We were excited to be asked by Annabel Langbein to host a foodie party with recipes from her newly released cookbook 'A Free Range Life' Summer Annual. My family has grown up on her recipes over the years, and they know that as soon as a new book is released they are in for a storm of cooking experimentation as I work my way through it.
The guests for this lazy Sunday lunch are close foodie friends (most of whom I have known from kindergarten age!). We get together when we can, each family bringing a different course. This lunch was no exception, however they were provided with recipes from the new 'A Free Range Life' Summer Annual to choose from.
Our house was to be the venue for this gathering, but with the weekend filling up with family events it was suddenly looming upon me that I needed to prepare a *nice* summery table for 14 people with very little time to spare. The wise advice my friend Karen gave me was that it would be a good idea if I set the table the day before - this proved invaluable with our crazy schedule! The roses, rosemary and geraniums were gathered from our different gardens and loosely placed in their jars, and the market visited for fresh vegetables, strawberries and bread.
The fantastic thing about Annabels recipes is that they too were simple and easy to prepare in advance - that just left picking fresh broad beans on the Sunday morning (actually I roped in the kids to do that...) and putting the final touches on a couple of dishes - it meant I was able to have a (relatively) leisurely start to the day.
So for starters we had minty tzatziki, vegetables and olive oil croutes in the sunny garden (which I prepared in the morning) served alongside strawberry daiquiris scattered with blue borage flowers (that my lovely sister Catherine & Chad prepared) - all of which disappeared very quickly. The daiquiris were amazing, we made alchoholic versions for the adults and non alchoholic versions for kids (and those carrying kids) so everyone could enjoy them! We had been hoping to pick our own strawberries but only found 3 ripe - so the kids just ended up eating those instead!
Mains were blackjack chicken nibbles grilled on the BBQ (I used chicken thighs and simmered them in the blackjack sauce the day before, then chilled them till they were ready to go on the grill) and baby broad bean, mint and avocado salad using the freshly harvested baby beans. Sue and Anthony made the tasty prawn and chorizo skewers with smoked paprika aioli, as well as some amazing salads including a couscous salad and a summer tomato salad. All were summery, fresh and perfect for the season.
My kids decided they actually like smoked paprika aioli (a revelation!), I loved the couscous salad and was also somewhat relieved that the blackjack chicken was not too hot but that we had the ability to push the heat up a notch or three with the addition of the optional chilli spiked sauce for those who wanted it!
And finally Karen and James (both of whom Catherine and I have known since we were little when our parents would gather our families together for potluck dinners) delivered the glorious finale of a chilled summer strawberry mousse alongside icecream sandwiches (which we decided were better dipped than sandwiched!), and a statuesque chocolate meringue torte for the adults - a stunner of a dessert that is on everyones xmas day menu now.
So in all it was a wonderful lazy summer lunch and a brilliant time to catch up with everyone. Its great to see how this tradition has continued down the generations of friends, maybe one day our kids will be catching up together with their own children racing around in the garden! Annabel Langbein, thanks so much for the wonderful recipes!
With many thanks to friends and family for all their help, their fantastic cooking skills and their patience while I photographed their plates!
Anthony & Sue - Dive Doctor
Karen & James - Sweet Pea Inspirations
Catherine & Chad
and of course #afreerangelife @annabellangbein for a great opportunity to get together and enjoy some lovely food.