutes. Bring out of the oven to rest while you make a gravy from strained pan juices, a tablespoon of cornflour mixed until the gravy turns brown, then add a good splash of white wine or verjuice, then gradually stir in 500mls of good quality stock (I used vegetable but chicken stock would be more commonly used).
This recipe has been adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe out of Jamie’s Kitchen.
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: Very inexpensive when everything is in season.
- 15 broad bean pods
- large handful of snow peas
- 2 bunches baby asparagus
- large handful of freshly shelled peas
- small handful of mint leaves, loosely torn
- handful of slivered almonds, toasted
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbspns white balsamic vinegar
- small tspn of dijon mustard
Shell the broad beans. Bring a small saucepan of water to boil. Add broad beans and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and place in an ice bath. When cool, drain again and remove the outer skin from the broad bean so they have become ‘twice podded’. Place the pods in a bowl.
Remove string from the snow peas. Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus.
Bring a saucepan of salted water to boil and add snowpeas, asparagus and peas. Blanch for one minute then drain and place in an ice bath. When cold, drain again and add to the broad beans. Toss through mint then scatter almonds on top.
For the dressing:
Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and mustard. Pour over salad.
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