Because we've been dining out quite a bit lately, Mr Cake thought it would be nicer to make me a special birthday dinner than take me out somewhere. I was pretty happy with that idea, and so as is my habit on Tuesdays (well, habit may be an exaggeration - but more often than not anyway) I went to a class at the gym. Mr Cake fled to the supermarket to get his dinner ingredients at about 6pm - my gym class was from 6.15-7.15pm, and we live very close to the gym - so it's fair to say that my expectations weren't super high at that point (sorry Mr Cake!). However, (and I'm still not sure if he hired a team of elves to help) by the time I got home he had tidied away some of the everyday detritus which gathers, set the table, and dinner was pretty much ready.
Mr Cake: I had timed everything perfectly (almost perfectly?) to be ready at 7:25, when I was expecting Mrs Cake to walk through the door. What I forgot, however, was that entrees and mains are not served at the same time. Whoops! Luckily we were pretty hungry, and ovens can keep things warm for a time - but it did mean the lamb was a slightly more cooked than I intended. Perhaps something to keep in mind for the future...
First on the menu was seared feta salad - this, along with the main course, is from Donna Hay - Entertaining, which is an excellent book which I haven't used nearly enough. Mr Cake made sure to get goat feta, which I love (mmm, goats cheese!), and the combination of the strong, salty cheese with the simply dressed salad was perfection. If you have never had fried feta I recommend you go and buy some right now, fry it up, and make an impromptu burger or salad with it - you have to be a bit gentle with it as the lovely crispy sides can fall off but it is worth the care.
We accompanied our meal with this little beauty, which I bought from the Food Show (when was that, April? We're pretty slow to drink wine around here...). Despite being a red it is served chilled and tastes light and refreshing and delicious. The alcohol content is pretty low - only 6.5% - which is great for us lightweights (plus having just walked in from a crazy gym class alcohol is not top of my must-have list!). We'll definitely have more of this (maybe in another 6 months!) - it's really, really yummy. Very yummy - although, its probably not one for wine snobs. I seem to recall the bottle mentioned that it was "wine product", not "wine"...
I realise these pictures look a bit odd together - the single serve of lamb on a giant plate, beside a huge bowl of potato - but what matters is the taste, right (and actually I think Mr Cake did a pretty awesome job of presenting everything, anyway). The oregano roast lamb was nicely pink inside and tender and lovely, and was accompanied by a honey mustard dressing, which was scrumptious. The dill potatoes were tasty and also featured a mustard dressing, so they tied in nicely - and Mr Cake modified the recipe, as the red onion was supposed to be raw but he knows I'm not a huge fan of raw onion so caramelised it instead. :-)
I had been eyeing up the scrummy-looking products from Dollop which have lately appeared in Moore Wilson's, and Mr Cake's keen eye apparently misses nothing so at dessert time this came out of the fridge. Look at all the vanilla beans! And the awesome bottle! (To be fair, I'm quite partial to custard myself... mmm, custard)
Instead of the pannacotta which Donna Hay had on her Greek-inspired menu, he turned to, uh, Donna Hay, this time the Seasons book, and a recipe I had flagged ages ago - glazed pears. These were delicious - cooked in a cup of honey, how could that go wrong? - although we are skeptical that two people could get through the whole recipe in one sitting as Donna suggests. Not that we're complaining - having it for dessert the next night as well was not a hardship. Our pears were accompanied by Kapiti gingernut ice-cream as well as the lovely custard - a great trio!
The whole meal was really tasty and I was especially impressed by the seemingly magical preparation - I leave for the gym and nothing has happened, but when I return, voila!, three course meal. If only something like that could happen every week... ;-)
Seared Feta Salad (from Donna Hay - Entertaining)
250g firm feta cheese, quartered
2 small/1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped lengthways
2 tomatoes, thickly sliced
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
cracked black pepper
olive oil (extra)
Arrange the cucumbers, tomato and parsley on serving plates. Heat a non-stick frying pan over high heat. Pat the feta dry with paper towels, brush with oil and place in the pan. Cook for 1 minute each side or until golden. Put on top of the salads, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with cracked pepper. Serve with lemon wedges. Serves 4
Oregano Roast Lamb (from Donna Hay - Entertaining)
650g boneless lamb backstrap, trimmed
salt and pepper
1 bunch oregano
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup dijon mustard
Preheat the oven to 200 C. Rub the lamb with the salt and pepper. Separate the oregano into small sprigs and tie to the lamb with kitchen string. Place on a lined baking tray and drizzle with oil. Roast for 10 minutes or until cooked to your liking. Mix the honey and mustard and place in a small serving bowl. Serves 4
Dill Potatoes (from Donna Hay - Entertaining)
850g potatoes, sliced and cooked
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/4 cup roughly chopped dill
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper
Note: if you want to serve this warm, cook the potatoes when you need them. Donna recommends cooling them first and if that's your preferred option cook them ahead to take the pressure off!
Fry the onion in 1 Tbsp of the oil over a low heat until the onions are soft and caramelised - 15-20 minutes. Place the potato, dill, onion and parsley in a serving bowl and toss to combine. Whisk together the vinegar, sugar, oil, mustard, salt and pepper and pour over the salad. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Glazed Pears (from Donna Hay - Seasons)
360g/1 cup honey
2 Tbsp orange-flavoured liqueur or juice
2 Tbsp lemon or orange zest
4 brown pears, peeled and halved
Melt the butter, honey and liqueur or juice in a large, deep frying pan and stir to combine. Add the zest and pears and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the pears are tender. Serves 4.