Friday Night Series [I]: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

by Camilla McGill

I have been a member of our Synagogue since 1999 and have been picking up Jewish customs and traditions on the way and claiming the ones I like for our family.  I have four children aged 10, 12, 15 & 17 and in the past few years I have had a growing capacity not only to make a regular, special Shabbat meal at home but also for inviting guests.  For the last three years I have been co-chair of the Membership Group whose role is to attract new members, retain existing members and engage all members in all aspects of Synagogue life. Our mission is to be seen as a friendly, welcoming community and with that in mind I decided to start inviting people I know less well or new members to join us for Shabbat dinner.  Once the date has been set a mild panic starts to rise in me – when will I shop, what will I make, will they like my food, how will I time everything right, how can I make the house look vaguely presentable, how will I squeeze everyone in?

I don’t feel I have a perfect answer to all these questions – I rather muddle through with the help of lots of cookery books, a big le creuset pot (experience has taught me that a one pot dish makes my life SO much easier),  Ocado delivery, an extension to our table and a hotch potch of folding chairs and stools.  What I do know is that people love to be invited and are far more interested in coming over, talking, laughing and eating anything cooked by someone else than they are in noticing how many piles of paper there are on my sideboard or how many stray shoes have been kicked under the sofa.

Friday night (c) Libby Hipkins 2012

Friday night (c) Libby Hipkins 2012

Once the blessings have been made. we sit down, I have a glass of wine and I start to relax.  We have a tradition where we go round the table and everyone has to say a highlight of the week, something that went wrong (or a low light) and when he or she was kind.  It is so interesting to hear what everyone has to say and it is such a nice way to complete the week.  We borrowed the idea from our great family friends in North London who have legendary Shabbats. So if you are thinking of inviting someone over no matter how big or small your family is nor whether you invite one person or more, give it a go.  It is such a nice feeling.  Our recent guests who are not only new to Wimbledon but new to the UK said ‘We had such a lovely time at your house, our children can be quite shy but the testament was that none of them wanted to leave as they were having such a nice time’

le creusetChilean Lamb Stew

adapted from The Fish Store by Lindsay Bareham

I cook this in a large Le Crueset pot and normally double (or treble) the recipe to feed 8 or 12.

If I double the recipe I don’t normally double or treble the stock or potatoes.

Serves 4

  • 1 large onion
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 1 tbs plain flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4tbs vegetable oil
  • 400g peeled pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 1 leek
  • 3 large carrots
  • 2 fresh corn (or can use frozen)
  • 500g diced lamb neck fillet
  • 500 baby new potatoes (or charlotte potatoes)
  • 1 chicken stock cube or fresh stock approx. 500ml
  • 2 tbs finely chopped fresh parsley to serve

Peel and dice the onion.  Cook in 2 tbs oil till soft for about 5 minutes.  Peel, seed and cut pumpkin or butternut squash into 2-3cm squares (1”).  Stir pumpkin into onion and season.  Cook 5-10 minutes.  Rinse and trim the leek and slice into ½ cm slices.  Peel carrots and slice into strips lengthways then slice into 3cm batons. Slice corn off the cob (or use about 4-5 tbs frozen corn). Add carrot and leek to the onion and pumpkin.  Stir well and cover, leaving to cook for 5-10 minutes.

Add  cumin to 1-2 tbs plain flour.  Dust the lamb chunks in the flour mixture.  In a separate frying pan heat 2 tbs oil and in batches quickly brown the meat on all sides. When all the meat is browned add to the pan with the sweetcorn and potatoes and the stock.  The stock needs to just cover the meat and potatoes.  Cook at least an hour on a low simmer till the meat is very tender.  Once the meat is tender check how much stock is left in the pan.  If there is a lot of liquid (which there is likely to be), then ladle it out leaving just a little liquid to surround the meat but not to swamp it.  Put the liquid you removed into a small saucepan and boil it down by at least half then pour enough back into the pan to make the stew moist but not swamped in juice.

Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in parsley and serve.  It is almost better if cooked a day in advance.  To feed really hungry people you can also serve it with mashed potato.  Good with a green salad or green beans too.

Chocolate Almond Cake

  • 160g dark chocolate (70%)
  • 100 milk chocolate
  • 165g softened unsalted butter
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 165g ground almonds
  • pinch salt
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons double cream
  • 5 large eggs

Serves 10 in slim slices but can easily serve more. It is quite rich.

Preheat oven to 170 or gas 3  Prepare a 24cm spring form tin with a ring in the centre. If not use a 21-22cm normal spring form. Grease it and shake in a bit of flour.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water (not touching) stirring constantly so that the mixture doesn’t burn.

Let mixture cool. If necessary speed up by standing the bowl in cold water.

Stir in egg yolks, ground almonds and orange zest.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form then slowly add the sugar.

Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture

Add the cream and gently fold it into the mixture.

Pour into the greased and floured tin.

Place in centre of oven for 25 mins until it isn’t wobbly any more – knife needs to come out pretty clean but it doesn’t matter if a bit of mixture is on the knife as the cake is moist and it firms up when it cools down.

Cool in the tin and turn it out onto a dish and shake icing sugar over it. The ring looks nice filled with some soft fruit like raspberries or blueberries.

Click here for a great hallah recipe

And Michelin-star Shabbatmosphere article

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2 thoughts on “Friday Night Series [I]: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

  1. Camilla, how lovely and admirable. Four chidren, tons of work at Wimshul and on top of that a welcoming home! This is the first time I see a Chilean recipe on the blog that was not posted by me. I am totally moved by this! Cx

  2. Pingback: Michelin-star “Shabbatmosphere” + Creamy Chestnut Soup Recipe | Wimshul Cooks

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