Sunday, 1 April 2012

A Seasonal Dinner

Every so often I like to go a bit crazy, push the boat out and put on a fancy dinner.  There's always a theme; generally I go Italian, but this time I wanted to keep things British, and seasonal at that.

Now the end of March isn't the most exciting time for British food, but with purple sprouting broccoli, mussels, kale, celeriac, carrots, lamb and rhubarb in season, there was plenty to work with.

I tried to get as many of the ingredients from the Sheffield area as I could and I managed to get the majority from Castle Market, including the mussels and the rhubarb.  I ordered my lamb from Sheffield butchers John Crawshaws on Twitter and I picked up the rest from Waitrose.

Of course a standard 3 course dinner was never going to be enough and although I reigned myself in from serving a pre dessert (earl grey panna cotta would have been a good one) and a cheese course, I wanted to do an amuse bouche.  With all the hot weather we've been having I wanted something summery and refreshing and I came up with the idea of a gin and tonic jelly.

Amuse Bouche - G&T jelly

After a bit of research I found this recipe for a G&T jelly with lemon.  Wanting to try something a bit different I peeled half a cucumber and pressed it through a sieve into the gin and tonic mix instead of using lemon juice.  I also finely sliced some cucumber to go into the bottom of the shot glasses before pouring the jelly mix in.

They looked really good and went down well too.  I used Tanqueray Number 10 gin, not Hendricks, but the cucumber still worked well and although the jellies smelled quite innocently of cucumber, the gin was pretty strong and this jelly is certainly for the 18 plus only!

Starter - Mussels with Bacon, Cider and Leeks

Mussels are such an easy dish and they always look a bit fancy, fancier than their £3 a kilo price tag anyway!  I got my mussels from Castle Market and I was really impressed by them.  Most of them were pretty clean, there were no cracked shells nor were there any dead ones.  

I kept them in a bowl in the fridge, with some damp kitchen towel covering them and they seemed happy enough staying there overnight.  The majority of them stayed closed whilst in the fridge but when I took them out to clean them, they perked up a bit, opening up to say hello.

I cooked them to this recipe and they were delicious served in bowls with some bread to mop up the juices.  They were messier to eat than I remembered and I think finger bowls or hot towels would have been good accompaniments.

Only after we'd scoffed the lot I realised that I'd forgotten the parsley, but as I'm not a fan of the stuff, I didn't miss it.

Main - Rack of Lamb with Kale, Carrots, Celeriac mash and Purple Sprouting Broccoli

We're just creeping into lamb season and wanting to try something a bit more special than a leg of lamb (my favourite Sunday dinner) I decided to go for a rack.  I had ordered my racks from John Crawshaws and I was pleased to see that they were the perfect size and perfectly trimmed.  I used this recipe to cook them; it worked well, although 200g of breadcrumbs was just a tad excessive!  I served the lamb rare which worked for everyone as demonstrated by the clean bones that came back into the kitchen.

I steamed purple sprouting broccoli, cooked kale with some oil, water garlic and salt and pepper, and roasted chantry carrots for sides.  I also made a celeriac and potato mash by baking potatoes, scraping the flesh out and mashing together with some boiled celeriac.  I find baking the potatoes for mash preserves the flavour of the potato and as the celeriac is always a bit sloppy, I needed a dry potato base.

I cheated when it came to the gravy (my kitchen is tiny and I am not going to start faffing around making gravy on top of everything else) and used a ready made pot from Waitrose.  I didn't like it to be honest; it had mint in it and I just hate mint with lamb.

Dessert - Rhubarb and Ginger Syllabub

I haven't had rhubarb in years and I've never cooked with it, but as I grew up in a town practically within the rhubarb triangle and it's in season, I had to have a rhubarb dessert.  I liked the sound of this recipe; it looked pretty straight forward and it's a dish I could prepare a few hours beforehand.  

I followed the recipe to the letter, apart from straining the rhubarb a little after cooking, as it was very wet and it was gorgeous!  The ginger worked well with the rhubarb and the cream whipped up with mascarpone and icing sugar was always gonna be a hit.

Shame it was 597 calories, but you know what?  I enjoyed every single one of them!

All in all it was a success and there isn't anything I would have done differently.  Yes, I spent all Friday night making jelly and washing veg and all day Saturday cooking, but I love it!  

What's your favourite dinner menu?


  1. It all sounds and looks fantastic!

  2. This all looks very yummy! So trying the Rhubarb and Ginger Syllabub ASAP!! Great post. :)

  3. Thanks Louise - enjoy the syllabub - it's very, very bad, but very, very good!

  4. Looks excellent, all of it. Make me foooooood