Remembering how to interact with other human beings hasn’t been a particularly easy process over the past couple of weeks, has it? I know that I’ve already put my foot in my mouth during al fresco drinks on multiple occasions so far and that I’ve successfully offended – and downgraded my status from “friend” to “acquaintance” with – many people by asking them whether they’re still cutting their own hair.
Yes, there’s definitely going to be a bit of a teething period in our communal adjustment to normality and one of the aspects of “normal” that I’m sure we’re all excited and anxious about in equal measure are dinner parties. Pre-pandemic, there weren’t many more enjoyable culinary experiences than buying a decent bottle of wine and having some of your nearest and dearest chums over for a chicken traybake that you’d absolutely hammered with sumac and pomegranates. But remembering how to host, and not offend your guest’s barnets while you’re doing so, is hard enough without also having to worry about what you’re going to cook.
Thankfully, brilliant recipe websites like MOB Kitchen are around to help ease that anxiety through simple and delicious food. After all, the last thing you want to do when you do finally get your mates over to your place once again is serve them up a disappointing dinner that makes them regret leaving the poky flat that they’ve spent a frankly upsetting number of hours stewing in. No, my friend, you want to cook them a dinner that’ll make them want to settle down and move in with you right then and there.
The following are three foolproof dinner party-friendly recipes that’ll not only impress your guests but also prove to them you’ve improved at least one aspect of your life over the last year and a half of confinement… even if all you’ve really been doing is playing Football Manager in your underwear.
Roasted tomato and mascarpone tagliatelle
Making your own pasta from scratch is definitely a labour of love but it’s more than worth it for this roasted tomato and mascarpone tagliatelle. Especially for the look on your guests’ face when you serve up your gorgeous strands of tagliatelle alongside some of that home sourdough you’ve also been mastering over lockdown.
No big deal. Just make sure that at least one person arrives early and interrupts you while you’re making the dough. “What am I doing? Oh, just making my own pasta,” you say as you create a 00 flour volcano on your countertop and pour flaxen yolks into its core. “It’s just something that I do now.”
400g 00 flour
500g cherry tomatoes on the vine
50g coarse semolina
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp tomato puree
1. Pour your flour onto a clean work surface and clear a circle in the middle. Crack your eggs into the well and beat with a fork, gradually dragging in flour and beating together until you have a stiff dough that has incorporated all the flour.
2. Knead briefly until your dough goes smooth, then cover with cling film or a clean tea towel and leave to rest for 30 mins.
3. Heat your oven to 160C/320F.
4. Tip your cherry tomatoes onto a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Pop in the oven to roast for 40 mins.
5. Cut your pasta dough into 4 equal-sized pieces. One by one, roll out your dough to the second thinnest setting on your pasta roller, or about 1mm thick if rolling by hand. You should have 4 long, thin, smooth sheets by the end. Cut each in half horizontally so you have 8 long sheets.
6. Attach your pasta shape cutter to your pasta roller. Run your sheets of dough one by one through your tagliatelle setting so that you have lots of lovely pasta strips. If you are cutting by hand, cut each length of pasta into strips 1cm-wide. Dust your pasta with your semolina and set it aside on a parchment-lined baking tray.
7. Fill a pan with water, salt liberally and bring to a boil.
8. Finely slice your garlic.
9. Heat a little olive oil in a saute pan over a gentle heat and add your garlic and chilli flakes. Fry for 2 mins until fragrant.
10.Add your tomato puree and cook it out for a minute before adding your roasted tomatoes and mascarpone.
11.Cook your tagliatelle for 1-2 minutes in the boiling water.
12.Add a ladle of pasta water to the tomato sauce, then lift your pasta out of the boiling water with tongs and drop it into your saucepan. Grate in your parmesan and mix until you have a smooth sauce that coats all your pasta, adding more pasta water if you need more silkiness.
13.Season to taste with salt and pepper, then serve up with an extra sprinkle of parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.
Thai fish sauce wings
Inspired by Smoking Goat in Shoreditch, these crispy Thai fish sauce chicken wings are truly a work of art.
Dressed in a sticky, fishy, sour and spicy glaze that’s topped with mint and peanuts, this dish is a substantial upgrade on your usual starter of bang-average bruschetta and hunger.
It’s also an excellent way to show off to everyone that you’ve spent your quarantine catching up on Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.
These wings are definitely good to whip up for your friends that have failed to book a table at any decent restaurants.
100ml fish sauce
4 cloves of garlic
1kg chicken wings
Handful of roasted salted peanuts
Handful of mint
1 red chilli
1. Whisk the fish sauce, sriracha and sugar together in a bowl and grate in your garlic. Add your chicken wings and toss to coat. Marinade for at least an hour, or overnight if you have time.
2. Pour your cornflour into a bowl. Remove your chicken wings from their marinade and dunk in the cornflour, then leave to sit on a plate.
3. Heat a generous amount of vegetable oil in a high-sided frying pan. Add your wings a few at a time and fry for about 10 minutes, turning so that they cook evenly. They should be deeply golden and crispy when done.
4. Meanwhile, pour your marinade into a small saucepan along with a small cupful of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes until thick and syrupy.
5. Finely chop your peanuts and mint, then slice your chilli.
6. Plate up your wings and drizzle your sauce on top. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts, mint and red chillis, then serve.
Slow roast lamb flatbreads
This recipe for slow roast lamb flatbreads comes courtesy of MOB’s head of food, Sophie Wyburd. Or, more specifically, it comes courtesy of her mum. This dish is her dinner party go-to and it’d be rude not to give it a go at your next hosting opportunity.
The beauty of the rich and luscious lamb shoulder is that it’s a cut of meat so large you can simply bung it in the oven overnight and leave it to do its business. Cooking that lamb low and slow while you catch up on your beauty sleep saves you a lot of faff and leaves you with plenty of time before your guests arrive to gussy yourself up and practise your small talk.
If you run out of conversation topics, you can always start banging on about the wonders of za’atar or just wax lyrical about how unctuous the lamb you’ve just cooked is.
For the lamb:
2kg lamb shoulder
6 cloves of garlic
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp coriander seeds
500ml chicken stock
For the flatbreads:
2 tsp coriander seeds
500g strong white bread flour
2 tsp instant dried yeast
For the hummus:
400g tinned chickpeas
1 clove of garlic
2 tbsp tahini
1 tsp za’atar
Handful of pickled chillies
Handful of mint
150g pomegranate seeds
1. Heat the oven to 120C fan/140C/280F.
2. Halve your shallots, leaving their skins on. Bash your unpeeled garlic cloves to crush them slightly.
3. Heat a large roasting tin on the hob over a high heat and add your lamb shoulder fat side down, then salt generously. Brown for a couple of minutes until the fat has rendered a bit, then remove from the pan.
4. Tip your shallots, garlic cloves, cinnamon stick and coriander seeds into the same pan along with a generous pinch of salt and fry for 5 minutes in the lamb fat. Pop the lamb shoulder back into the pan fat side up and pour in your chicken stock.
5. Bring the stock to a simmer, then secure foil tightly around the edge of the tin. Pop your lamb in the oven. Cook for about 14 hours – I tend to do this overnight.
6. Now, make your flatbreads. Toast your coriander seeds in a dry frying pan, then crush them in a pestle and mortar.
7. Pop them in a bowl along with your flour, yeast, 2 tsps of salt, 40ml olive oil and 290ml of warm water. Give it a good mix until you have a rough dough, then turn it out onto your work surface and knead for 5 mins.
8. Pop your dough in a lightly oiled bowl covered in a tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size – this will take about an hour.
9. Make your hummus. Drain your chickpeas, reserving the water from their can. Add them to a food processor along with 50ml of your chickpea water, the tahini, lemon juice, za’atar and a good pinch of salt. Blend until smooth.
10.Pour 60ml olive oil into the machine while it’s running until you have a smooth and emulsified hummus. Season to taste with salt.
11.Back to your flatbreads. Heat a cast iron pan on a very high heat. Turn your dough out of the bowl and divide it into 8 equal-sized pieces. Roll each into a 2mm-thick circle.
12.Pop one at a time into your hot, dry pan and cook for a minute on each side. They should bubble and get a slight char on them.
13.Remove your lamb from the oven and start to pull it with a pair of forks – this should be very easy to do as the lamb will be practically falling apart
14.Roughly chop your mint.
15.Assembly time. Spread some hummus on your flatbread and top with lamb, mint, pomegranate and chillies. Serve and enjoy.
Hungry for more? We’ve got you covered with plenty of recipes on the MOB Kitchen website