How to throw a dinner party like a grown-up

John Gregory-Smith shows Lucy Dunn, a self-confessed dinner-party disaster zone, how to cook for her friends (and keep them) 

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By Lucy Dunn on



Zaalouk is served at room temperature as a side dish. The aubergine is first cooked over a flame until charred and tender and then added to a thick tomato sauce and finished off with olive oil, lemon juice and chopped flat-leaf parsley. It’s perfect for dunking, so get plenty of soft warm pitta lined up. To make this into more of a meal, I like to serve my zaalouk with pieces of crispy, pan-fried halloumi. Although it’s not really Moroccan, the salty cheese works so well with the richness of the aubergines that it’s a perfect pairing.


  • 3 large aubergines
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A pinch of sugar
  • Juice of ¼ lemon
  • A handful of finely chopped coriander leaves
  • 300g halloumi, cut into 0.5cm slices
  • Warm pitta, to serve
  • Sea salt
  1. Prick the aubergines all over with a skewer. Carefully place each one over a medium gas flame and cook for 3–4 minutes each side, turning four times, or until tender. You should be able to poke a skewer into the charred skin and straight through the flesh when they are cooked. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Once cool to the touch, remove and discard the burnt skin. Cut off the top and finely chop the flesh. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Tip in the tomatoes, tomato purée, cumin, paprika, chilli flakes, bay leaf and sugar. Season with a good pinch of salt. Add 100ml of water, mix well and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10–12 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the tomatoes have broken down.
  3. Transfer the aubergines to the tomato sauce. Mix well and check the seasoning. Cover and cook for a further 10–12 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sauce is lovely and thick. Add the lemon juice and coriander and mix together.
  4. While the aubergines cook in the sauce, heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Carefully place the halloumi slices into the pan and cook for 1–2 minutes each side until golden and crispy.
  5. To serve, spread the zaalouk in a serving dish and top with halloumi. Give a final drizzle of olive oil and serve immediately with pitta.


M’Hamer Royal Lamb

The royal cities of Fez, Marrakesh, Meknes and Rabat were responsible for honing the culinary traditions of Morocco and developing lavish dishes for the monarchs and their guests. This intense red, paprika-flavoured lamb is one of the best, and, according to several chefs I spoke to, originates from Fez. The meat is cooked slowly with paprika, ground ginger and saffron, infusing with their aromas. Once cooked, the lamb falls apart at the touch of a fork, and the sauce is reduced until deeply savoury and rich. The finished dish is adorned with almonds, which I like to toast with more paprika, for a decadent finish.

Serves 4

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 750g boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 7–10cm pieces
  • 2 teaspoons paprika, plus an extra pinch for the almonds
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • A pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 litre lamb stock
  • 50g whole blanched almonds
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8–10 minutes until golden. Add the garlic, mix well, and cook for 10 seconds until fragrant.
  2. Put the meat into the pan and add the paprika, ginger, turmeric, saffron, stock, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Mix everything together really well. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 2–2½ hours, or until the meat is beautifully tender. It should literally fall apart if you poke it with a fork. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a warm dish. Cover with foil and set aside to rest.
  3. Reheat the sauce over a high heat until boiling. Reduce to medium and cook for 20–25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until really rich and thick. Skim off the fat as it rises to the surface.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a small frying pan over a medium heat and add the almonds. Toast for 8–10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, or until the nuts are golden on all sides. Remove from the heat and add the remaining butter. Swirl together around the pan until melted. Add a pinch of paprika and salt. Toss together and immediately transfer to a small plate to cool.
  5. To serve, return the lamb to the pan and stir gently to coat it in the intensified flavours of the sauce. Transfer to a serving dish, and scatter with the cooked almonds. Serve immediately.



While staying at the rather fabulous Riad Fes, a stunning converted palace in the medina in Fes el Bali, the chefs showed me several very modern desserts, including a cheesecake flavoured with rosewater, and served with citrus fruits. I loved the idea of combining classic Moroccan fruits and flavours with a European-style cheesecake. Here I have gone for a baked cream cheese and ricotta base and a pillowy soft layer of cream, lightly perfumed with lemon and rosewater, and topped with figs, orange and pomegranate.


  • 100g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 300g digestive biscuits
  • 500g cream cheese
  • 350g ricotta cheese
  • 130g icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 2 tablespoons rosewater
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 free-range eggs


  • 300ml double cream
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon rosewater
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 figs, quartered
  • 1 orange, peeled, segmented and chopped, membrane removed
  • 80g pomegranate seeds
  • Clear honey, to drizzle
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 and grease and line a 23cm springform cake tin with butter and baking paper.
  2. Melt the butter in a small pan over a medium heat. Crumble the biscuits into a food processor and blend until fine. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the melted butter. Mix together and tip into the lined cake tin. Press the biscuit crumbs firmly into the base to form a really well-packed layer. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Tip the cream cheese and ricotta into a blender and blend until smooth. Add the icing sugar and cornflour, and blend together for 30 seconds. Add the rosewater, lemon juice and zest, then the eggs, one at a time, and blend until smooth – check there are no lumps. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 1–1 ¼ hours, or until just set with a golden tinge at the edges. Allow to cool in the tin, then refrigerate for a few hours.
  4. When you are ready to serve, tip the cream into a mixing bowl and add the icing sugar, rosewater and lemon zest and juice. Whisk to soft peaks.
  5. Remove the cheesecake from the tin and put on a cake stand. Spoon the cream on top. Arrange the figs and orange segments and scatter over the pomegranate seeds. Finally, drizzle with honey so it oozes down the sides and serve immediately.

Recipes taken from Orange Blossom & Honey by John Gregory-Smith is published by Kyle Books. Photography by Martin Poole and Alan Keohane. 

John is throwing a pop-up supper club at Great Guns Social restaurant in Borough, London during the month of November. Book your ticket here.

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