a sisterly supper


vanilla panna cotta with baked rhubarb

While I love hosting a weekend dinner when there’s plenty of time to procure the ingredients and cook to your heart’s content, I also love having people over mid week. Sometimes I take the luxury of leaving work early to prepare but usually I only have an hour max between getting home from work and the guests arriving. So I tend to rely on menus that can be prepared in advance and preferably benefit from a day or two in the fridge.

It had been a while since I last saw my gorgeous little sister Nao and her charming beau Joel, even though they only live a few suburbs away. So I was very much looking forward to seeing them the other night in spite of the fact that they were repossessing the microwave she had so kindly entrusted to me earlier in the year. I very much wanted to be able to maximise my time spent with them, rather than hanging out in the kitchen so a prepare ahead, easy to serve meal was an imperative.

Stews make for a great winter school night meal as they can be made when you have the time and then kept waiting in the fridge or freezer until needed. And  then all that is required for a complete meal is for you to pick up a baguette on the way home. Stews also have the benefit of only requiring one pot so they keep the washing up to a minimum…very important if you have the misfortune of an early meeting the next day….

Although you wouldn’t guess from her slender frame, my gorgeous sister Nao is very much a dessert aficionado. For some unfathomable reason she detests chocolate (in my family we try not to think of her as a freak) but all is not lost as she is a big fan of your creamy desserts like creme brulee and panna cotta.  Panna cotta needs at least 8hours in the fridge, so the dessert decision was an easy one to make. Baked rhubarb also benefits if the rhubarb is cut and allowed to macerate with the sugar to draw out the rhubarb juices and create a very sweet but still tart rosy coloured sauce. All of this can be done in advance and then the only thing that is needed is to top it with some orange juice and pop it in the oven to slowly roast while you eat main course….all good things….

a sisterly supper
chorizo and lentil stew
crusty sourdough baguette
vanilla panna cotta with baked rhubarb.

chorizo and lentil stew
serves 4

This was loosely inspired by Jared Ingersoll’s lyonnnaise sausage and lentil stew with poached egg.  No one needs the pressure of having perfect looking poached eggs, particularly on a tuesday night so I opted instead for a contrasting crunchy topping of toasted sliced almonds.

4 chorizo sausages approx 500g, crumbled
1T olive oil
1 large brown onion, diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stick celery, finely diced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/2t chilli powder, or to taste
2t smoky paprika
1 400g tin tomatoes, chopped
1.5C water
160g french style green lentils (puy)
120g (4 large handfuls) cavolo nero, spinach, or silverbeet leaves
1/4C sliced almonds, lightly toasted
crusty sourdough baguette and your best extra virgin olive oil to serve.

Heat oil over medium in a large heavy based casserole dish. Add sausages and cook until browned.  Remove sausage from the pan and sweat onion, carrot, and celery, covered for approx 20mins, stirring occasionally until vegetables are soft but not brown. 

Add garlic, chilli, and paprika and cook for a further minute before adding tomatoes and water.  Bring to the boil and simmer until carrot is definitely cooked through.  Add lentils and simmer uncovered for approx 30mins or until lentils are cooked.  At this stage you can cool cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve or continue straight on.

To serve, bring lentils back to a simmer and season with s&p. Add cavolo nero or other leaves and cook stirring until leaves are just wilted.  Divide between warm plates and top with toasted almonds and serve with bread and oil passed separately.


vanilla panna cotta with baked rhubarb
serves 4

Another idea pinched from Jared Ingersoll’s top little book: Danks Street Depot.  I’m wary of gelatine based things as I’ve had experience with things not setting as they should. I therefore tend to follow the directions on the pack in terms of the amount of gelatine to add with respect to the amount of liquid you want to set.

300mL thickened cream
1 vanilla bean
70mL milk
2 leaves gelatine
70g caster sugar
100mL thickened cream, additional
1 large bunch rhubarb, approx 500g
300g sugar
juice 1 orange

Combine 300mL cream and scraped seeds and pod of vanilla bean in a small saucepan. Bring almost to a simmer then remove from heat and allow to infuse for at least 15mins. 

In a small bowl combine gelatine and milk and stand for 15mins or until gelatine is softened.  Combine remaining cream and sugar until sugar is dissolved, being careful not to whip the cream.

Remove vanilla pod and add gelatine mixture to the warm. Stir until gelatine is dissolved and then stir through creamy sugar mix. Divide between 4 150mL ramekins, moulds or teacups. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or for a few days.

For the rhubarb, remove leaves and base and chop stems into 4cm lengths on the diagonal. Place rhubarb in a ceramic casserole dish and cover with sugar. Cover and allow to stand for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

When ready to bake, pour over orange juice and bake, uncovered at 160oC for approx 45mins or until rhubarb is soft but not mushy and the sugar is dissolved in the pretty pink juice. Keep warm until ready to serve.

To serve, unmould panna cotta by placing moulds in a pan of hot water for a few seconds then running a knife around the edge and inverting.  Place a small pile of rhubarb stalks next to the panna cotta and spoon over some of the rhubarb cooking liquid.

chorizo and lentil stew


  • “No one needs the pressure of having perfect looking poached eggs, particularly on a tuesday night”… Gah!… you cut me deep right there… you cut me real deep. Every night is a great night for perfect poached eggs ! But I humbly accept your subsitution.

    I like how you have more than one place to take your photos… unlike mine, which either feature purple malomine, or a stove top in the distance. Variety is the spice of life… well that and cumin.

  • yum… i was watching the cook and the chef on the abc the other night where maggie beer made a delicious looking lamb stew with barley – it had 4 hours worth of cooking, so all the ingredients had combined together. it looked and sounded mouth watering.

    i was just thinking that i need to try making panna cotta as i have a box of pashmak which i think would be a lovely garnish for a saffron panna cotta – what do you think?

  • matt,
    the poached egg comment wasn’t a dig at you…was referring to my pathetic inability to poach eggs..but am planning to rectify this with your tips..
    totally agree with you about variety and cumin…I just wish I had some different plates

    the lamb and barley stew sounds great…would love to see the recipe.
    pashmak would be a perfect garnish for a saffron panna cotta…definitely give it a go …looking forward to seeing a post on your site soon!

  • Hey Jules,

    I know it wasn’t a dig at me… but I’ve been practicing my faux pain in honour of the world cup :)

    I look forward to your future (no doubt exceptional) poached egg endeavours.

  • hi jules, here is the recipe… sorry it was’t a stew but a casserole… but still looks good. i think adding some different flavours would also make it interesting… maybe a moroccon twist.

  • I’m intrigued by your sisters’ name, its really unique. Though not liking chocolate? What gives?

    Winter is the perfect time for stews. I make a similar type of sausage stew, but mine is rather unfortunately dubbed sauserole in this household. Same concept though, 2 pork and fennel and 2 chorizos, beans, tomatoes and red wine. Delicious with polenta.

  • Yummy!! I am definately up for creme brulee next time if you are offering… and i am handy with a blow torch if you want some help xoxo

  • deborah,
    thanks for the recipe link..I love maggie beer…a few other treasures on that site..

    my sister is actually naomi so not that unique..I’ve given up trying to understand the chocolate thing

    will have to take you up on your offer of blow torch skills sometime soon!

  • I love panna cotta in all kinds of variations, but I never paired it with rhubarb, because the rhubarb we get around here doesn’t turn pink, it turns grey-green-brown. Not very suitable for desserts ;) But yours looks really pretty!

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