If you were to ask me my favorite day of the week, it would be without a doubt Sunday. I love the fact that everything slows down, we all rise a bit later, and ponder over the papers with a big mug of coffee. Best of all, it’s the perfect day to cook a stress-free long lazy lunch for your family and friends.
Growing up in Ireland, it was the one day of the week when my parents would invite people over for lunch. Both of my parents worked and so it was the one day where we all cooked together and told stories over the table. Then, years later when I lived in other countries like France and Italy, I learned the families there had the same custom — so I say let’s save Sundays for lunch!
The most important thing to remember when inviting people (and their kids) over to your house for the afternoon is that it’s as relaxed as possible. It’s everybody’s day off and nobody wants to be under too much strain to prepare food. I’d suggest skipping a formal starter all together and instead prepare platters of little bruschetta. Just toast slices of sourdough bread, drizzle the toasts with olive oil, and then top with ricotta, soft goat’s cheese, or buffalo mozzarella, and a good sprinkling of fresh basil. Or whizz a selection of dips; I love my recipe for Sicilian hummus served with crisp breads. All you need to do is whizz together ¾ cup (150ml) olive oil, two garlic cloves, 2 cups (500g) cooked canned chickpeas, the juice and zest of one lemon, ¼ cup (30g) pine nuts, ¼ cup (30g) salted almonds, and a small bunch of fresh basil. I used to make this recipe all the time when I lived in Italy, it’s so divine… So light the fire, open a few bottles and relax — it’s Sunday after all…
When Setting the Table:
Seasonal flowers are always the most beautiful, and a single flower on placed on each plate makes such a statement. Use old vases, perhaps from pewter, to give the table a natural look.
When Shopping for Meat:
While I like to use a rack of lamb for the recipe above, you can also use a leg of lamb. Your butcher can easily prepare both for you. If you live in New York City, London, ir Dublin, visit one of these butcher shops for your meat — they're my favorites. (Photos courtesy of Alberto Peroli)
• Jack O'Shea at Selfridges Food Hall.
Can’t leave without? The T-bone steak.
• Lidgates, 110 Holland Park Avenue.
Can’t leave without? Any rare breeds from Prince Charles’ estate.
New York City:
• Lobel's, 1096 Madison Avenue at 82nd Street.
Can’t leave without? The frenched rack of lamb.
• Florence Meat Market, 5 Jones Street near Bleecker Street.
Can’t leave without? Pork belly.
• The Butcher Counter at Fallon and Byrne, 11 -17 Exchequer Street.
Can’t leave without? The organic chicken.
• Hicks Butcher Shop, Georges St Upper, Dún Laoghaire.
Can’t leave without? Any of their sausages.
Every month, Clodagh McKenna, an acclaimed Irish cook, will be sharing her favorite entertaining tips, easy-to-follow recipes, and helpful advice with us. Her book "Homemade" is due out in the U.S. in May 2011. Check back next month as she shares advice for hosting a spring dinner party.