Entertaining | A Greek-inspired summer supper


A Greek-inspired summer supper

With this unseasonably hot weather why not look to Greece for inspiration when you're entertaining. Here's a simple meal for 4 that was inspired by a trip to Greece a few years ago.

Watermelon, feta and toasted pumpkin seed salad

One of my favourite summer salads - so fresh and simple
Serves 4

40g pumpkin seeds
1/2 a ripe watermelon (about 800g)
200g feta cheese
Greek or other olive oil for drizzling
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a frying pan over a moderate heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and toast for 3-4 minutes shaking the pan occasionally until they start to change colour. Tip onto a plate to cool. Cut the watermelon flesh away from the rind, discard the seeds and cut into generously sized chunks. Divide between 4 plates. Drain any liquid surrounding the cheese, divide into 4 and crumble it roughly over the watermelon. Sprinkle over the toasted pumpkin seeds and drizzle over a little olive oil. Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve with Greek bread or warm sesame or wholewheat pitta bread, cut into quarters

Grilled lamb steaks with lemon, honey and mint

Serves 4

1 heaped tsp Greek or other strongly flavoured clear honey
3 tbsp Greek or other olive oil
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
4 lamb steaks, about 150g each

Spoon the honey into a shallow dish, add the oil and mix together with a wooden spoon. Add the lemon juice garlic and mint and mix well. Trim any excess fat off the lamb steaks and place in the marinade, turning them so both sides are coated. Leave in the marinade for 30 minutes, turning them a couple of times.

Heat a ridged grill pan for about 3 minutes until almost smoking. Remove the lamb steaks, shaking off any excess marinade and lay in the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes depending on the thickness of the steaks then turn them over and cook for another 2-3 minutes depending how rare you like your lamb. Remove the lamb steaks and set aside on a plate to rest for 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Carve each steak on a slant into 3 thick slices and arrange on each plate. Pour any accumulated juices back into the pan along with the marinade and a splash of water, let it bubble up in the residual heat and pour the juices over the steaks. Serve with the orange and rocket salad below and sea-salt potatoes.

* You can obviously cook the steaks on a barbecue if you prefer

Wild rocket, orange and dill salad

I tasted a salad similar to this in a restaurant in Athens last year and found it refreshingly different
Serves 4

2 oranges
4 tbsp Greek or other olive oil
2 tbsp finely snipped fresh dill
A small pack of wild rocket
50g small black olives, marinated in herbs (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel one of the oranges by scoring it in quarters round the outside and plunging it in boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Drain off the water, and peel away the rind removing as much pith as possible. Cut the orange across into thick slices and then into small triangular segments, again removing any excess pith. Squeeze the juice from the other orange and whisk with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the dill. When ready to serve divide the rocket between 4 plates, scatter over the orange pieces and a few olives, if using, and spoon over the dressing

Sea-salt potatoes

Cooking potatoes with hardly any oil or water gives them the lovely mealy texture of a baked potato. You could also cook them on a barbecue if you’re barbecuing the lamb.
Serves 4

500g baby new potatoes, washed and dried
1 tbsp Greek or other olive oil
Maldon sea salt

Take a casserole or large, lidded frying pan big enough to hold the potatoes in a single layer. Heat the casserole over a moderate heat, add the oil then tip in the potatoes. Give the pan a good shake and cover. Cook for about 25-40 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes and the thickness of the pan, shaking the pan regularly to ensure the potatoes brown evenly. Add a tablespoon of water now and then if they seem to be catching. When the potatoes are tender sprinkle over some Maldon sea salt, rubbed between your fingers.

Roast figs with walnuts and honey, Greek yoghurt

The Greeks are very keen on walnuts which are always served incredibly fresh. Make sure you use a freshly opened packet.
Serves 4

75g walnuts, roughly chopped
2 tbsp clear Greek or other strongly flavoured clear honey + extra to serve
8 small to medium or 4 large fresh figs
Greek yoghurt to serve
A little oil for greasing the baking dish

Pre-heat the oven to 225°C/425°F/Gas 7. Trim any stalk off the top of the fig and
cut into quarters two thirds of the way down the fruit. Stack the figs upright side by side in a lightly greased baking dish. Mix the chopped walnuts with the honey. Take small spoonfuls of the walnut mixture and press it gently into the centre of each fruit. Roast the figs for 10 minutes. Stir the yoghurt until smooth. Serve the figs with a generous dollop of yoghurt with some extra honey drizzled over the top.

What to drink:
Unusually this is a meal where you could take the same wine through the first and second courses. A zesty white like a Greek Assyrtiko or a citrussy Sauvignon Blanc (from, say, California, Chile or the Adelaide Hills in Australia) would suit both the feta salad and the lamb. Alternatively you could switch to a ripe soft red for the main course such as a Merlot, Syrah or southern French red such as Faugères or, if you want to stick to Greek wines, an Agiorgitiko.

With the dessert don't miss the opportunity to try an exotic Muscat from the Greek island of Samos, one of the best bargains in the wine world.

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