A cunning plan: Yotam Ottolenghi’s main course recipes for a Christmas party | Main course (2024)

Christmas food and drink 2017

The secret to cooking for a festive get-together? Organisation, so you can join in with all the fun, too

Yotam Ottolenghi

Sat 9 Dec 2017 10.00 CET

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Feeding a crowd is fun, but it requires a fair bit of organisation. Three practical tips, then. First, plan and prepare as much as you can in advance: marinate meat, make sauces and dressings, toast and chop nuts, grill vegetables. Next, picture the plate you’re planning to serve: more is not always more, and you don’t need to offer 12 different things to choose from. I often draw a quick sketch of the dish as I imagine it: does everything fit on the one plate, and would I want to eat it? Finally, give a thought to portion size: if a recipe says a dish serves four and you have 12 to feed, chances are you’ll be able to double (rather than triple) the quantities without your guests going hungry – especially if you’re making a range of dishes. Also, bear in mind that the more guests you have, the less, proportionately, they’ll eat. So, plan, picture, portion. Then party.

Grilled lamb fillet with almonds and orange blossom

A great dish for feeding a gang, because you can get so much of the work done in advance. Sear the meat, grill the pepper, prepare the sauce (hold back on the mint until serving, because it will discolour if left to sit around). Then, when you’re ready to serve, all you have to do is finish off the meat in the oven and add the mint to the sauce. As always with garlic, don’t double the amount when doubling the other ingredients: seven or eight cloves will be fine to feed 12. Serves six.

6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
5 lemons: finely grate the zest of 1, to get 1 tbsp, and juice them all, to get 150ml
3 tbsp picked thyme leaves
180ml olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1kg lamb neck fillets (ie, about 8 fillets)
170g almonds (skin on)
1 tbsp honey
½ tsp orange blossom water
3 red peppers, cut into quarters, deseeded and pith removed
20g mint leaves

Put the garlic in a large bowl with two teaspoons of lemon zest, 90ml lemon juice, all the thyme, half the oil, a teaspoon and a half of salt and a really good grind of pepper. Toss the lamb fillets in the mix until well coated, then refrigerate for at least two hours (or overnight) to marinate.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a small pan, add the almonds and cook, stirring continuously, for three to four minutes, until golden brown and evenly cooked. Take off the heat, leave to cool a little, then roughly chop and put in a bowl (discard the cooking oil). Add a teaspoon of lemon zest, 60ml lemon juice, the honey, orange blossom water, half a teaspoon of salt, a good grind of black pepper and three tablespoons of oil, stir to combine and set aside.

Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Put a large ridged griddle pan on a high heat and ventilate the kitchen. Rub the peppers all over with a tablespoon of oil and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, then grill for about 10 minutes, turning once halfway, until charred on both sides. Leave to cool, then cut into 2cm-wide strips.

Put the lamb fillets on the piping-hot griddle (reserve the marinade) and grill for about four minutes in total, turning once halfway, until charred and starting to caramelise on both sides. Transfer the browned fillets to a roasting tray, add the peppers and reserved marinade, and roast for three to four minutes for medium-rare (or for a few minutes longer if you prefer it more done). You could also hold the meat in the fridge after its initial griddling, in which case bring it up to room temperature before roasting and give it 15 minutes in the oven. (Either way, timings will depend on the thickness of the meat: to tell how well it’s done, press a finger on to the meat: the less give it has, the more it is cooked.) Once the lamb is done, take it from the oven, cover with foil and leave to rest for five to 10 minutes.

Carve the lamb into 1cm-thick slices and arrange on a platter with the peppers. Finely chop the mint, add to the sauce and spoon on top. Serve any excess sauce on the side.

Puy lentils with roast aubergine, tomatoes and yoghurt

This is a glorious thing to have in the fridge, ready for piling on toast or serving with grilled chicken or fish. However many people I’m cooking for, I find it hard not to double or even triple the quantities given here, so I can snack on the leftovers in the days that follow. If you’re inclined to do the same, hold back on the yoghurt until serving: you don’t want to add it to the mix. Serves four, generously.

8 aubergines (2.2kg), pricked a few times with a knife
600g cherry tomatoes
320g puy lentils
60ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 small garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
6 tbsp oregano leaves
Salt and black pepper

200g Greek-style yoghurt
Heat the oven to its highest setting (250C/480F/gas mark 10). Put the aubergines on two baking trays and roast for an hour, turning them halfway, until the flesh is completely soft and slightly smoky. Remove and, once cool enough handle, scoop out the flesh into a colander (discard the skins) and leave in the sink or over a bowl for 30 minutes, so any excess liquid drains away.

Scatter the tomatoes on one of the now-empty aubergine trays and roast for 12 minutes, until slightly blackened, split and soft.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, add the lentils, turn down the heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, until they’re cooked but still have some bite. Drain and set aside to steam dry a little.

Tip the lentils into a large bowl and add the aubergine, tomatoes, oil, lemon juice, garlic, four tablespoons of oregano, one and a half teaspoons of salt and lots of pepper. Mix to combine, then spoon into a shallow serving bowl. Top with yoghurt – if you want, swirl it through to create attractive white streaks. Sprinkle over the remaining oregano, drizzle with a little oil and serve.

Pappardelle with rose harissa, black olives and capers

This North African-inspired pasta is short on effort and big on complex flavour. The sauce can be made well in advance – it will keep in the fridge for at least three days – and can be happily doubled or tripled. If you do so, you’ll be able to produce last-minute or unplanned feasts in as much time as it takes to cook the pasta. If you can’t get pappardelle, another wide, flat pasta (such as tagliatelle) also works well – as does any pasta, really, or even couscous or quinoa. Serves four.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tbsp rose (or regular) harissa
400g cherry tomatoes, halved
55g pitted kalamata olives, torn in half
20g baby capers
15g parsley leaves, roughly chopped
500g dried pappardelle
120g Greek-style yoghurt

On a medium-high flame, heat the oil in a large saute pan for which you have a lid, then fry the onions for eight minutes, stirring every once in a while, until soft and caramelised. Add the harissa, tomatoes, olives, capers and a half-teaspoon of salt, and fry, stirring often, for three to four minutes, until the tomatoes start to break down. Add 200ml water, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, cook for four to five minutes more, until the sauce is thick and rich, then stir in two-thirds of the parsley and set aside.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil, cook the pasta as per the packet instructions, until al dente, then drain. Return the pasta to the pot, add the sauce and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt, and toss to coat. Divide between four shallow bowls and serve hot, with a spoonful of yoghurt and sprinkle of parsley.

Mango and lemongrass dal with roast cod

Serve this sweet and aromatic dish with flatbread, to soak up all those flavourful juices. If you want to get ahead, make the dal a day or two in advance; keep it covered in the fridge and warm through gently before serving. If you go down this route, leave the cod in the oil and curry powder mix for only 30 minutes or so, because fish breaks down if it’s left to marinate for too long. Leftover dal is delicious, so there’s no harm in scaling up and having too much. Serves four.

100g yellow split peas, soaked in water overnight
1 large banana shallot, peeled and quartered
About 10 sticks (70g) lemongrass (size can vary, so check the weight), trimmed and cut into small chunks
4cm piece ginger, peeled and cut into small chunks
60ml olive oil, plus 2 tsp extra to serve
375ml vegetable stock
250ml coconut milk
1 large ripe mango, peeled and cut into 0.5cm chunks (270g net weight)
2 tsp medium curry powder
4 skinless and boneless cod fillets (about 120g each)
Salt and black pepper
5 fresh (or frozen) kaffir lime leaves, stems removed
⅛ tsp ground turmeric
120g Greek-style yoghurt
10g coriander leaves, roughly torn
1 lime, cut into four wedges, to serve

Drain and rinse the split peas. Put the shallot, lemongrass and ginger in the small bowl of a food processor and blitz until very finely chopped.

On a medium flame, heat two tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan for which you have a lid. Fry the shallots, lemongrass and ginger for 12 minutes, stirring often, until soft but without much colour, then stir in the stock, coconut milk, mango, a teaspoon of curry powder and the drained split peas. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover and simmer for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peas soften.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the remaining teaspoon of curry powder with two tablespoons of oil, add the cod fillets, rub all over, cover with clingfilm and set aside at room temperature while the dal is cooking.

Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Once the dal has cooked, transfer the cod to a 30cm x 40cm oven tray lined with baking paper, sprinkle with a small pinch of salt and roast for 10 minutes, until the flesh is opaque and flaky.

Transfer the split peas to a blender, add the lime leaves, turmeric and a teaspoon of salt, and blend smooth. Spoon the lentils into four shallow bowls, top with the yoghurt, fish (whole or broken into large flakes) and coriander, and finish with a drizzle of oil and a grind of black pepper. Serve with a lime wedge.

Pork tenderloin with fennel and rocket salad

If you marinate the meat in advance and are a dab hand at slicing fennel (a mandoline is your best friend here), this can be on the table within 10 minutes. All quantities can be doubled to serve 12 (apart, again, from the garlic, which you should take up to only five or six cloves if doubling the rest). Serves six.

2 pork tenderloin (about 550g each), cut on an angle into 0.5-1cm-thick slices
1½ tbsp fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
½ tsp chilli flakes
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
100ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
2 fennel bulbs, cut into 1-2mm-thick slices (use a mandoline, ideally)
1½ tbsp lemon juice
80g rocket
5g tarragon leaves, roughly chopped

In a large bowl, toss the pork with four teaspoons of fennel seeds, the chilli, garlic, 60ml oil, three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, then cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes (or even overnight).

Heat a large frying pan on a high flame, then fry the pork slices in two or three batches for two minutes each, turning them halfway, until both sides are a dark golden brown and the meat is just cooked.

Put the remaining oil in a large bowl with the fennel, lemon juice, rocket, tarragon, remaining half-teaspoon of fennel seeds, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Toss to coat, then divide between six plates. Arrange the pork alongside, pour any cooking juices on top and serve warm.

  • Food styling: Emily Kydd. Prop styling: Jennifer Kay.


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A cunning plan: Yotam Ottolenghi’s main course recipes for a Christmas party | Main course (2024)
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