I always feel incredibly feral when I get back to work after the summer break. Weeks with no mirror, no hairdresser, no makeup, no smart clothes... a daily routine of easy, lazy meals, nothing fancy or complicated. And that’s as it should be, for the best thing about summer is that whole wonderful sense of freedom.
Then wham, bam – it’s back to reality and the rush and bustle of everyday life. I feel quite dislocated for a few days. The very first thing I do when I get back home is go around the whole house, marking my territory as it were. I pick vases of flowers from the garden to put through the rooms and bunches of fresh herbs to sit in jugs on the windowsill. I take a trip to the market to replenish the fridge. Fluffing I call it.
Now I can feel at home again, and ready to enjoy the company of some good mates. Sitting around the table with fabulous, funny friends who light up my life with their ideas, their friendship and their energy, is the one thing that makes me feel happily at home.
It’s time for the first proper dinner party – time to light some candles, put on some cruisy music and settle back into daily life.
Here’s what I’ll be cooking:
To nibble as everyone arrives: Tamari-Roasted Almonds
For a starter: Prawn, Papaya and Avocado Cocktail
As a main: Balsamic Chicken Breasts with Crispy Mint and Pine Nuts served with new potatoes tossed with mint and butter, and lightly cooked zucchinis or beans
For dessert: Apricots with Macaroon Topping
Wine match: Pinot gris or chardonnay
I've put together a step-by-step menu planner to make it easy for you to cook this meal:
- Cook Tamari Roasted Almonds and store in a sealed jar up to two weeks in advance.
- Make macaroon topping for baked apricots and store in the fridge for up to a week.
The day before
- Prepare prawns in cocktail sauce and store in a covered container in the fridge.
On the day
- Marinate chicken breasts and store in fridge until ready to cook.
- Make sauce for chicken and store in the fridge until ready to re-heat.
- Scrub potatoes and cover with cold water until ready to boil.
- Prepare apricots, top with macaroon and refrigerate until ready to cook.
At the last minute
- Pre-heat oven to 220˚C and just before sitting down to entrée, put chicken in to bake.
- Put new potatoes on to boil.
- Toss prawns in cocktail sauce with avocados, papaya and rocket leaves. Season and serve in glasses, bowls, or in a basket of soft lettuce leaves.
- Lightly cook sliced zucchini or trimmed green beans.
- Finish off chicken preparation with pre-made sauce and, fried mint leaves and serve with zucchinis or beans and boiled new potatoes with butter and finely sliced mint.
- Preheat oven and cook apricots until golden and soft.