Dinner for old friends

Last evening Diane had two friends for dinner which is unusual in that they had only been invited the day before. Now that many of our friends have adult kids it is unusual to have “off the cuff” dinners because the adult children themselves have families of children that need minding. Margot and Luis have their adult kids living in Laos for the guy and Germany for the daughter so their entertainment calendar has become significantly more open than it used to be even some weeks ago.


Diane prepared a delicious meal that started off with the usual suspects: roasted almonds, dried olives and Di’s own preserved olives and small pieces of ciabata that has been coated in olive oil and fried.  These nibbles were accompanied by a Jacob’s Creek sparkling wine called Trilogy; it was a fitting start to an excellent meal.


As a vegetable course that followed, Diane prepared delicious braised fennel (a recipe she learned at a cooking school in Paris.) If I can speak for her the fennel bulb was sliced very thin and the resulting slices are slowly braised in a little olive oil.  The resulting dish makes even people with vegetable problems “come back for more”.


As a main course Diane made one of my favourites which is a recipe from Lucca which is close to Pisa and roughly in central Tuscany although to the sea side of the province. It becomes cookable only when the green olives are turning red and into purple and eventually into black.  Diane picks a few when they are purple and uses them in this excellent braised meat or stew dish depending on the kind of meat being used.  These unripe olives give the dish a little sour tang that is unusual and obtainable only during this time of year.  The original recipe calls for lamb but we have used chicken to great effect and this time we used pork cutlets which turned out superbly.  She cut the fat off the chops, braised them slowly before adding a can of diced tomatoes and seasonings.  She then turned the heat down very low and cooked for about an hour.  At the end the pork could be cut with a fork.


This was followed by a refreshing Caesar salad and accompanied, the entire meal, by an excellent red from the Barossa, a Shiraz, named after the family: Rohrlach.


The dessert was supplied by Margot: a delicious sort of tart with pastry on the bottom followed by a layer of cheery preserves and finished with a topping of pastry and dusted with powdered sugar.


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