Thursday, 17 April 2014

Bon appetit... A Spring Dinner Party Menu ...

Easter;It's this time of the year once again and I cannot but wonder where does the time go !!! However, with the bank holiday weekend upon us, here is our chance to catch up with friends and family. And for those of us, who like to cook, there are few pleasures in life greater than having friends over for dinner.
Dinner parties these days can be as laid back as you like and involve nothing more formal than guests draping themselves over your furniture and enjoying the food that you have lovingly prepared and drinks that you have chosen yourself.
My only advice is, do try and prepare as much as possible in advance, to allow you more time to sit back , relax and enjoy the company of your guests. There is nothing worse and off putting than witnessing your host getting into a flap and literally having a panic attack in front of you.You cannot help but feel bad for them and I always secretly wish that my offer of help would be graciously declined but alas!!!.arrrrrghhh most often, I can hear the " Yes, please ". (joy of being a Chef)
So, my motto is Plan, plan, plan, plan..... Prep, prep, prep, prep.... In one word "Organise yourself". This is guaranteed to make the dining experience even more gratifying for all concerned and for you to enjoy the party too.
Here is a complete menu where most things can be prepared in advance and using seasonal ingredients.

 Tian of Castletownbere crab & Goat’s bridge trout caviar        Makes 6

  • 450g of fresh castletownbere crab meat, squeeze out excess liquid
  • 1 small bunch of new season Asparagus
  • Mixed leaves salad
 For the mayonnaise. ( prep in advance)
  • 3 tbs of creme fraiche
  • 1tbs of Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp of wholegrain mustard
  • 1/2 tsp of Dijon mustard
  •  Grated lemon zest 
  • A pinch of sugar, Salt & pepper to taste
Blanch the asparagus in salted boiling water for 2 mins. Remove and refresh in iced cold water. Cut the tips to 3 “ in height and slice in half. Finely chop the bottom stems. (prep in advance )
Dress the salad leaves and asparagus tips with a little olive oil & lemon juice.(Before serving )
Mix some of the mayonnaise with the crab meat & the chopped asparagus stems until it is well coated but still firm. (prep in advance)
Place a chef ring in the middle of your plate, layer some of the crab meat mixture compressing it down with the back of a spoon, top with the dressed frisé and a small dollop of the trout caviar.
Remove the Chef ring and surround with a brunoise of assorted peppers for a touch of colour.

Recommended Wine pairing: Jean Pabiot Pouilly Fume 2012
A delicious and complex Pouilly Fume. Organically farmed and certified by Terra Vitis. This wine shows yellow fruits, hints of passion fruit and gooseberry with herbal notes and the trademark mineral and smoky notes of the  surrounding areas.
The richness of this wine contrasted with its fresh acidity makes it a great match with the crab . 
Supplier: Honest  2 goodness .ie & Donnybrook fair stores

Cannon of Spring Wicklow Lamb, seasonal greens and Madeira jus         serves 6

  • 3 cannon of Spring Wicklow Lamb (ask your butcher to prepare this for you)
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • Knob of butter
  • Splash of olive oil
For the seasonal greens ( baby carrots,sprouting broccoli, savoy cabbage)
  • 200 ml of cream
  • 100 ml of milk
  • 1 tbsp of Whole grain mustard
Reduce the cream & milk to half until you get the consistency of double cream. Whisk in the mustard. Set aside. 
 Wash and trim the Vegetables,Separate the leaves from the cabbage.Blanch each in plenty boiling salted water until just tender but still firm. Refresh in iced cold water.
 Remove the centre stalk from the cabbage leaves,stack them up and slice very finely into a chiffonade.
 All of the above can be done in advance
For the Wild Garlic Puree
  • A good handful of wild garlic leaves & baby spinach
  • Splash of cream & stock
Blanch the leaves in salted boiling water for 4-6 mins and  refresh immediately in iced cold water. Drain and squeeze out excess liquid. Blitz in a blender with the cream and add a splash of stock until you achieve the right consistency. (prep in advance)
For the Madeira jus
 Reduce 400 ml of Madeira and 200 ml of red wine by half. Add in 200 ml of veal stock(or chicken stock if you can’t find veal stock) Reduce once more to a glaze,finally whisk in some honey to bring on a shine. Keep warm. (prep in advance)
Method :
Pre-heat oven to 1800

Season the lamb all over. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a frying pan and lightly colour on all sides. Finish by roasting in the oven for about 10 mins for a medium-rare result. Allow to rest for about 8 mins.

While the lamb is roasting and resting, Re- heat the reduced mustard cream and add in the cabbage, mix to coat well.

In another pan , melt a large knob of butter, add in a splash of water, swirl around the pan to obtain a buttery emulsion. Add in your carrots and broccoli and continue to swirl to warm up. Add another splash of water if drying out too quickly. Your vegetables should be warm and glistening.

Slice the lamb at an angle and serve with the creamed cabbage, seasonal greens, dots of the wild
garlic puree and a final drizzle of the Madeira jus.

Recommended Wine Pairing: Chateau Reynier Bordeaux Superieur 2010
This wine is produced by Marc Lurton. An equal blend of Cabernet sauvignon and Merlot grapes, aged in oak barrels for 12 months. Supple with ripe rounded tannins, red berries, blackberries, cassis with hints of smoke and vanilla. A classic bordeaux that matches the lamb to perfection.
Supplier : Honest 2 & Donnybrook fair stores

Valrhona Chocolate Fondant , Fruits of the forest                                 serves 6

  • 210 grms of Valrhona 70% dark chocolate
  • 210 grms of unsalted butter, softened
  • 110 grms of caster sugar
  • 55 grms of sifted flour
  • 210 grms of egg
  • 80 grms of egg yolks

Melt the Chocolate in a bowl over simmering water, Add in the butter and stir in to combine.
In another bowl whisk in the eggs, egg yolks and the sugar until well combined. Pour in the melted chocolate mixture and mix. Fold in the sifted flour. Pour into 6 greased moulds and keep chilled until needed. (prep in advance)


Bake in a pre-heated oven for 9-10 mins.

 Fruit Coulis
  • I punnet of frozen raspberries
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • ½ cup of water

In a pan , bring the sugar & water to a boil and continue to boil for 1 mins. Place the frozen berries in a mixer and pour over some of the hot syrup. Blitz into a puree. Add more syrup if too thick. Pass through a sieve to remove the pips, chill until needed.(prep in advance)

 To assemble

Paint a brush stroke across the width of your plate with a silicone brush. Scatter over some mixed berries. Garnish with some mint leaves and un-mould your fondant by the side. Serve with raspberry sorbet, sesame crisps (optional) & a shot of Whiskey. ( These pipettes can be purchased on line and are extensively used in Fine dining restaurants)
Recommended Wine pairing : iTraturri Rosso 2010
A rich ripe red wine made from a blend of 3 grapes; Sangiovese, Aglianico and Malvasia Nera. The grapes are grown in the Salento Peninsula in Puglia where the Southern Italian sun ripens the grapes at will. Dark fruit with spicy, chocolatel notes , makes this wine a great match for the fondant.
Supplier: Honest 2

 Bon Appetit 

Run by Brid & Colm Carter , Honest 2 goodness market in Glassnevin is open every Saturday from 9.30 - 4 pm and where they showcase a variety of premium quality Artisan produce and their vast selection of fine wines.

Tagged:robert jacob-castletownbere crab-goat'sbridge trout caviar-wicklow lamb-maderia jus-wild garlic puree-valrhona chocolate fondant-fruit coulis

©2012-2014;Robert Jacob;jacob'scrackers;jacobscrackers9; All rights reserved


  1. wow, the colours in those dishes. They look so so good. Extremely mouth watering :)

  2. Thank you Lorna, Using good seasonal produce will always deliver on Taste, Flavour & Colours