cooking for the boss, past & present

slow roasted lamb with red capsicum paste & pomegranate
on a green lentil salad with walnut dressing 

One of the things I love about wine, apart from the obvious, is how it can bring people together. Some people may see it as something elitist, and sure there is the odd wine wanker out there. But overall I find that people who like wine tend to be pretty cool and at the very least it always makes for easy conversation.

Last year I was lucky enough to be invited on a day trip to the Hunter Valley with some visiting colleagues from the US of A. As it happened, no one else from my team was able to attend except the head of our department (an ex-pat himself). A great day was had by all, as is pretty standard for a day spent hard on the wine tasting trail. But one of the nicest discoveries of the day was that Jim (my boss’ boss) and I share a love of the perfumed nectar that is aged Hunter Valley Semillon.

As I was saying, wine brings people together. In the case of one of my very first bosses and now good friend, Mrs M, it has not only been the fact that she and Mr M are fabulous company that has kept us in touch over the years. No, if the truth be told, there is the lure of Mr M’s well stocked cellar. So given that the Murrays also have a soft spot for aged Hunter whites, and that Mrs M spent many years working for my current employer, (and was bound to know heaps of people in common with Jim) I hatched an idea to get both bosses and their spouses together for a casual dinner.

The menu planning part was easy. I had been given a copy of the coffee-table-worthy cookbook, Saha – A Chef’s Journey Through Lebanon & Syria, for Christmas. So it was this gorgeous book by Melbourne chef, Greg Malouf, and his ex-wife Lucy that I turned to for inspiration.

With a shoulder of my Dad’s lamb in the freezer, the slow roasted lamb with red capsicum paste and pomegranate was an easy choice for main course. And I always find it hard to go past a good lentil salad particularly when dainty Puy lentils, the Rolls Royce of the lentil world, are involved. 

I seem to be having a bit of a love affair with scallops at the moment. I’ve always been a fan but now that I’ve found a good supplier or fresh Australian scallops at the Sydney fish markets, I find myself scheming to cook them more and more. Wanting something to accompany some aged Hunter white, I decided upon the seared scallops with almond crumbs and hummus as a starter.  With a refreshing and intriguingly named Lebanese lemonade sorbet to complete the meal the planning part was done and dusted.

Those of you who have spent any time nosing around stonesoup will know that I tend to have people over for dinner on a regular basis.  Sure sometimes I’m more organised than others (try stuffing and cooking squid between starter and main course…sorry about the wait guys). No longer do I feel nervous about entertaining. So it took me by surprise that butterflies seemed to take over my stomach as I was preparing for my old-and-new-boss dinner.

Fortunately my fears were unfounded. With wine as a common link everyone got on swimmingly. An aged Brokenwood chardonnay from the now non-existent Graveyard vineyard (it has since been replanted to Shiraz) was the honeyed highlight of the wines. The food turned out as planned and was well received by all. And with the exception of the lamb being a bit on the cold side by the time we ate, I wouldn’t have changed it at all. Good food, good company, good wine……all good things.

a syrian/lebanese dinner to impress the boss
seared scallops with almond crumbs and hummus
slow roasted lamb with red capsicum paste & pomegranate
green lentil salad with walnut dressing
lebanese lemonade sorbet with pistachio nougat

seared scallops with almond crumbs and hummus
serves 6 as a starter
Adapted from Greg & Lucy Malouf’s gorgeous book Saha.

I absolutely love scallops and was lucky enough on this occasion to source some super fresh ones from Hervey Bay in Queensland. If you can’t get your hands on some fresh scallops don’t even bother with frozen ones which will just seep water when you try to sear them. Instead you could substitue in some king prawns.

This makes way more dressing and crumbs than you’ll need but they keep well and can be used to make salads on another occasion. The crumbs and an interesting crunch when sprinkled over lightly dressed salad leaves.

for the almond crumbs:
2T olive oil
40g lebanese bread, torn
130g blanched slivered almonds
3 cloves garlic, chopped
30g sesame seeds, toasted
for the dressing:
1 shallot, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2t honey
juice 1 lemon
2T water
125mL (1/2C) olive oil
2 sprigs thyme
for the scallops:
2T olive oil
12 fresh scallops on the shell
200g hummus
1 handful wild rocket (arugula) leaves
2 handfuls watercress leaves picked

To make crumbs. Heat oil in a small frying pan over medium high heat. Add almonds, bread and garlic and cook stirring frequently until every thing is dark golden in colour. Drain on paper towel and allow to cool. Process in a food processor until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir through sesame seed and season well.

For dressing combine all ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake to combine. Season well and allow to stand for at least 10mins before using.

For the scallops, remove from shells, wash shells thoroughly and dry. Divide shells between 6 dinner plates and place a dollup of hummus in each shell.

Heat oil in a small frying pan over a high heat until oil is very hot and smoking. Add scallops and cook for 45 seconds or until seared. Turn and cook the other side for approx 30seconds or until cooked to your liking. Place a scallop atop each hummus dollup and sprinkle generously with crumbs. You may not need to use all of the crumbs.

Combine rocket and watercress in a bowl and pour over enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves. Keep the remaining dressing for another use. Place a mound of salad on each plate beside the scallops and serve immediately.

slow roasted lamb with red capsicum paste & pomegranate
serves 6-8
Adapted from Greg & Lucy Malouf’s gorgeous book Saha.

Greg dries his red pepper paste right down to a quince paste consistency and then adds back water in the marinade. I cut the corner and just cooked the peppers down to a nice thick jammy consistency and added less water to the marinade.

If you have lots of capsicums to preserve you could dry to a thick paste that will keep for ages by either leaving overnight in the oven set to its lowest temperature. Or if you’re feeling more Middle Eastern and have plenty of sunshine, you could copy the Syrians and leave it for 2 days to dry in direct sunlight. It will keep in the fridge covered in oil for months.

red pepper paste:
4 red capsicum (peppers), deseeded
2 red chillis, deseeded
1t sugar
1t sea salt
1.2kg shoulder of lamb, bone in
2 red chillis
5 cloves garlic
2t sea salt
1T black pepper
6T pomegranate molasses
3T extra virgin olive oil
1/3C water.
lentil salad, to serve (below)
handful chopped toasted walnuts, to serve

For the red pepper paste: Whizz capsicum and chilli in a food processor to form a smooth paste. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add sugar and salt. Cook over a low to medium heat stirring occasionally for approx 45mins or until it has a thick jammy consistency.

To make the marinade, combine all remaining ingredients except lamb and season. Smear marinade all over lamb and refrigerate overnight or for at least 1 hour. Bring lamb to room temperature before cooking.

Preheat oven to 180C. Place lamb and all marinade in a baking paper lined roasting tray and transfer to the oven. Reduce heat to 150C and cook for 3-4 hours basting regularly until meat is very tender.

Allow to rest for at least 10mins before carving. To serve divide lentil salad between plates. Top with sliced lamb and drizzle with pan juices then sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

green lentil salad with walnut dressing
serves 6
Adapted from Saha by Greg & Lucy Malouf

Lentils and lamb are a match made in heaven but this salad would also work with BBQ fish or roast chicken. For a vegetarian meal crumble over some good quality feta.  Leftovers make a great lunch for work and it will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week or two.

250g Puy lentils or other small French style lentils
1 onion, halved
1 carrot, halved
2 celery sticks, halved
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cinnamon stick
1t cumin seeds
900mL water
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, very finely sliced
1/2 bunch continental parsley, leaves picked
1 bunch coriander, leaves picked
for the dressing:
150mL walnut oil
120mL olive oil
120mL champagne vinegar
juice 1 lemon
2 drops sesame oil

Wash lentils thoroughly and place in a medium saucepan with the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, cinnamon, cumin and water. Bring to the boil and simmer until lentils are just tender (approx 20-25mins).

Meanwhile for the dressing combine all ingredients and season to taste.

Drain and discard vegetables. Place lentils in a large bowl and toss through half the dressing. Allow to cool to room temperature.

When ready to serve toss tomatoes, red onion parsley and coriander through the lentils. Add extra dressing if the mixture looks too dry then season to taste.

lebanese lemonade sorbet with pistachio nougat
serves 6-8
Adapted from Saha by Greg & Lucy Malouf.

This is quite an involved recipe for a sorbet but the result is an amazingly zingy lemon hit. Eating a bowl of this give you that clean refreshed feeling like the hot towels they give you on aeroplanes.

8 large lemons
150g sugar
125g sugar
200mL water
375mL  water
1T Turkish apple tea, optional
drop orange blossom water
6-8 pieces pistachio nougat, to serve optional

Wash lemons and cut into quarters. Place in a large ceramic bowl with 150g sugar and crush lemons to release their juice and thoroughly blend in the sugar. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Make sugar syrup by combining 125g sugar with water and bringing to the boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.

Pour cooled sugar syrup and additional water over lemons and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours.

Strain juice from lemons and discard lemons. Add apple tea and orange water to the lemon juice and freeze in an icecream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions.

When ready to serve pile sorbet into tea cups, ramekins or pretty glasses. Serve with a slice of nougat if using.


  • The flavours in this sound delightful! I am trying to cook more from the first two Malouf books I own before I give in and buy this one, but the lamb dish sounds scrumptious.

  • Hey Clancy
    We seem to be playing snap on the Middle Eastern cook books; I pounced on a copy of Saha when I got back to Paris and was only flicking through it on Friday night. It just makes you want to re-do the kitchen in hand-painted tiles. I’m sure you must have “Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons” or “Roast Fig, Sugar Snow” by Diana Henry. Your blog serves as an appetizing start on a dark Monday morning, like today, but it makes lunch a little disappointing.

    P.S. You should remind me of your taste for aged Semillon when I pop home next Christmas; there’s a case of 94 Peter Lehmann Semillon hiding under the house. It should be a rich straw-yellow colour by now, I hope. There’s nothing like being on the other side of the world to protect your aging wine from Friday night cravings.

  • I continue to be utterly impressed with your entertaining skill and aplomb. This looks gorgeous–and delicious.

  • hey plum,
    The first two malouf books are great and have more content but saha is just gorgeous to flick through and I love that it just focuses on lebanon and syria

    thanks zarah maria
    we’re really spoiled here in Oz for amazing seafood

    camburn k
    glad to hear you’re still alive and still have excellent taste in both cookbooks and wine…haven’t yet picked up anything diana henry but she’s on my list. looking forward to taking you up on the peter lehman semillon offer.

    tea, jeff & shaz.
    thanks for dropping by. appreciate your kind words

  • Oh those scallops! Followed by slow-roasted lamb! And lemonade sorbet! I think I’m about to faint with envy!

    Gorgeous photos as always. And congrats on winning the Writing About Food course in Menu for Hope too.

  • Hi Jules,

    I am the very happy winner of the two books so kindly donated by you to A Menu for Hope.

    My details are;
    9 Yeo Avenue
    Sth Aust 5063

    Please let me know if you need any more details.

    Kind Regards,


  • thanks helen. very much looking forward to the food writing course.

    susan, thanks. the malouf books are definitely worth more attention.

    congratulations on winning. will be in touch via email. hope you enjoy the books as much as I have been.

  • Hey, delighted to stumble upon this today. I’ve sent the link to Greg as well. We get such a big thrill to think that people actually buy and cook from our books. I do hope your boss was appropriately impressed. Best, Lucy (Malouf!)

  • Wow, this sounds and looks so delicious I’m tempted to prepare the same right now. But our meals for today and tomorrow are already choosen. Mayby the day after tomorrow? I love lentils a think I have erery colour every sort of and lamb is with beef our favourite meat. So I have to try your recipes.

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