I’ve always been at home in the kitchen, but this period of free time seems like a good chance to explore my inner Ottolenghi.
For years now, since my boyfriend and I were for sure, 100% just housemates. Not dating, nothing to see here. Just friends. We’ve worked together to make an extravagant meal every Tuesday. We call it Dinner Club. We’ve had our failures: focaccia that didn’t really rise, and a three pie week which is best forgotten. But we’ve also had real successes: hand making pasta without a mechanical roller for perfect lemon and goats cheese ravioli, fantastically crispy choux buns and a white wine and rosemary sorbet which I’d really like to recreate now the sun’s out.
Since becoming a Lady of Leisure I really have time to plan these Dinner Clubs, scouring cookbooks with the post-its that used to live on my desk and getting excited about something new every week. I’m on a real Ottolenghi kick at the moment, and so this week we made Roasted Butternut Squash with Burnt Aubergine and Pomegranate Molasses (Ottolenghi pg46) & Pear and Goats Cheese Crostini (Plenty pg278). Both light enough that we could face them in the summer heat, but filling enough that we wouldn’t be sneaking chocolate buttons later. Which I definitely never do.
The Butternut Squash recipe was really easy to make – roasting the squash before toasting some pine nuts and sesame seeds, tearing up some ‘Majestic Basil’ and tossing it all together in a bowl. I was nervous about eating the skin, but it was find and soft and yummy.
The burnt aubergine was slightly more challenging – but that’s what Dinner Club is for. The skin of the aubergine had to get charred, and since we don’t have a kitchen blowtorch (who actually does?) we took the books’ suggestion and used the hob. Which was terrifying. It felt like a 2 person job making sure we didn’t end up as the people you see in the first scene of Casualty. The ones who make you say ‘No, not like that! This is going to end badly. Be careful!‘ Once we got the hang though it was easy and it made a great sauce. It also gave me a reason to buy the pomegranate molasses I’ve been lusting over since I found out it existed. It’s nothing at all like I’d expected. It’s dark and smokey and I don’t think you should put it on your ice-cream, like the bottle I have suggests. But I’ll give it a go and report back.
The Pear and Goats Cheese Crostini was super good! The real key to it was was paste you made from garlic, salt, oil and pine nuts to spread over the sourdough before it goes in the oven. The recipe made about twice as much of the paste as we needed – but it meant we could eat it again the next day. So no complaints.