A DINNER MENU FOR FRIENDSHIP AND CIDER

Sep 16, 2016
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One of the things I most love doing in my free time is preparing and sharing a meal with family and friends. It brings me enormous joy to plan a meal, then to take the time to get everything ready, from cooking to setting the table and the part I enjoy most is to see everyone gathered around my table, sharing a home-cooked meal and conversation.

So, when Strongbow asked me to come up with a menu to pair with their Gold Apple cider, I delighted in the opportunity of having a couple of friends over for a nice dinner. It was also pretty great that instead of using a tablecloth, we got to set the table on this beautiful green moss and lichens surface and it really felt (and smelled) like dining al fresco, even though we were still indoors. As for my dinner guests, Noemi and Robert, they are two very good friends of mine, we’ve known each other for quite some time, we’ve seen each other through quite a lot, we’ve shared both happy and less so times and I’m lucky to say we’ve had some very special evenings together, seated around my table, in all these years of friendship.

I knew I wanted to make simple but wholesome food for our dinner and I started from where I usually do, which is the question: “What is fresh and nice at the market now?” Since it’s September, which means that even if Fall has arrived, we still get to enjoy some of late Summer’s bounty, such as nice, ripe tomatoes and also plump eggplants. I started building this menu from the idea of making an eggplant, mozzarella and tomato salad and I immediately thought of also making focaccia. Then I decided for a fresh tomato sauce that would very nicely compliment some nice roasted turkey breast. For dessert, I made a simple apple galette because I was craving one and because I had just received a bunch of lovely tart apples from a friend’s orchard.

I’ve included all the recipes below and I dare say they are not hard to make at all. You will need some time for prepping, for example the focaccia needs about 1,5 hours to rise and the fresh tomato sauce takes some time and supervision before it’s ready, but trust me, it’s totally worth it.

Oh, and make sure you check out the video too, here

Focaccia with Olives & Rosemary

500g/4 cups flour

325ml/11 fl. oz. lukewarm water

45ml/3 Tblsp extra-virgin olive oil plus some more for drizzling

1 tsp honey

1 tsp sea salt plus more for sprinkling

1 tsp dry yeast

A few kalamata olives, pithed and cut into rounds

A few Rosemary sprigs

Place the flour, yeast, salt and water in a bowl and mix with a large wooden spoon until you obtain a sticky dough. Add the oil, mix it in well and turn the dough onto a clean work surface, then knead it until soft, about 10 minutes. Shape into a round, place in a clean bowl, drizzle or brush with some more oilive oil, then cover with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm, dry place, for about one hour. When it has doubled in size, remove from bowl, shape into a rectangle and place in a 35×20 cm/ 13×8 in. rectangular baking tray that has been slightly oiled. Leave to rise for another half an hour, covered. In the mean time, preheat the oven to 400F/200C. After the dough has risen, poke deep holes in it with your fingers, almost getting to the bottom of the tray. Drizzle generously with olive oil, add salt, sliced olives and rosemary. Pop in the oven for about 20-30 minutes.

 

Eggplant, Mozzarella & Tomato Salad

Two medium eggplants, washed and cut into 1 cm/ 1/2 in. rounds

Two medium tomatoes, washed and sliced into rounds

Two large mozarella balls, sliced into rounds

4 Tblsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tblsp red wine vinegar

1 shallot, finely chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

Fresh basil leaves, to garnish

Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Place the eggplant rounds on a large baking tray, in one layer, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Make the vinaigrette by mixing together the olive oil with the red wine vinegar and the chopped shallot; season with salt and pepper and pop in the fridge until ready to use. Once cooled, arrange mozzarella, tomato and eggplant rounds in an alternating manner on a large platter, then drizzle with the vinaigrette and garnish with basil leaves.

 

Roasted Turkey Breast with Fresh Tomato Sauce

For the Roasted Turkey

1 large turkey breast (1,5kg/3 pounds)

3 Tblsp extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and pepper

3 large garlic cloves

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F. Simply rub the turkey breast with the olive oil, salt and pepper, then then make 3 slits into the skin and insert the garlic cloves. Place on a roasting rack and let sit in the oven for about 1½ hours.

For the Fresh Tomato Sauce

2 Tblsp extra-virgin olive oil

One large garlic clove, finely chopped

One small yellow onion, finely chopped

5-6 medium ripe tomatoes, washed and cubed

Salt and pepper, to taste

Parsley, for garnish

In a medium saucepan set over low heat, fry olive oil along with the chopped garlic clove. Add the onion and sweat for a couple of minutes, until it becomes translucent and almost golden; be careful not to burn it. Once it is ready, add the chopped tomatoes along with the juices and allow to simmer until tomatoes soften; break down tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon and allow to simmer for about 30-40 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Add the butter and allow to thicken again, while you keep stirring to prevent from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once it’s ready, season with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble:

Place roasted turkey breast on a large serving platter and simply add the fresh tomato sauce. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Simple Apple Galette with Maple Whipped Cream

For the dough:

120g/1 cup flour

1 tsp brown sugar

A pinch of salt

90g/6 Tblsp unsalted butter, cubed and frozen for 10 minutes

50ml/3½ Tblsp ice cold water

In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar and salt. With a pastry cutter or the aid of two knives, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse meal with some larger pieces of butter remaining. Add the chilled water one tablespoon at a time and stir with your hand until the dough holds together. Shape into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least one hour (preferably 4 hours and ideally overnight). Before rolling out the dough, leave to rest in the counter for 10 minutes. Preheat your oven to 200C/400F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough with the aid of a rolling pin until you get a 35cm/14 in. circle. Transfer the dough to a baking tray that’s been lined with baking paper.

 

For the filling

1kg/2 pounds tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced

3 Tblsp coconut sugar or brown sugar (any granulated sugar works)

For the browned butter glaze:

45g/3 Tblsp unsalted butter

Seeds scraped from half a vanilla pod

In a small saucepan set over low-medium heat, melt the butter. It will start to foam a little and to smell nutty; after about 3-4 minutes when you notice little brown bits dropping to the bottom of the pan, remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly, then add the vanilla seeds and whisk to combine.

To assemble:

Arrange apple slices in an overlapping manner on top of the dough, 2 inches away from the edges. When you’ve finised arranging the apples, overlap the edges of the dough. Brush the gallette with the vanilla brown butter and sprinkle with a little brown sugar all over. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, rotating every 15 minutes to make sure you get an evenly cooked crust.

For the Maple Whipped Cream

250ml/1 cup full-fat unsweetened whipping cream

2 Tblsp maple syrup

Beat cream with a mixer until medium peaks form. Add the maple syrup and fold with the aid of a spoon. Serve immediately by dolloping over your galette slices.

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