Thursday, 22 June 2017

A refreshing lunch for 100

Over the weekend I cooked the lunch for Midsummer Coronation. It was an interesting challenge for a few reasons. First, I've never cooked for more than fifty people before. Second, it was a new site with a tiny kitchen. Tiny as in smaller than my apartment's kitchen, which is cozy for two cooks. Third, despite taking place in Ireland, the weather was predicted to be HOT.

Given all of these challenges, I decided to go with a variation of a lunch menu I've cooked several times before. 

Shredded roast chicken with cucumber and almond sauce
Cold aubergine salad with caraway dressing
Lentil soup 
Yoghurt dip
Flatbread (purchased)

I also planned to make allergen-free alternatives as follows:

Shredded chicken - plain chicken without dressing set aside for the nut allergy sufferers.
Lentil soup - allium-free single portion for the relevant person.
Flatbread - gluten-free to be made on site.

With the exception of the soup and the GF flatbread, everything in this meal can be made the day before and refrigerated, since it's all served cold. I suppose technically you could do that with the soup, too, but we didn't have the facilities to chill that much. 

All the recipes are straight from Annals of the Caliph's Kitchen. (Slight modification with the lentils as per the sneaky vegan feast: they tasted so good as soup that I decided to keep them as soup rather than stewing them.) 

Recipes (keep in mind these are scaled for 100!)


- 12 kg of boneless chicken
- olive oil and salt for roasting
- 200g of ground almonds
- 500ml of white wine vinegar
- around 2 cups of white sugar
- 1 and a half largeish cucumbers
- a scant tablespoon of salt
- a quarter cup of olive oil
- 25g fresh mint
- 25g fresh basil
- 25g fresh thyme 

Put the chicken into roasting tins, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast until done. Cover and allow to cool until you can handle it without burning yourself. Shred the chicken. Once it has cooled to room temperature, put into covered containers and refrigerate.

While the chicken is roasting, make the sauce. Finely mince the fresh herbs and the cucumbers. Mix in a large bowl with the almonds and wine vinegar. Add the sugar in quarter cup increments - you're aiming for that perfect puckery balance between sweet and sour. Add olive oil and salt. Mix well. If you're not serving immediately, cover it.

Take the chilled chicken out of the fridge and stir the sauce through it. The easiest way to do this is with your hands, although be warned that if you have any papercuts the vinegar will find them! Serve garnished with sliced cucumber if you fancy it.


- 20 aubergines
- 500ml of white wine vinegar
- around 2 cups of white sugar
- 200g of ground almonds
- 2 generous teaspoons of ground caraway seeds
- 2 generous teaspoons of ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon galangal (this actually belongs in a different sauce recipe, but it's the same principle and it worked really well)

Slice the tops off the aubergines. Boil them until a fork pierces the skin with little to no resistance. Drain until cool enough to handle. Chop them up. Mop up the puddles of aubergine juice you've made chopping them. Drain until completely cool. Put into covered containers and refrigerate.

While the aubergine is boiling, make the dressing. Mix together all the ingredients apart from the sugar. Add the sugar in increments as per the chicken recipe.

Lentil soup

- 25l of vegetable stock (approximately)
- 5kg of red lentil
- 43g of cumin (i.e. one entire jar)
- 6 large heads of garlic 
- 4 dozen vegetable stock cubes if you don't have homemade stock on hand
- 3 teaspoons of saffron (optional)

Bring the stock to a boil. Mince the garlic. Dump everything into the boiling stock, turn down, and simmer until the lentils dissolve. I made this in three large pots and had a obliging tall person recombine the pots to make sure the seasoning was divided evenly between the containers.

Yoghurt dip

- 10 500g pots of plain Greek yoghurt
- 75g of fresh mint
- 3 large cucumbers

Mince the mint and cucumbers. Tip all the yogurt into an enormous mixing bowl, add the mint and cucumbers. Mix thoroughly. Cover and chill, preferably overnight so the flavours blend nicely.

I had half a cucumber spare, so I sliced it and served it alongside the rest of the food. The head cook had also brought a couple of industrial sized jars of olives, so we put those out as well. It seemed to be well received, and I think everyone was happy not to have a heavy sit-down meal on a day that hot!

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