The 1st of September not only marks the first day of Spring, but also hubby’s birthday (on the 2nd). This makes it double the fun to have a relaxed Spring lunch with friends at home. These days however, Spring means that Michelle and I are feverishly working on trying to launch the new season on Equilibrio. However, spurred on by the exuberance of Spring I was undeterred and invited friends for lunch this past weekend. My week descended into utter chaos. To further complicate matters, we’re trying to Spring-clean our diet so I needed to keep things relatively healthful. The solution – simple Spring entertaining recipes that can largely be prepped ahead of the arrival of your enthusiastic guests. You don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen while everyone is outside enjoying the sunshine. Simplicity is key!
THE BEST ORZO AND PRAWN SALAD
This Ina Garten recipe is best prepared a little ahead so “the flavours can develop”. It’s served at room temperature so it’s the PERFECT Spring entertaining recipe. It was so popular with everyone, I immediately committed it to memory.
(Serves 6 as a main, 10 as part of a larger lunch-time feast)
500g uncooked orzo (rice-shaped) pasta
1 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (I used a 30g packet)
1 cup chopped fresh dill (I used an entire 30g packet)
1 cup minced green onion (I used the Woolies red salad onions)
1 cucumber, skin on, deseeded and chopped
½ cup finely diced red onion
200g tub of (Danish) feta cheese
For the prawns
250g prawns (no shells)
2kg prawns cleaned, heads and shells on (equated to about 12-16 prawns)
1 tablespoon fresh garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh red chili
For the dressing
½ cup good quality olive oil
½ cup lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Place the defrosted prawns in a bowl with 1 tablespoon each of fresh crushed garlic, minced red chilies, lemon juice and olive oil. Mix through to coat. Set aside until ready to roast.
Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and a splash of oil, and bring the water to a boil. Add the orzo and simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it’s cooked al dente. Drain and pour the pasta into a large serving dish.
While the pasta is cooking, make the dressing and roast the prawns.
Place the whole (raw) prawns on a baking sheet and spread out in a single layer. Roast for about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the cooked prawns, toss and roast on a high heat for another 3 minutes. Remove when pink but be careful to not overcook the prawns.
For the dressing, whisk together the ½ cup fresh lemon juice, ½ cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Pour over the hot pasta and stir well. Add the minced green onion, parsley, dill, red onion, cucumber to the pasta and ix thoroughly. Add more salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
When the prawns are ready, add these to the pasta. Carefully add the feta. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or refrigerate overnight. If refrigerated, taste again for seasonings and bring back to room temperature before serving.
THE CRISPIEST POTATO BITES
Oh my goodness, this is a hugely rewarding recipe. It’s so ridiculously simple to make but everyone LOVED these super crispy potatoes that didn’t require any deep-frying. I served them simply with sea salt and a side of sour cream for those who wanted a dash of decadence. You can make these a meal by topping with sour cream, fresh herbs, and a protein like fried pancetta or smoked salmon.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 6)
1kg washed baby potatoes
40g salted butter, melted
½ teaspoon sea salt flakes, plus extra to serve
Sour cream, to serve
Chopped fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius or 180nifyou have fan. Line a baking tray with baking paper or spray with cooking spray. Place a wooden spoon on your benchtop. Place 1 potato in the rounded end of the spoon. Cut slits into the potato crossways, 3-5mm apart – the edge of the spoon will prevent the knife going all the way through.
Place the sliced potatoes in a bowl with the butter and salt. Gently toss to combine. Place the potatoes, cut side up, on the prepared tray. Roast for 40 minutes or until crisp and tender. Serve topped with salt flaked and some sour cream on the side.
FENNEL, BEAN AND ARTICHOKE SALAD
The beauty of this salad lies in the simplicity of the ingredients. I literally tossed everything together, whisked the dressing and had it all prepped and done in under 10 minutes. You can add some pink grapefruit segments and toasted almond slivers for a little more sophistication and interest.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 6-8)
For the salad
400g salad leaves (I used 1 packet of Woolies 4 leaf salad, and 1 packet of their Italian salad leaves)
1-2 fresh fennel bulbs (about 400g fennel with stalks and leaves on), finely sliced
1 x 400g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
1 x 280g bottle Woolworths grilled marinated artichokes hearts, quartered and drained
For the dressing
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup good quality olive oil
1 tablespoon white Balsamic vinegar
1 generous teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 generous teaspoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Assemble all the salad ingredients in a salad serving dish. Whisk together the salad dressing ingredients. Dress the salad and serve.
COUSCOUS CRUSTED CHICKEN BREASTS
I served my own improvised version (i.e. off the top of my head) of herbed Parmesan couscous crusted chicken breasts. You can find a similar, easy to follow recipe here. Instead of cumin and cayenne pepper, I added grated Parmesan and chopped fresh flat leaf parsley to the cooked couscous for the chicken coating. It nicely rounded off my Spring entertaining recipes.
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