Shan­non Ben­nett

Din­ner par­ties shouldn’t be dif­fi­cult, says the su­per­star Mel­bourne chef, who’d far rather be en­joy­ing the fun with his guests than slav­ing away in the kitchen. Use his prep-ahead menu – and have ev­ery­one do their bit – to make life easy the next time you

delicious - - CONTENTS - BY SHAN­NON BEN­NETT

If you’re plan­ning a din­ner party to re­mem­ber, Shan­non’s your man.

PORT PUNCH MAKES 4 CUPS (1L)

400ml tawny port 1/ 2 cup (125ml) rum 2/ 3 cup (165ml) cold-pressed ap­ple juice 5 or­anges, thinly sliced 2 cin­na­mon quills 1 cup (250ml) lemon­ade Crushed ice, to serve Com­bine all in­gre­di­ents ex­cept ice in a large jug and chill for 30 min­utes. Stir through ice and serve im­me­di­ately.

BAR­RA­MUNDI BALLS WITH PARS­LEY MAY­ON­NAISE MAKES 20

“The crunch­i­ness fol­lowed by the del­i­cate tex­ture and burst of flavour from the barra and lemon make these morsels ad­dic­tive.”

1 tbs ex­tra vir­gin olive oil 4 Asian (red) es­chalots, half finely chopped, half thinly sliced into rounds (we used a man­do­line) Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon,

plus ex­tra lemon cheeks to serve 500g skin­less bar­ra­mundi fil­lets,

pin-boned, cut into 1cm pieces 2 cups (100g) panko bread­crumbs 1 tbs finely chopped flat-leaf

pars­ley leaves 2 cups (500ml) chilled sparkling wa­ter 2 cups (300g) self-rais­ing flour 2 eggs, lightly beaten Sun­flower oil, to deep-fry Baby pars­ley leaves and mint leaves,

to serve

PARS­LEY MAY­ON­NAISE

1 cup loosely packed flat-leaf

pars­ley leaves 1 cup (300g) may­on­naise Juice of 1 lemon For the pars­ley may­on­naise, place all in­gre­di­ents in a food pro­ces­sor and whiz un­til smooth. Trans­fer to a bowl, cover and chill un­til needed.

To make the bar­ra­mundi balls, heat oil in a fry­pan over medium heat. Add finely chopped es­chalot and cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, for 4 min­utes or un­til soft­ened. Stir through lemon zest. Trans­fer mix­ture to a bowl and set aside un­til cooled.

Place bar­ra­mundi in a food pro­ces­sor and pulse un­til finely chopped. Add to cooled es­chalot mix­ture with 2 tbs bread­crumbs, pars­ley and 1 tsp salt flakes. Roll into 20 ta­ble­spoon-sized balls. Place on a tray, cover and chill for 30 min­utes to firm slightly (bar­ra­mundi mix­ture can be pre­pared up to 1 day in ad­vance; store cov­ered and chilled).

Mean­while, to make the pick­led onion, com­bine lemon juice, thinly sliced es­chalot and 1/2 tsp salt flakes in a bowl. Stand for 20 min­utes to pickle, then drain.

To make bat­ter, whisk sparkling wa­ter and flour to­gether un­til well com­bined.

Place bat­ter, egg and re­main­ing 90g bread­crumbs in 3 sep­a­rate bowls. Half-fill a deep-fryer or large saucepan with sun­flower oil and heat to 180°C (a cube of bread will turn golden in 90 sec­onds when the oil is hot enough). Dip balls into egg, al­low­ing ex­cess to drip off, then roll in bread­crumbs and dip in bat­ter, al­low­ing ex­cess to drip off. In 5 batches, deep-fry balls, turn­ing half­way, for 2-3 min­utes or un­til golden and cooked through. Re­move with a slot­ted spoon and drain on paper towel.

Scat­ter bar­ra­mundi balls with salt flakes, baby pars­ley and mint. Serve im­me­di­ately with pick­led onion, pars­ley may­on­naise and lemon cheeks.

SMOKED EG­G­PLANT DIP MAKES 2 CUPS (500G)

“A ver­sion of baba ganoush adapted from a mate of mine, chef Ray­mond Ca­paldi. Use as a dip, or loosen with more tahini to make a great sauce.” Be­gin this recipe at least 3 hours ahead. Dip can be stored, cov­ered and chilled, for up to 1 week.

THE ONE THING I hate about din­ner par­ties is the stress of leav­ing mid con­ver­sa­tion so as to keep the per­son I am con­vers­ing with hap­pily fed. It doesn’t make sense!

We have to un­der­stand that the menu prep has to be com­pleted be­fore­hand and the fin­ish­ing touches should be ready to go. And that we all need to lend a hand. If we don’t, be­fore long, it will be­come a fed­eral elec­tion is­sue to ban din­ner par­ties be­cause the stress they cause is hav­ing too big an im­pact on the health bud­get.

I pro­pose two things. The first is a food and wine min­is­ter – I’m se­ri­ous! The sec­ond is that we bring back the pro­gres­sive din­ner party. We have to start learn­ing that shar­ing the bur­den is the best and quick­est way to en­sure ev­ery­one at the ta­ble – in­clud­ing the cook – has the time to have a great time.

Let’s make it hap­pen with this menu. The port punch will get things off to a fun start, and the bar­ra­mundi balls and eg­g­plant dip will give guests some­thing to nib­ble on while you fin­ish off the quail and put the salad to­gether – don’t be shy about get­ting ev­ery­one to pitch in. Then all you’ve got to do is get the brisket out of the oven and the cheese­cake from the fridge. Easy!

3 medium (about 850g) egg­plants 1/2 cup (140g) tahini 1/2 cup (150g) may­on­naise Juice of 1 lemon 1/4 tsp ground cumin 1/4 cup (60ml) ex­tra vir­gin olive oil 2 tsp smoked pa­prika (pi­men­ton) Sun­flower oil, to shal­low-fry 2 long red chill­ies, halved length­ways Baby co­rian­der sprigs and lavosh,

to serve Heat a char­grill pan or bar­be­cue to high heat. Prick egg­plants all over with a fork and cook, turn­ing ev­ery 10 min­utes, for 45-60 min­utes or un­til ten­der. Re­move from heat and trans­fer to a colan­der set over a large bowl. Stand, cov­ered, for 45 min­utes to drain and cool slightly. Dis­card liq­uid and re­move skin. Us­ing your hands, squeeze ex­cess liq­uid from egg­plants. Trans­fer to a blender with tahini, may­on­naise, lemon juice and cumin, and whiz un­til smooth. Trans­fer to a bowl, cover sur­face with plas­tic wrap and chill for 1 hour or un­til cooled and thick­ened (dip can be pre­pared 1-2 days in ad­vance; store cov­ered and chilled).

Mean­while, to make the pa­prika oil, com­bine olive oil and pa­prika in a bowl and set aside for at least 1 hour to in­fuse.

To make the crispy chilli, heat 1cm sun­flower oil in a small fry­pan over medium-high heat. Add chilli and cook, turn­ing half­way, for 3-4 min­utes or un­til blis­tered. Re­move from pan and drain on paper towel.

Spoon eg­g­plant dip onto a shal­low serv­ing plat­ter, driz­zle with pa­prika oil, scat­ter with crispy chilli and baby co­rian­der, and serve with lavosh.

CIT­RUS-GLAZED QUAIL SERVES 6-8

Be­gin this recipe at least 2 hours ahead. 8 (about 1kg) quail, but­ter­flied (ask your butcher to do this) 300g red­cur­rant jelly 3/4 cup (180ml) port

MARI­NADE

Juice of 3 or­anges and 3 limes 12cm piece (60g) gin­ger, finely grated 6 gar­lic cloves, crushed

1/2 cup (125ml) ex­tra vir­gin olive oil

FEN­NEL & OR­ANGE SALAD

2 baby fen­nel, shaved (we used

a man­do­line), fronds re­served 2 or­anges, peeled, seg­mented

1/4 green cab­bage, shred­ded Juice of 1 or­ange 2 tbs ex­tra vir­gin olive oil For the mari­nade, com­bine all in­gre­di­ents in a large bowl. Add quail and toss un­til well com­bined. Cover and chill for 1-4 hours to mar­i­nate.

Pre­heat oven to 220°C. Grease 2 bak­ing trays and line with foil.

Re­move quail from mari­nade and trans­fer, breast-side up, to pre­pared trays. Strain mari­nade through a sieve into a saucepan, add red­cur­rant jelly and port, and place over high heat. Whisk un­til well com­bined, then cook, with­out stir­ring, for 10 min­utes or un­til re­duced by two-thirds.

Pour glaze over quail and roast for 10 min­utes or un­til they start to turn golden. Re­move from oven and brush with glaze from trays. Pre­heat oven grill to high and grill first tray of quail,

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BEN DEARN­LEY STYLING KIRSTEN JENK­INS

Port punch (recipe p 98).

Slow-roasted brisket with aro­matic spice rub (recipe p 102).

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