High summer means late nights and long, lazy meals with your friends. This time of year, food should be simple and above all, quick to prepare. Who wants to waste a minute of sunshine in the kitchen? So here’s my perfect throw-together cheeseboard – enjoy at your own leisurely pace.
A bit of background bio: Chef Van Golberdinge is Dutch and trained in classical French cuisine. He’s worked everywhere from New York’s Waldorf Astoria to the Michelin-starred Restaurant Sir Anthony Van Dijck in Antwerp, where he was head chef. He’s also super generous with cooking advice…
On to the menu. First up, Rocket Salad with Grana Padano, Cherry Tomatoes and Ready Ripe Avocado. This is really fresh and simple. Chef Van Golberdinge recommends dressing rocket with balsamic or balsamic glaze, olive oil and Maldon sea salt. Serving it with prosciutto also works a treat. We asked him why Grana Padano cheese; his response was that everyone uses Pecorino or Parmesan, and “if everyone goes left, I go right”. Love that answer!
Next, Broccoli Florets with Red Chillis and Lime Dressing. Another really simple idea, and much more interesting than the usual boiled-to-limpness approach. Bleurch. To keep the broccoli crispy crunchy, he drops it into boiling water, then after 30 seconds plunges it into ice water. This way you get a vivid green colour (you can use this trick when serving broccoli as crudités as well).
Grilled Cypriot Halloumi with Caramelised Figs and Pomegranate Seeds would make a show-stopping starter next time you’re hosting a fancy bash or impressing the in-laws. (His tip: fry the halloumi in a tiny bit of oil – much easier than using a grill pan, which can stick.) Shake a layer of sugar into a pan, allow it to caramelise, then lay in slices of fig. Warm through, flip them carefully, and place them onto the grilled cheese. Scatter with the seeds and a drizzle of honey. I’m drooling.
Next, Sautéed Shitake Mushrooms with Garlic, Brown Onion and Mixed 3 Colour Peppers on Multigrain Baguette. Everything is chopped quite fine and essentially just softened until it’s delicious. Then grill the bread and spoon on the veg. This would be great for lunch. The shitakes work well because “they’ve got lots of flavour and they’re nice and wintery” but I guess you could probably knock this up with chestnut mushrooms if that’s what you have in.
The smell of the next dish cooking kept a crowd of people hovering round the kitchen all morning. Diced West Country Lamb Shoulder Tagine with Medjool Dates and Chickpeas, Apricots, Lemons and Fresh Coriander. Hold. The. Phone. That sounds good!
He marinates the lamb (ideally for 12-24 hours) in garlic, aniseed, saffron and celery salt. When the meat is added to the pan, you let it sit on the heat for 4-5 mins so that it catches and browns – don’t be too quick to shake and stir it up, you want it to colour. Then he deglazes the pan with red wine or orange juice and lemon zest. Give it about 2 hours in the oven on 180˚C, then add the quartered dates and the chickpeas so they don’t get too soft. Thicken the mix with a paste of water and corn flour if needed. Serve with yoghurt and wraps.
The Baked Baby Aubergines are baked upside-down so that the skins crisp, and stuffed with peppers, leeks, onions, shallots (all sautéed) then topped with baby plum tomatoes and feta, and back under the grill to brown.
For a light and clean-tasting main course, chicken breast fillets were cooked ‘Bonne Femme’, which is basically in a casserole of brown onions, carrots, mange tout, asparagus, baby corn, celery, bay and chive. You can add spuds too.
The baby new potatoes were tossed in a blend of olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, mint, salt and pepper, then roasted at 180˚C until crispy, and then finished with warm lemon zest and lemon thyme raked through at the end. Chef’s tip: try adding lots of balsamic and thyme to the roasting liquor.
Phew! We’re into the home straights now. To finish, he made fruit salad (make sure all the chunks are an even size, and add the berries last so they don’t stain the apples). And there was also a cheese plate with Brie, Red Leicester, Double Gloucester and Cheddar.
A final tip from the man himself, then I’m off to scavenge the leftovers. “All the time I see chefs seasoning at the end of the cooking. The salt doesn’t have time to really get into the food. I add a little bit with every ingredient – just a little each time – so it really flavours the dish properly. It’s much tastier.”
Bye for now!
PS if you’d like to cook like Dennis, check out No.7 Catering – they run classes, and also do parties and catering if you’d rather just sit back!