Sunday nights

I used to love Sunday evenings. Back in the day- there was Baywatch to be devoured sitting in front of the heater and dinner was usually English muffins.

English muffins topped with butter and bacon. The bacon would be cooked between paper towel in the microwave for 45 seconds on high. I’m not really sure why, but it was.

That sounds pretty civilised. It was.

One of these days I’ll learn. When you’re fronting up to a full week of crazy work, is it really sensible to try and pull off a sit down 3 course dinner for six?

Probably not. That’s probably why it’s taken me weeks to actually get around to writing about it.

Trying to find things to feed this disparate group of 6 is interesting too.

We’ve got the VegAquarians- and one of those also won’t eat fruit.

Then we’ve got the married ones- He won’t eat egg that’s obviously eggy, oysters or mussels and neither of them like mushrooms.

Then you’ve got us. We’ve covered this before. The Hungry One doesn’t like smoked salmon or vegemite. I don’t like vegemite and try not to eat too many white carbs for dinner.

Bowl of lettuce, anyone?

But back then it was a beautiful day and the Sydney Fish Markets is a fun place to go- so long as you’re wearing the right shoes. Don’t go in open toed sandals. It’ll take 2 showers to get the smell of bonito out of your toes.

So on a peaceful Sunday we scuttled off in the baby sized Barina and played a fun game I like to call ” how to blow a lot of cash in a small amount of time”.

Walking into Claudios we catch the eye of one of the red fleecy jumper wearing staff who follows us around and gets stuff for us. If it wasn’t so imperialist I’d like to have a Claudios staff member follow me around all day ever day.

There’s Coffin bay oysters for our lunch before the married ones come, with edamame and the brilliant salmon sashimi and a glass of rose on the balcony gaping at Fernando Frisioni’s fashion page in the Sun Herald S section. Life doesn’t often get more gleeful. Maybe one day the Claudios red jumpers will feature in Fernando’s pages.

But coming home with us was also squid tubes, ocean trout fillets for the freezer, huge green prawns, a bag of mussels for dinner the next night, cute little red fish fillets which are still sitting in the freezer waiting to be enticed out.

Then over to the fruit and veg market at the back of the fish markets. Past the thronging tourists eating unidentifiable things from the sea covered in cheesy bechamel and deep fried.

We emerge with a haul for the Hungry One to help carry- fennel, rocket, olives, red onion, tomatoes, garlic, a huge thing of ricotta, hazelnuts, pine nuts, a new basil and parsley plant, eggs, chilli. And a big thing of the good yogurt. He likes mango. I like berry. We usually compromise on passionfruit.

There was no Pamela Anderson that Sunday night. There were no english muffins either.

Instead we had the friends, too much wine, too much food and crashed, stuffed around the Sunday night tele all together and scoffed at how thin Meredith Gray is looking. The married ones. The Vegaquarians and us.

There were four courses and then espressos made on The Hungry One’s new machine. I like to call it R2D2, or “The silver thing that stole my prep space”.

I have to tell you. I was pretty knackered by the time Monday morning rolled around.


Dinner for 6 on a Sunday Eve.


Old faithful Blue Castello ( not too blue, not too rich, not too expensive) quince paste, lavosh and slivers of pear. A glass of bubbles thrust in the hand. You can always find something to celebrate. Even if it’s just having Blue Castello in your life.

Entree: Chilli garlic prawns, a kilo of prawns marinated in half a cup of olive oil, 2 chopped de seeded chillis, 4 cloves of garlic smashed and diced. Char them on the bbq while a chilli lime aioli is being whipped up in the kitchen.

Try not to have too much champagne before you make mayonnaise in public. When it won’t come together it can feel a bit like falling off your bike in a public place. Embarrassing for everyone.

Aioli- essentially any good mayonnaise recipe with chilli, lime juice and a lot of garlic stirred through.

Serve aioli and prawns at the coffee table with finger bowls and napkins. A cheeky rose doesn’t go down too badly either.

Main: Red risotto stuffed char grilled squid tubes with an obscenely large green salad.

Make a red risotto. Make your bog standard risotto base but add some finely diced fennel along with the onion to colour. Add 5 cups of Aborio rice. I tend to make risotto in my non stick scanpan wok. It’s big enough and doesn’t catch at the bottom when I get distracted.

Instead of chicken/ vegetable stock take a litre of tomato passata and add a litre of warm water. Ladle this into the rice as you would normal stock. When it is cooked al dente fold through the fun things that will give the risotto more flavour;

About half a cup of diced black olives, half a cup of finely diced raw fennel, a huge handful of flat leaf parsley and about a quarter of a cup of toasted pine nuts. Check the seasoning. It’ll probably need some salt and pepper to make it come alive. If the tomato flavour is insipid fold through some tomato paste.

For six people we used 3 large squid tubes and then cut them in half- half for each couple.

Seal one end of the tubes with a baking skewer. Gently spoon in the red risotto. Don’t over fill it, you’ll need to seal the other end with a skewer.

Brush the squid with olive oil and a touch of balsamic. Chargrill them carefully on the barbeque until the squid colours in stripes and is no longer translucent. It’s probably better if the risotto is warmish ( not hot, but definitely not cold from the fridge) before you put it on the bbq. There’s nothing worse than a cold stuffing.

Serve with lemon wedges and a huge salad with greens, basil, pear slivers, toasted pine nuts and some parmesan.

Dessert: Experimental cheesecake.

I had far too much ricotta in the fridge from when I’d bought some in bulk. I couldn’t find a recipe I liked, so I had an experimental cheesecake.

We all learn from mistakes.

There was your standard biscuit base- 70 grams of melted butter, 2 cups of smushed nice biscuits. Pressed on the base of a springform tin that I’d lined with baking paper. Put it in the fridge to set.

Then there was 500 grams of ricotta. To this we added about half of a tub of marscapone.

Two egg yolks were creamed with about a cup of caster sugar. That was folded through the ricotta/ marscapone.

The egg whites were then beaten til fluffy and folded through. Then on a whim I added a shot of espresso and about half a cup of toasted hazelnuts. The flavours at this point were great. I could have eaten the mixture straight. In fact I did.

It then gets poured on top of the biscuit base and put in the oven, about 160 C.

After 40 minutes it’s not setting the way I would like.

Have a brain jog. Water bath! Of course- Cheesecakes and water baths!

So boil the kettle. Get the roasting tin, line the cake tin exterior with foil and put it in the water bath.

Another 40 minutes and it’s set beautifully.

Take it out and let it rest on the bench.

3 courses, 4 glasses of wine later it’s time to drizzle melted chocolate on the top. It’s time to plate up and be a culinary hero- look Ma! No hands! No recipe!


It’s like it fell in the wading pool.

It was soggy, droopy. I had a sook. It still tasted fine. The R2D2 espressos help make anything go down. After 2 days drying out the left overs in the fridge, it was fine.

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve had very quiet Sunday nights.

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