A balmy evening? Check. Killer outfit? Double check. The perfect playlist, a crisp tablecloth and, of course, a willing partner? Check, check, check. The only other thing you need for this summery date is the food.
The way to our hearts is definitely through our stomachs, and having dinner with our partners (or best friends) is one of our favourite activities. Even if a shared spaghetti moment like The Lady and the Tramp is currently out of reach, you can still whip up a tasty meal from scratch with the person you’ll be sharing it with – plus, you’re not stuck with all the dishes at the end.
And if anyone understands the art of eating well, it's Hemsley + Hemsley. Food-loving sisters Jasmine and Melissa have been sharing their delicious and nutritious recipes with us since they first went into business together in 2010.
Here, they recommend three of their best for a glorious summery date night that can be enjoyed just as much on your dining table as they can a picnic blanket in the park. We’re talking fragrant lamb meatballs with cauliflower tabbouleh, sesame courgetti with just a hint of heat and a refreshing blueberry cocktail. Cheers to that!
Lamb meatballs and cauliflower tabbouleh
For the meatballs:
500g minced lamb or beef
1 small egg
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper
Large pinch ground cumin
Large pinch ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ghee, for frying
Pinch of ground chilli or a little fresh chilli (optional)
For the tabbouleh:
2 medium heads cauliflower
1 tbsp ghee or butter
2 red onions or 2 bunches of spring onions, finely chopped
4 large tomatoes, diced
3 large handfuls fresh parsley, finely chopped
Large handful fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Optional toppings: chopped radishes, nuts or seeds (such as almonds, pistachios or sunflower seeds) to garnish
- First, make the tabbouleh. Remove the cauliflower leaves and the tough end of the stalk. Grate the cauliflower into rice-sized pieces.
- Put the grated cauliflower in a saucepan over a medium heat with a couple of tablespoons of water and the ghee or butter. Pop the lid on and steam for 4−6 minutes until the cauliflower is cooked, but isn't too soft. Check there is enough water at the bottom of the pan so that the cauliflower doesn’t burn. Drain any excess water and tip the steamed cauliflower into a large serving bowl.
- While the cauliflower cools, chop up the rest of the tabbouleh ingredients, then combine everything together. Season to your taste.
- In another large bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients except the ghee and mix well.
- In a wide saucepan over a medium heat, add a little ghee and fry a small piece of the meatball mixture and taste to check for seasoning. Adjust the remaining mixture as necessary.
- Wet your hands and shape the mince mixture into balls. We use roughly 11⁄2 teaspoons of the mixture per meatball to make about 20 balls but make them any size you like. Just remember, the larger they are, the longer they’ll take to cook.
- Heat up a little more ghee and, over a medium-high heat, fry the meatballs in a few batches until lightly browned on all sides and cooked through – this should take about 6–7 minutes. You can always brown the meatballs in advance and finish them off in the oven later.
- Serve your hot meatballs with your choice of toppings scattered over the top – but they’re just as good with some homemade hummus.
Sesame courgetti with chilli, avocado and bell pepper ribbons
For the salad:
Spiralizer or vegetable peeler
1 orange/red bell pepper
2 medium courgettes
½ small red cabbage
½ small red onion, peeled
1 large avocado, sliced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
Handful toasted pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds (black or white)
For the sesame lime dressing:
5 tbsp sesame oil or extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp tamari or sea salt
2 tsp raw runny honey (optional)
- Gently toast the pumpkin and sesame seeds one at a time in a dry pan until fragrant. Set aside.
- Use the noodle blade on a spiralizer to spiralize the red onion, red cabbage and courgettes, then swap to the ribbon blade to spiralize the bell pepper. Alternatively, use a vegetable peeler to slice the courgettes lengthways into wide pappardelle-style ribbons then finely slice the cabbage, red onion and bell pepper.
- Layer the vegetables in individual bowls or one large platter, giving the longer noodles and ribbons a trim where needed to make them easier to eat.
- Prepare the dressing by shaking all ingredients together in a jam jar.
- Arrange the avocado slices and chilli slices over the salad, pour over the dressing and sprinkle over the pumpkin and sesame seeds. Enjoy!
Blueberry Lime and Lavender Cocktail
Serves 8, makes 1 litre
150g fresh blueberries
6 tbsp raw honey (or more to taste)
1½ tsp dried lavender
500ml coconut water
125ml lime juice
150g frozen blueberries, to serve
- Wash the blueberries thoroughly. Pulse them with the honey and lavender in a food processor or blender with 250ml water to make a lavender infused syrup.
- Strain the syrup into a jug using a fine sieve or piece of cheesecloth, making sure you squeeze all the goodness from the blueberry-lavender pulp. Add the coconut water, lime and vodka and stir thoroughly.
- When ready to serve, add the frozen blueberries as ice cubes and let them bob around in this pretty cocktail.