April 24, 2005


I didn't really intend to have a dinner party last night, it just worked out that way. Last week I picked up a de-boned half-leg of lamb at the supermarket, and plunked it into the freezer. Large pieces of lamb are always useful, whether one intends to roast them or dice them for stew/kebabs - always a good thing to have around. My plan was to try my hand at a rather attractive looking Turkish dish in one of my cookbooks, so I took it out of the freezer and started defrosting it on Friday.

The dish was quite simple, actually - it did require a shopping trip, as I did not have any pistachio nuts on hand, nor did my dwindling supply of dried apricots look up to the task. There was also the matter of the fresh mint - my garden mint is not yet sufficiently large to harvest, so I picked up a bag at the market.

The actual finished main dish was a boneless lamb half-leg roasted over a pilaf (or pilav, in Turkish) of long-grain rice cooked with garlic, onion, pistachio nuts, diced dried apriot and a good quantity of finely minced parsley and cilantro. The rice was carefully concealed under the meat so that the juices from the meat would soak down into the pilav and enrich the flavour. Once cooked, the meat was rested briefly and then sliced and served platter-style.

It was a simple enough dinner not to require over-thinking on my part. Cacik, the Turkish answer to Greek tzatziki, was simple to prepare, and the Shephard's Salad from The Sultan's Table by Oczan Ozan was the most sensible of side dishes (although I added feta... because I like feta and have been craving it lately). The lemon juice dressing went beautifully with the freshly chopped cucumber, tomatoes, radishes and peppers. A little pita bread from the market, and we were pretty much set.

It was my sneaky thought that, while I was at an afternoon event yesterday, I could casually invite a friend or two over for a casual little lamb dinner. In my usual spirit of testing recipes out on my friends, this seemed a most excellent plan, and mojito consumption in the afternoon made the whole thing sound just that much more fun. By the time the lamb came out of the oven, there were five of us, some of us a little tipsy, wine was being opened, and the cat was banished to "boarding school."

I forgot the olives. I don't know how, exactly, after making several mental notes on the order of how much I was looking forward to the olives, but I forgot them until the plates were cleared and I was putting out a plate of Turkish Delight and some fresh Iranian dates as a sort of dessert. I also forgot the napkins until prodded, but this is an ongoing mental lapse. If I don't set a fancy table with cloth napkins, I will completely and entirely forget that they might be necessary. Happens every time.

The lamb turned out exactly as I wanted it to, and everyone had kind things to say about the food in general. After dinner was done, more friends joined us for a glass of absinthe and to listen to a few cds. As far as unscheduled dinner parties go - I had a ton of fun.

Today, I'm going to eat the olives.


David said...

As one of the unitended guests, I had a great time and really enjoyed the food. Thanks again for letting Palle get drunk and bring me over.

Dawna said...

Ah, you are always a delightful dinner guest, David!

I am finding that I quite enjoy the whole spur-of-the-moment entertaining. Much as I enjoy a good planning/fretting session over what to feed people, there's a certain joy to be had in just rounding folks up and sharing what's on hand. People are very forgiving of the gaffes of the impromptu, I find.

If I hadn't had that Mojito before making dinner, I wouldn't have forgotten the olives!