Ask Peter: Side dishes for a buffet
Our family share the cooking for Christmas dinner. This year I’m on veges and salads (to go with turkey and ham). Can you suggest some cold and hot dishes that would be a bit more dressed up for the buffet? I know you always have some clever things for your specials at Kopapa at this time of year, so hope you can share some hits? Thanks, Mandy.
Funnily enough I’ve just a cooked dinner for a group of friends and apart from the barbecued milk-fed New Zealand lamb legs (which I glazed with preserved lemon, medjool dates, garlic and sage), the meal was composed of seven side dishes. I cleared the fridge and pantry shelves of any half empty jars, bought some gorgeous seasonal veges and then went about turning everything into something else with no idea where it’d take me. Side dishes were as important as the meat.
Cut small unpeeled but scrubbed kumara in to wedges, brush with olive oil and cook on the barbecue (you could also steam them). Cut the wedges into chunks and toss with blanched halved green beans, crumbled feta, loads of dill and lemon juice. I also added some beetroot leaves to the salad as these were left over after the next salad — just cook and refresh them like you would spinach (and shred if they are too large).
Wrap medium sized beetroot up tightly in foil and cook on the barbecue for around an hour in a medium heat spot — they’re cooked when you can easily insert a skewer through them. Leave to cool, then unwrap and rub the skins off — if using red beets wear gloves as your hands will be stained. Cut into chunks and place in a bowl with a little red wine vinegar and olive oil, a few pinches of sugar, salt and pepper. Add a teaspoon of grated ginger and 2 crushed cloves of garlic. Cook a cup of quinoa (rinsed in a fine sieve under hot running water for 20 seconds before) in plenty of lightly salted boiling water until done. The grains unfurl and soften — don’t cook them to mush — and take around 12 minutes. Drain and leave to cool. Add to the beetroot along with lots of tarragon leaves, picked flat parsley and sliced spring onions.
Cut cherry tomatoes in half and marinate for an hour in a few table spoons of olive oil, orange juice and crushed garlic. Thinly slice larger tomatoes and lay on a plate and then spoon the cherry tomatoes on as you serve it, and scatter with small picked basil leaves.
Cut the flesh from a small watermelon into chunks, discarding as many pips as you can be bothered to. Lay on a platter and scatter with crumbled feta, toasted pumpkin seeds and basil or mint. Drizzle with lemon olive oil and lemon juice.
Grill sliced eggplant and courgettes, lightly brushed with oil, until just cooked. Slice heads of fennel about ¾ cm thick, brush with oil and grill. Grill whole red and yellow peppers until slightly blackened all over and when cool peel them and remove the core and seeds. Once they’re all cooked cut into strips and toss with finely grated lemon zest and parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and torn mint.
Toss asparagus in a little oil (try sesame oil for a lovely twist) and cook over the hot part of the barbecue until marked — cook for no more than a minute — you want it a little crunchy. Place in a serving dish to cool. Toast pinenuts in a pan with a little olive oil and some sliced garlic. Spoon this over the asparagus. Just before serving squeeze some lemon juice over it and scatter with thinly sliced and rinsed spring onions.
Boil cauliflower florets (not too large) and peas until barely cooked in lightly salted water, drain and refresh in iced water. Cut a pomegranate open and remove the seeds, discard any bitter white pith. Rinse 2 tablespoons salted capers (or use brined ones) and toss with 2 table spoons of grain mustard and cider vinegar. Toss with the drained cauliflower, peas and pomegranate seeds and add lots of soft green herbs such as lemon basil, basil, coriander, flat parsley, dill, fennel and tarragon.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.