What do you love to serve up at dinner parties and why? Describe your ideal dinner party.
These days we tend to have big dinner parties, at least 12 people. This is because we are so busy it is easier to do one for 12 rather than two for six. So naturally I think about something which won’t keep me in the kitchen too long. So a cold entree is often the best – perhaps freshly shucked oysters, crab salad using the fabulous Noosa spanner crab, New Zealand King salmon tartare etc. Then I love to cook duck breast – so quick and easy to cook and also to serve. If it’s a week night ripe cheese from one of Australia’s artisanal producers to finish.
Do the seasons influence your dinner menu?
Always. Cooking in season ensures the freshness of produce and is also more cost effective. Plus who wants to eat winter food in summer? My favourite thing is to go to a farmers market and just decide what I will cook when I see what is there and looks good.
How do you prepare for a dinner party when time is short? Do you ever use anything pre-prepared?
I think it is the entertaining and sharing the hospitality of the table which is important, so of course you can cheat as long as there is no flavour sacrifice. Just keep it simple – oysters, smoked salmon, trout or gravlax or jamon to start and cheese to finish. Throw something on the BBQ and use pre-prepared salad leaves (but always my own dressing). It’s not hard.
What was the worst dinner party mistake you ever made while entertaining?
I was 9 months pregnant and wanted to do spun toffee on my dessert. One couple were very late arriving and the others had had martinis before dinner. We got to dessert very late. I went into the kitchen, burnt the first lot of toffee, stirred and so crystalised the second. My guests just wanted coffee but I insisted on trying a third time and finally serving dessert near midnight! Never again.
Why did you decide to become involved with ‘Dine at Mine’ and what do you hope to achieve with the campaign?
Camp Quality is an extraordinary charity and deserves all support. I love the idea of Dine at Mine because it is so inclusive. You can participate in as simple and small or grand a way as possible. It is not elitist like a fund-raising ball can be. Everyone can participate and that fits in with Camp Quality – they help every child they can.
How does cooking at home compare to cooking for work? Where do you get your inspiration from when cooking at home?
I don’t get to cook at home as much as I would like. I have such a busy life, travel a lot, often go to functions at night, eat out a lot. The challenge for me is getting the shopping done. However, when I can, nothing gives me more pleasure than cooking at home and then sharing it with people I care about. When I do I take my inspiration from the seasonal ingredients I have to hand. At work, I still enjoy it but am usually cooking for a purpose – on camera, recipe testing or for guests.
In your opinion, does food have the ability to comfort and heal?
Absolutely. I believe that cooking and sharing with those you love releases endorphins which make you feel good. Apart from that, you know what’s in the food, you have taken the effort to make it and to sit and share across a table, talk and enjoy one another’s company is peerless.
What is your advice for aspiring home cooks everywhere?
Just have a go and cook for yourself and those you love. It doesn’t have to be complex, you can start out simple, just cook with love. Someone once told me that the worst home-made cake is better than the most perfect shop bought one. I think this is true of all cooking.
Lyndey’s Irish-inspired dinner party menu:
For an impressive yet simple dinner party with Irish flavours, I like to start with two canapes: Colcannon Cakes with Smoked Salmon and Black Pudding and Scallop Stacks with Fresh Apple Relish. Main course would be the Duck Breast with Madeira Sauce (Click here for this recipe) and dessert the light yet luscious Raspberry and Apple compote with Apple gel, Irish cream and Oatmeal biscuits.
Find out more about how you can get involved in this great cause this August, visit: www.mycampquality.org.au/dineatmine