Our creative team gathered for a winter feast by the water in the Royal National park south of Sydney. Senior stylist Jonathan Fleming shares the secrets to his cool winter tabletop styling, and a delicious Italian-inspired menu to match.
On the table
Entertaining friends over a long, leisurely lunch is one of my favourite things to do on a winter weekend. The ultimate goal is to create something with a little wow factor for my guests, but that still allows me to relax and enjoy the afternoon, and I think I nailed it with this combination of tabletop styling and menu. For the look I took inspiration from the bayside location, and kept with a cool wintry palette of whites, mint green and ice blues, starting with a whitewashed timber tabletop. A classic white dinner set like Marc Newson for Noritake makes a great base to layer different colours and organic shapes like the beautiful pieces in the Marmoset Found Cloud collection. The colours and shapes carry through to the serving platters and boards, and even the Chasseur casserole which goes from stove to table. The gold cutlery warms up the palette and adds a touch of glam when entertaining. I love Ecology for simple, elegant glassware, too. I added raw-edge linen napkins, and decorated the table with waterside finds such as driftwood and Spanish moss.
On the menu
Don’t fuss over three courses, the great thing about Italian is that you can cheat with store-bought antipasti to start, and serve them in the middle of the table, as you can for the risotto. Everyone loves having their own individual dessert to dig into, like these easy puddings filled with poached pear and flavoured with wintry spices.
Gin, Elderflower & Bitters
There are lots of local boutique gins around now, I like to use Archie Rose Distilling Co, brewed just around the corner from our photo studio.
1 shot (30ml) elderflower cordial
2 shots (60ml) gin
Squeeze of lemon juice, plus lemon slices to serve
Dash of bitters
In a cocktail shaker, Pour the elderflower cordial and gin into a cocktail shaker, then squeeze in the lemon juice. Shake with ice and then pour into a glass, add a dash of bitters and stir. Serve with a slice of lemon.
Roasted cauliflower risotto with mustard burnt butter
Don’t be intimidated by the idea of making risotto, all you need is a little patience and the rewards of this rich, creamy dish is well worth it. The mustard burnt butter adds even more indulgence.
1 head cauliflower
Olive oil, to drizzle
120g unsalted butter
1 tbs wholegrain mustard
350g Arborio rice (or other risotto rice such as carnaroli)
150ml dry white wine
2L homemade or salt-reduced chicken stock
100g parmesan, grated
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Cut off the cauliflower stem and chop, then break the head into small florets. Spread the florets on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then set aside. Chop the onion.
In a small frypan, melt 100g butter over medium heat, then cook for 3-5 minutes until it is just beginning to turn brown. Remove from the heat, stir in the mustard and set aside.
Place the chicken stock in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, then keep warm over low heat.
In a shallow casserole or large, deep frypan, melt the remaining 20g butter over medium heat. Add the onion and chopped cauliflower stem and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring, until softened but not brown. Add the rice and stir for 1-2 minutes until translucent. Add the wine and allow to bubble for 2 minutes.
Add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each to be absorbed before adding the next. Continue for 15-20 minutes until the rice is al dente (you may not need all the stock).
Meanwhile, roast the cauliflower for 10-15 minutes, turning once, until browned and starting to crisp.
With the final ladleful of stock, add the burnt butter and parmesan to the risotto and stir vigorously to melt the cheese and create a beautiful, thick, rich sauce.
Serve the risotto in shallow bowls and top with the roasted cauliflower and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.
Marsala poached pear & almond puddings
For the dessert you can poach the pears and make the batter ahead of time, then just pop the ramekins in the oven while you enjoy your leisurely long lunch.
80g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to grease
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1½ cups (325ml) thickened cream
2 cups (240g) almond meal
½ cup (75g) plain flour, plus extra to dust
2 cups (500ml) Marsala (Italian fortified wine)
¾ cup (165g) caster sugar
3 whole cloves
3 cardamom pods
2 cinnamon quills
8 pears, peeled (leaving stalk intact)
Mascarpone, to serve
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter and flour 8 x 1 cup (250ml) ramekins and place on a baking tray.
Place the Marsala, sugar, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon in a saucepan with 2 cups (500ml) and bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring until the sugar. Add the pears and poach for 15-20 minutes (depending on the ripeness of the pears), turning once, until soft. Leave to cool in the syrup.
Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat using electric beaters until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix to combine, then add vanilla, cream, almond meal and flour. Mix until smooth.
Fill the ramekins one-third full with the batter. Place a pear in the centre to partially submerge, then bake puddings in the oven for 25-30 minutes until risen and golden.
Remove from the oven and dust with icing sugar, then serve hot with a dollop of mascarpone.