Ever been spoiled by Michelin-star chefs and a hubby who is a culinary whiz? When our restaurant doors closed, I had to jump into the cooking fray myself. Juggling high standards without much expertise or time is has been quite the rollercoaster. But overseeing the kitchen for 30 years has been an epic adventure! Ordering products and hitting up our top-notch suppliers was my jam. My collection of cookbooks, gifts from top chefs, has been my culinary compass. Ottolenghi's books? They lit my kitchen fire.
Hans and I are weekend garden warriors, vineyard superheroes when duty calls. Me? Mostly glued to my screen, but nothing beats hosting pals for wine-fuelled chatter and fabulous food. Late lunches are our vibe, soaking in views from our verandas, vineyard on one side, mountains on the other. Our home's a master plan, a big kitchen beating heart, surrounded by lush herb gardens.
So, I conjured up this 3-course feast – prep ahead or whip up quick while friends chat, bubbles in hand, nibbling appetizers by the counter. Let's get cooking!
Slow-cooked lamb shoulder with mint and cumin
Serves 4 – 6
Prep 12 min
Marinate overnight (min. 4h)
Total cooking time around 3 to 4h
Marinate the lamb overnight for maximum flavour infusion. If you are planning to savour this on the same day, brace yourself - it needs up to 4 hours in the oven. But here is the trick: cook it a day earlier, pop it in the fridge, then effortlessly warm it up in its own juices before your guests arrive.
2 lemons, zest finely grated, to get 1 tbsp, then juiced, to get 4 tbsp
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp paprika
½ tsp fenugreek seeds, lightly crushed
2 tsp ground cumin ((I double the cumin to 2 tbsp, spice it up as you like)
25g mint leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 large lamb shoulder (about 2kg)
(I use a high-quality lamb shoulder, hailing from New Zealand high country, 100% natural, free range, grass-fed and finished on specially cultivated chicory herb pastures.
1 vegetable bouillon cube dissolved in 1 litre of water or more if needed.
Whiz up the lemon zest, lemon juice, crushed garlic, spices, herbs, and oil in a food processor. Add a pinch of salt and generous pepper. Set aside.
Put the lamb in a large bowl and stab the meat all over about 30 times with a small, sharp knife. Rub the spice paste all over the meat, massaging it into the incisions, then cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least four hours (and ideally overnight).
Preheat the oven to 200C/392F (adjust for non-fan ovens).
Transfer the lamb and all its marinade into a large, high-sided baking dish about 30cm x 40cm. Put the side with more fat on top in the dish. Brown the lamb for 20 minutes.
Reduce the temperature to 150C/300F.
Cover the meat with bouillon, then cover the tray tightly with tin foil and roast for about 2.5 hour. Check tenderness. For extra tenderness, lower heat to 120C/250F and roast for another hour or until it is melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
Be sure to keep an eye on it, basting the lamb three or four times throughout the cooking process. If the liquid has reduced, add more bouillon to prevent the meat from drying out. Seal the tray tightly with foil each time you check.
Opt for separate cooking to avoid sogginess. But if you fancy, add these veggies for the last 40 minutes:
1 celeriac (peeled and wedged)
5 large carrots (halved widthways)
2 whole heads garlic (halved widthways)
Our Zweigelt is an incredible match for this flavourful dish. Its vibrant acidity beautifully cuts through the richness of the lamb shoulder.
Appetizer – Entrée
Figs, Goat Cheese, and Prosciutto
A fantastic, quick, and gluten-free entrée.
2 - 3 figs per person, sliced in half
Fresh thyme sprigs (leaves only)
Butter or olive oil
Honey (to taste)
3 to 4 slices of prosciutto per person
Fresh goat cheese, roughly cut (30 to 40 g per person)
Balsamic glaze (the thick, sweet aged version if available)
Pepper and salt, as needed
Optional: rocket salad, walnut halves
- Heat a generous amount of butter and/or olive oil in a non-stick pan. Caramelize walnuts and thyme, then add fig halves and drizzle honey over them. Heat for a few minutes until softened yet still firm enough to handle.
- Arrange rocket salad on a serving plate and place the figs around it. Pour the caramelized walnut, honey, and thyme mixture over the figs. For extra sweetness, drizzle honey over the figs if desired.
- Add the goat cheese to the plate. Drizzle with Balsamic glaze.
- Arrange prosciutto on the plate. Season with flaky salt and plenty of pepper.
Our Gewürztraminer is a limited delight, known for its elegant dryness and vibrant flavours, unlike many others of this varietal that tend to be sweet and oily. This deep golden dry wine tantalizes with ethereal scents of lychees and rose petals, embodying a dry yet seductive floral characteristic. Its richness on the palate and magical aromas lead to an eternal finish. As a big Ottolenghi fan, I find this full-bodied, aromatic, yet dry Gewürztraminer pairs beautifully with many of his wonderful dishes.
Chocolate Olive Cake (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)
I am on a mission to reduce my gluten intake and stumbled upon this fantastic recipe from Nigella Lawson, which I tweaked to my liking.
Ingredients for a 22 or 23cm springform tin:
- 50 grams cocoa powder
- 125 ml boiling water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 150 grams ground almonds or almond meal
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
- 2 tbs corn flour
- 1 pinch of salt
- 200 grams caster sugar ((reduce if adding sugar syrup)
- 150 ml olive oil (plus extra for greasing)
- 3 large eggs
- Generous splash of Kirsch, Framboise, Plum Schnaps (depending on taste)
- Preserved Maraschino cherries with 2 tablespoons of the sugar syrup they are preserved in.
To prevent splashing, place the chocolate powder in a tall measuring glass. Also, prepare a clutter-free work area for easier cleanup 😉
- Preheat your oven to 170°C/150°C Fan. Grease a 22 or 23 cm springform tin with oil and line the base with baking parchment.
- In a bowl or jug, sift 50g cocoa powder and whisk in 125ml / ½ cup boiling water until you have a smooth, runny paste. Whisk in the vanilla extract, then set aside to cool slightly.
- In another bowl, combine 150g almond meal/ground almonds with 1/2 tsp baking soda, 2 tbsp cornflour, and a pinch of salt.
- In the bowl of a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment (or use a handheld mixer), beat sugar, olive oil, and eggs vigorously for about 3 minutes until pale, thickened, and creamy. Optionally, add 2 tbsp of cherry sugar syrup.
- Reduce speed and pour in the cocoa mixture while beating. Slowly add the ground almond mixture (and Kirsch if using).
- Scrape down, stir gently with a spatula, then pour the batter into the prepared tin. Optionally, add cherries to your liking (approx. 100g). Bake for 40-45 minutes until the sides are set, and the centre still appears slightly damp. A cake tester should come out mostly clean with a few sticky crumbs.
- Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the tin on a wire rack. Then, use a small metal spatula to loosen the sides and remove the cake from the tin. Leave to cool completely or enjoy warm.
MAKE AHEAD: Store in an airtight container in a cool place for 2-3 days or freeze for up to 3 months (wrapped in clingfilm and foil). Defrost at room temperature for about 3 hours.
Option: Serve slightly warm (without cherries) with raspberries on the side and a dollop of mascarpone, whipped cream, or ice cream.
Adjusted from https://www.nigella.com/recipes/chocolate-olive-oil-cake
Indulge in this rich, yet vibrant dessert wine. With lingering notes of honey, apricot, and honeysuckle, it's elevated by zesty citrus aromas. Its elegant power pairs magnificently with our exceptional chocolate cake, enhancing every decadent bite.