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
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,
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
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,
Port punch (recipe p 98).
Slow-roasted brisket with aromatic spice rub (recipe p 102).