One of my biggest challenges after over a decade as food writer, developing hundreds (and hundreds) of recipes, is what to make when people come for dinner.
Am worried people expect impressive Michelin star restaurant type stuff -"flambe of organic baby unicorn in honeysuckle souffle, with truffled rhino horn jus and an oxygen foam"- or some such fancy schmancey stuff.
But fact is I only do "family food". I made my name stretching one chicken breast and 1/2 can of beans into 4 course dinner for 6 - while knocking out a batch of scones and recycling the recycling. Am very happy to eat anything I didn't have to make myself - invite me around for cheese on toast and I'm thrilled! but I suffer from serious performance anxiety at home.
Earlier in year to solve problem I developed my own Help menu. I chose a couple of recipes that were interesting and tasty and made same dishes for each lot of visitors -worked really well until last week when realised we had friends coming who had already had that menu!
Horrors- practically had night sweats trying to decide what to make! Feel very silly as actually really like having a house full of people, enjoy cooking for them, just hate making decisions (also not wild about cleaning but is another story).
Finally after far too much deliberation decided to do leg of lamb, as is a treat for us (anything not mince is treat for us actually). Marinated the lamb in yoghurt and herbs and slow roasted it. Served with crispy garlic roast spuds and a couple of salads. Dessert was old fave Hazelnut meringue roulade.
Was all really tasty, and had an enjoyable and convivial evening. Best of all though- have now sorted out next years help menu! Yay - just cant invite same people for dinner for another 12 months so sorry to those two couples- will be happy to have you to dinner again in 2012.
Here is my recipe for slow roasted leg of lamb - Mmmm - great winter or summer.
Yoghurt Baked lamb with Rosemary, mint and lemon
I love lamb and prefer to team it with seasonings that enhance rather than mask the delicate flavour of the lamb. This yoghurt marinade ensures the meat is tender and juicy and forms a tangy crust, I marinate it for a minimum of 5 hours or up to 24 hours.
Serves 6 -8 adults
1x 2.5 leg of lamb on the bone
1 cup natural unsweetened yoghurt
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary – a couple of big sprigs
1 tbsp finely chopped mint
zest and juice of ½ a lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
Cut several slashes into the plump side of the joint. Combine the yoghurt rosemary, mint, lemon juice, zest, oil and salt and mix well.
Coat the lamb with the yoghurt mixture working it gently into the slashes. Place the lamb in a plastic bag and wrap it so the yoghurt marinade cant slide off the meat. Place in the fridge and allow to marinate for 5 hours or up to 24 hours. Give it a bit of a massage from time to time.
Pre heat the oven to 180, place the lamb into a roasting pan, salvage as much of the yoghurt marinade as you can from the bag and spread over the meat. Bake the lamb at 180 for 20 minutes then reduce the temperature to 170 and bake allowing 20 minutes per 500g so roughly 2 ½ hours.
Allow the lamb to rest for 10 -15 minutes before carving.