A winter dinner party for four
The nights are cold, why not invite around some friends and have a cozy night in. Impress your guests with these elegant winter recipes
Monya Killian Palmer
Joseph Henry Limited's In house chef, bringing great recipes for you to try each month.
"As the trees shed their leaves in preparation for the fast-approaching winter, we can look forward to spending cosy and comforting evenings indoors, warmly nestled by our fireplaces with our family and friends (and a good bottle of red wine!) Hearty soups, slow-cooked lamb and warm desserts will be the order of the day. The menu below can be mostly prepared ahead of time, allowing you to kick up your feet and spend that quality time with your loved ones, filling their bellies with delicious meals and their hearts and minds with great memories"
Roasted Butternut and Red Pepper Soup
Serves 4 as an appetiser
A warm and comforting way to start the evening. The soup can be made ahead of time and reheated on the stovetop when your guests arrive. The roasted butternut flavour is delicately balanced with the roasted pepper flavour (which is simply sourced from jarred roasted peppers). A good swirl of reduced fat crème fraiche at the end giving it a slightly acidic edge and preparing your palate for the delicious roast lamb lying ahead.
1 large butternut squash
1 TB olive oil
pinch caster sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g vegetable stock
3 roasted red peppers from a jar (approx. 160g)
2 TB reduced-fat crème fraiche
fresh cream, garnish drizzle
mixed seeds, to garnish
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Peel the butternut and use a sharp knife to cut into 3cm-size chunks, removing and discarding all seeds. Toss the butternut chunks in the olive oil, then spread out on a large roasting tray. Scatter over a pinch of caster sugar and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 40 minutes. After this time, remove the foil and increase the oven temperature to 200°C. Place back in the oven for an additional 15-20 minutes, shaking and rotating the tray several times throughout this time. Remove the tray once the butternut has sufficiently softened and starting to caramelise on some edges.
Place the roasted butternut into a large pan and add the vegetable stock.
Set half of one jarred roasted pepper aside for use as a garnish later and roughly cut the remainder into chunks. Add the chunks to the pan of butternut and stock, then use a stick blender to blitz the whole lot into a smooth puree. Gently heat on the stove-top, adding a little more stock or water if you feel it is too thick (although these soups are best thick). Spoon through the reduced-fat crème fraiche and keep warm.
To serve, thinly slice the piece of pepper put aside earlier and use to garnish each bowl of soup, along with a drizzle of cream and a scattering of mixed seeds.
1. After peeling and removing the seeds of the butternut, you should yield approx. 900g in trimmed weight.
2. The entire appetiser can be made ahead of time, with only the reheating and the garnishing done just before serving.
Slow-roasted Lamb Shoulder with Cherry Tomatoes
Nothing beats slow-roasted lamb. The comforting smell of rosemary and garlic is unbeatable and it’s a gentle reminder that we should be preparing for winter! We served roasted cherry tomatoes with our lamb shoulder, which may seem a little unconventional but the sweetness and acidity they add is just perfect to cut through the fatty, glorious lamb.
See tips below on my advice for side dishes you could add.
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
350g rich beef stock
800g lamb shoulder, rolled; deboned
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
several sprigs rosemary
several springs thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp cornflour
4-5 vines of cherry tomatoes
sea salt flakes
serve with side dishes of your choice
Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Spread the onion slices out in a deep, greased roasting dish. Pour about 250g of the stock over the onions. Pat the lamb shoulder dry using kitchen paper. Insert the slices of garlic into small openings and flaps in and around the lamb shoulder. (Alternatively, use a sharp knife to make small incisions.) Insert a few small sprigs of rosemary and thyme into openings, and any remaining sprigs can be placed into the roasting dish on top of the onions. Season the lamb on all sides with salt and generously with freshly ground black pepper. Massage the olive into the lamb then place on top of the onions. Tightly cover the roasting dish with foil and place in the oven for 3 hours, removing a few times to spoon over any liquid. You could use tongs to turn the shoulder over as well if you wish to.
Remove the dish from oven after 3 hours and increase the heat to 220°C. Carefully set the lamb aside and strain the onions and liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a pan on the stove-top (discarding the onions and any herbs). Stir the cornflour into the remaining 100g stock and add to the stove-top pan. Heat over high whisk continuously until it thickens to a gravy. Set aside to keep warm.
Pick out any visible herbs from the cooked lamb (which will turn bitter when roasted on high heat) and carefully return the lamb to the roasting dish. Add the cherry tomatoes all around it and drizzle a little olive oil over. Place the tray uncovered into the hot oven for 8-10 minutes to roast the tomatoes and caramelise the lamb surface.
Remove and snip off the butcher’s string around the lamb. Place the lamb on a serving dish and use two forks to ‘flake’ the shoulder into smaller pieces. It should fall apart effortlessly. Pour some warm gravy over the lamb and serve with the roasted tomatoes alongside. A pinch of sea salt flakes will top it off.
Traditional condiments like mint sauce and Dijon mustard are excellent with lamb, as are any other trimmings and side dishes you prefer with a roast.
If you are roasting potatoes, you may want to hold off on returning the lamb to the oven for those last 10 minutes, and get started on the potatoes instead, adding the lamb towards the end.
The lamb can also be prepared ahead of time and kept warm (assuming you have a double oven), then the tomatoes can be done at the same time as the potatoes.
Because timing is everything (and no one should be stressing at a dinner party) serve side dishes that can be done on the stove-top, like buttery mashed potatoes and creamed spinach.
Poached Pears with Vanilla and Cinnamon
A sophisticated, simple dessert which can be whipped up ahead of time. The pears can be served whole (try and keep the stalk on when peeling – it looks attractive), or slice them after poaching.Once you get the knack of poaching fruit, you can try various poaching liquids like wine or cider, but regular caster sugar flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla always goes down a treat - and your guests will be left wanting more.
4 conference pears
juice from 1 lemon
½ cup caster sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
vanilla pod, seeds scraped
serve with sweet whipped cream (see tip below)
Peel the pears and place into a bowl, generously squeezing lemon juice over each one after peeling to avoid discolouration. Toss to evenly coat.
In a medium saucepan on the stovetop, add the caster sugar and 1 ½ cups water. Add the pears and any lemon juice remaining in the bowl, along with the cinnamon sticks and the vanilla seeds.
Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for approximately 10-12 minutes. Slide a small knife or cake tester into the largest part of one pear – it should slide in easily. The pears should retain their shape, but be sufficiently softened.
Remove the pears from the liquid, cover and set aside to keep warm.
Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the cinnamon sticks, then return the liquid to a clean pan. Heat over moderate to high heat until it reduces right down to a thick syrup. This can take up to 15 minutes. Stir continuously using a silicon spatula or whisk. If you over-reduce, it will harden to a thick caramel. If this happens, add a dash of hot water and heat until the correct consistency is achieved.
Serve the warm pears with the thick syrup spooned over and some sweet whipped cream or ice cream alongside.
1. Be mindful of the size pan you use when poaching the pears. The sugar/water mixture should cover the pears almost completely. Monya used a saucepan 20cm / 8in in diameter and the pears fit snugly when placed on their side into the pan.
2. Sweet whipped cream can be made by simply whipping up 1 cup of whipping cream and 2 TB caster sugar until thickened. This can be done in two minutes using an electric hand mixer with the whisk attachment. Store-bought vanilla ice-cream is a perfect substitute if you prefer.