cocktail food

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A moustache is like a skeleton key that opens doors to social circumstance.

I don’t know what the above means, or even what it has to do with this post but it was said on the day of the happy occasion of the wedding and moustache insights are auspicious.

This all began at a Dumas talk and dinner for 16 I did at regional food champion Taste of Balingup, which was pretty much as good a mix of fun and nonsense I could have hoped for. One of the friend guests (as opposed to complete stranger guests) asked if I did wedding and if I could do cocktail food for her wedding in Pemberton and I said ‘sure!’ and banged up my bona fides. Normal people might ask a details question like ‘how many people?’ They probably also ask questions like ‘is this thing on?’ or ‘it this pan hot?’ and the like. So it turned out to be 130 and while I’d say I was anxious and wildly out of my depth, I also get anxious making what I’ve trumped up to be ‘a nice sandwich’.

I’m also not an especially good and organised self-motivator so my self improvement strategy is to commit to something out of my league, and do it. Anyway the only way I could get through this is with my smarts and what it would require was strategy and tactics – something you don’t forget when you’ve spent 5 years in the jungles of Afghanistan fighting Maoist rebels.

First thing – staff of me and maybe somebody else.
So – couldn’t be faffing around with ovens, fryers, or carrying around lots of trays.

Second thing – I imagine a hungry mob devouring everything in seconds in a great fury of feasting and then turning on me.
So would require some kind of choke point and delaying device. Essentially funnelling a wall of guests into a smaller space – essentially what we refer to as a ‘kill zone.’

What I eventually come up with was a series of tasty foods in jars that I could prep in advance and then, basically, when I could there, just crack open some lids. Prep was also key as the budget can be hauled in nicely if you cook things from scratch. It takes more time, but the results are there.

Very handy was the use of a professional kitchen at a lovely winery in a lovely place. I don’t know if they want to associate their kitchen with my faffing about but lets just say ‘mislaid body of water’. Professional kitchens, as well as making you feel all professional like, are great because they have big hot ovens, lots of wipeable stainless steel, big sinks and everything is hanging up or out in the open so you don’t spend half your time searching through kitchen draws for where somebody’s put the ladle. Lots of tea towels too.

Also very handy was help from a somebody who knows what they’re doing and daughter and a home ec student on the morning and during the day. You can never underestimate the value of being able to ask someone to do something and having people there so you don’t ‘lose your shit’ and ‘start sobbing uncontrollably.’ Also handy if someone forgot to put two soft eskies full of sauces and jellies in his car when moving over to the venue.

Results

Well, very well, if I might say so myself. Nobody died and the food was well-received, eaten, complimented on, and some said they ‘loved me’. The food lasted through the hour or so of drinks and this was because people could come over and leisurely help themselves to little bits of food. Food that was carried around on trays (pfffft so old school) – the gougeres – was scarfed down in short order.

The wedding as a whole, I couldn’t fault (apart from the short 80s pop dance set) – the weather was gorgeous, the avacado farm it was on looked stunning, the lovely couple more so, the flash mob ceremony was inspired, they played Franz Ferdinand, there was meat and cake, the company delightful, the booze didn’t run out and the bus left at 2am.

Food notes below.

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Smoked and Cured Salmon in a Jar

Salmon. I’ve you haven’t had, or aren’t planning to have, a child of your own then four freshly filletted 1kg slabs of salmon is as much a source of home arrival pride as one could ask for. If you’ve used a knife, you’ve never enjoyed it so much as seeing thin orange and white strips peeling off under the gentle pressure of a yanagibocho. If you’ve eaten salmon off a shiny gold bit of cardboard and not coated in light but complex flavoured olive oil, then my condolences.

The salmon was the inspiration for the whole jar strategy, having seen salmon in a jar in French Saveur a couple of years back. I couldn’t find the copy but I did find this recipe on the internets.

Half the salmon was ever so lightly smoked with soaked hickory bark in a smoker box in my lidded barbecue. Basically just keep the smoke ticking along for 15 minutes or so to infuse, but not cook, the salmon. After that it’s on to the gravlaxing.

For the gravlax part, I combined a few things but this recipe is pretty much it + some juniper berries, which end up make it more gin cured.

 

Duck Liver Paté

Pretty much this recipe from Vogue Entertaining without the slightly gauche gold leaf; the addition of some chicken livers; and the replacement of vinocotto with some sherry to deglaze the pan. Four kilograms of it – good grief. Terrible to get into jars when hot – goes everywhere.

The bread that went with it was par-baked baguettes and they’re great. 15 minutes at 180C with a bowl of water in the oven for some moisture and they’re beautifully crisp and hot. The alternative was taking baguettes up with me and having them two days old for the wedding so, no.

Albany Oysters with Champagne and Virgin Mary Jelly

Albany oysters are small and sweet and I had 13 dozen delivered to my home. They’re still alive when delivered and keep well in the fridge with a wet towel over them. They’re designed to live a while when the tide drops down. This does mean they’re alive when you shuck them, which is a little sad. But given they don’t write books about shagging lots of younger lady oysters as a way of dealing with their own impending mortality, I don’t think they dwell on it too much.

Make sure you use a tea towel to hold the oyster down so the shucker doesn’t go through your hand. Force should be required as really all you’re doing is severing a couple of tendons at the pointy end. Albany oysters seem a bit trickier to open and it’s not just operator error. Not a big deal with a dozen but with 13 dozen, it did add up. Given them half an hour to open up a bit out of the fridge.

A trick I learnt is if you don’t want to spend all the event shucking oysters. Shuck, them and tip the oyster and the juices into a container. Pop in the fridge and then just pop some oysters and collected juice back into the shell. It avoid oysters sitting around drying out on an open shell and as an added bonus, grit settles to the bottom.

The jelly is just dry sparkling white with gelatine and the other mix up a virgin mary. 3 titanium leaves of gelatine per 500ml of each. No need to heat the wine or the virgin mary but do soak the leaves for a few minutes in cold water. Then put them in a small amount of hot water to dissolve before stirring through, allowing to set and cutting into small cubes.

Marron with Shaved Fennel, Chilli and Garlic

Marron, if you, don’t know, are freshwater crustaceans about 8 inches long, tip to tail. They have claws on the ends of their legs and beautiful, sweet, delicate flesh. Pemberton is famous for them. These were freshly caught, purged, cooked and shelled and delivered to me. Sweet.

These were a worry because if you cook something that’s a local specialty, you can only really fuck it up. So a light touch. A dozen or so marron. A big mason jar with olive oil. A few crushed cloves of garlic. A red chilli and half a finely shaved fennel bulb. Just doled it out to smaller jars at the wedding.

Enormously popular and well received – may have been out of towners but chalking it up as a win.

Cherry Tomatoes stuffed with White Anchovies

Nothing graceful about making these. Hull and stuff with a quarter to a half of a white anchovy. Coat in some of the white anchovy marinade. Interesting because they look like the peppers stuffed with goats cheese but aren’t so ahhh surprise!

Martini Olives

Vodka, vermouth as per usual. Soak whole green olives for a few hour. Drain and keep marinade and serve olives. Shake marinade with ice and serve  to yourself with twist of lemon.

Gougere with Smoked Tomato Sauce

Recipe from the very good cookbook, Mr Wilkison’s Favourite Vegetables, from the very genuinely talented and funny chef Matt Wilkinson of Pope Joan, Melbourne fame. Buy it.

Gougeres are like savoury cheesey profiteroles. The fantastic thing about them is that they freeze very well. Bake, pop on a tray with greaseproof paper and covered with clingfilm, and then once they’re frozen, pop them in a zip lock bag. When you’re ready, just put them frozen on a tray, eggwash them, sprinkle some parmesan and cook until golden in a 180C oven.

I smoked the tomatoes by soaking hickory chips and putting it at the bottom of a wok. Place a rack above the chips, place the tomatoes on the rack and cover with foil. Then heat outside on a portable burner. The tomatoes will only lightly cook but the smoke will pervade.

They’re pronounced goo zhair but will  inevitable be referred to ‘cheesy puff things’

And don’t overfill your pastry bag. Ever

Celery dunked in Virgin Mary

Yeah , yeah, crudites. But they’re crunchy, clean the mouth and palate and look lovely piled in a glass with a few leaves and the green offset with the bloody mary red. I think 3 sticks were eaten. Tsk.

Smoked Almonds

I bought these, aren’t I clever?

Truffle Popcorn

Easy and bulky carbs for the hungry. Make popcorn. Toss with truffle salt and place in large mason jar. Great and just a hint of truffles. Got through two jars.
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gazpacho


When catering for large numbers of people, it’s important to plan carefully and well in advance have a few dishes around a theme. I didn’t do any of this which probably explains the anxiety attack I had the night before up until about midday before when it susbsided to highly stressed. I’ve got to stop this what will the market tell me but to be honest I’ve got no idea what around $600 for 60 people’s worth of food looks like so it was a case of buying a bunch of stuff, seeing how much I had left, and then buying some more.

It did work in the end and despite the meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep moments, it is more interesting going I can get this and do this and doable if you have few core items. The were three main items. Gazpacho in a shot glass because they do this at work and it seems like a great way to welcome guests with an interesting sharp start on a warm summer’s night. Green curry, I’ve done this before at a similar sized party (with a shocking hangover so – not sure how I did that), and it’s something you can make before and fill the hungrier people with. Cardboard boxes are cute and save on washing up. Fried wontons, good of people will help you folding them up and people love fried food especially after a couple of drinks. Then you just fill in the spaces, a platter for people to graze, reuse the shot glasses as tuna delivery systems and for a passionfruit and melon sorbet. A bit of lamb on skewers, a few blinis for general classiness, and a couple of boxes of sausages rolls for the end of the night

blini for the kids polenta with tapenade and caponata


Platter with home-made lavosh, beetroot dip, tzatziki, and olives

Lavosh is unleavened therefore easy to make, kinda. The beetroot dip was taken from a salad recipe from Delicious using cooked beetroot, EVOO walnut oil, red onion, walnuts, and rosewater but lightly pureed adding the mint and coriander after for colour. If you’re making tzatziki, leave the yoghurt to strain in a fine sieve. Excess water will strain out and you’ll be left with a thicker richer yoghurt. The best value for olives is still Northbridge Continental on the corner of James and Fitzgerald street.

Gazpacho

The shorter way is to puree the capsicum and tomato and then run it through a strainer. This fills me with guilt and I think it’s better to roast the capsicum to remove the skin as it improves the flavour. Tomatoes are skinned by popping them in boiling water with a cross cut in the bottom. Squeeze over a sieve to remove the seeds and the bread can be soaked in the juice below. It seemed to take about three hours all up to make but extremely tasty and I can’t imagine how healthy it must be. Would make for a superb bloody mary.

Blini with Creme Fraiche, Smoked Salmon and Salmon roe

I used the yeast method rather than just the egg whites and, to be proper like, buckwheat. Salmon roe isn’t cheap but 50gm goes a long way, doing about 30 blini. Creme fraiche is expensive to buy but you can make your own. I did it in a slightly cheaper fashion by using two parts king island cream and one part creme fraiche and letting it sit for a few hours, covered, on the bench top. Blini can be made beforehand and frozen if you like. Reheat.

tuna with mango salsa sashimi tuna with ponzu sorbet


Seared tuna cubes with mango salsa and Tuna sashimi with ponzu sorbet

This was one of the “still got some money purchases and the idea is from earlier here. And the ponzu (soy with citrus) sorbet was still left over from new year. The ponzu makes the sashimi more like a ceviche and won a few converts. Both were served in shot glasses with the tuna chugged with a couple of bites to prevent choking.

Asparagus wrapped in pancetta

People love these. Just trim the spears, wrap a piece of pancetta around them, and cook in a hot oven.

Grilled polenta with caponata, sun-dried tomatoes, and tapenade

Gah! Blisters from stirring one and a half kg of polenta. A cup of milk to make it creamier and parmesan added. Spread out and chilled then put in a sandwich press for a grilled look. Reheated on site.

Lamb skewered on rosemary

Keeping Sam Kekovich happy. Cubes of lamb marinated in EVOO, paprika, and garlic and then threaded onto sticks of rosemary. Kept my rosemary bush under control. Leave some leaves at one end to sprinkle over the meat. Cooked in an oven and then taken off the sticks and piled on lettuce.

sporks Ash's nimble hands green chicken curry


Green Chicken Curry

Charmaine Solomon’s trick is to reduce some of the coconut milk over heat to about a quarter then add the paste and stir until the paste starts to release oil and then add the meat, stir until it’s cooked on the outside, and then add the rest of the coconut milk. Chopped green chilies and coriander are added at the very end. I used a few different cuts of chicken including a whole chicken cut up and the best was drumsticks. They were the cheapest cut and gave the juiciest meat which just dropped off the bone. I was a bit surprised by the popularity as I thought I’d just have it as a filler but everybody wanted some and sadly some folks missed out. I could only offer hugs as consolation.

deep fried wontons


Deep fried Chirashi Sushi and Prawn and Pork wontons

Mmm fried. While colder food suits the more receptive palate of the early evening, nothing suits the booze soaked tongue than a bit of fried food. Vinegared rice with soy and wasabi with shiitake, black mushrooms, and tree mushrooms in one. Pork, prawn, spring onion, chives and the same mushroom mix in the other. The first is vegetarian so you can keep vegetarians happy by serving the separately, unless you mix them up, which I did, and tell somebody it’s kind of vegetarian lucky dip and then be told that they’re vegetarian which was a tad insensitive on my part really. Fair enough. For person who didn’t like rice or fish and wasn’t around for the lamb though, tough titties I am forced to say.

Passionfruit, melon and vodka sorbet

and cleanse. Pulp is from a jar, melon adds volume, make some sugar water to taste, vodka makes it a little bit slushy. Too easy.

Cheese platter

Figs, grapes, crackers, one stinky, one soft, and one hard. For the browsers. Was having a bit of a chat about cheeses and one guest told me she doesn’t have cheese because her boyfriend doesn’t like it. Tsk, the feminist struggle is far far from over.

people eating my nosh general chaos one soft, one stinky, one hard and another one


A success. A haphazard and incoherent way to do it but I don’t think I could do it any other way. Handiest thing for the evening was my cook’s uniform. Kitchen’s in parties are messy places to work. People like to linger and chat, ask questions about where the glasses or bottle openers are, kids will run around, offer to help, and this is nice it’s not until 70% of the dishes are out that my head has unwound enough to appropriately deal with this. If I were wearing jeans when I say “no”, wave a cleaver at a child, or say “that’s a really bad place to stand” I’d just be that rude wanker in the kitchen. In uniform, I am that rude professional wanker in the kitchen. All in all a horrible mad stress filled thing to do but it’s doing things like this and getting through them that make us feel alive. Michael and Claire were lovely hosts. Toni, Ash (hands pictured above), and Malinda did the dishes and served stuff making an otherwise impossible job possible. It’s chuffing to have people come up and say nice things about the food or just watch a few under 60 eat your curry, and for complete strangers to offer to help. Oh the recently completely house is for sale if you’re in the Fremantle area – nice, very nice. The kitchen is still in one piece too.

quick the cake

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cheese and gherkin delight

Sometimes the difference between party food, and exceptional party food is just a few minutes of care and attention.

Take a jar of sweet gherkins . Select a couple of suitably well shaped gherkins and slice to 5mm thickness, much thicker and the gherkin taste will be overly dominant. You may need to adjust as the gherkin thins (overly thin parts can later be added to a gherkin dip). Cut a block of processed cheese, mild cheddar or colby, to a similar thickness but you may vary the shape. Guests can then select according to their preference to cheese. Aim to achieves a rough balance of dimensions with the gherkin piece. Choose a well coloured and nicely shaped orange and cut off a third to provide a base. Doing this will prevent the orange toppling over during service. To assemble place a piece of cheese (centred) on top of a piece of gherkin and then pierce in the middle with a toothpick. Some cooks will place the cheese and gherkin on the toothpick, but I find this can lead to “running through”, not only unsightly but a source of potential injury. Place the toothpicks, food outwards in a radiating fashion until the orange is filled. Be careful not to crowd the orange as it will not only ruin the effect but make the toothpicks more difficult to remove for guests. While the pattern is pretty, I feel there is a need for a dominant central statement and this I’ve done with the top 4/5th of a gherkin placed proudly on a satay stick.

Enjoy, but be quick.

orangegrass

Orange. This month’s theme by Foodgoat of “Orange you hungry?” for Is My Blog Burning? #14 nabbed my attention because orange is my favourite colour. I can’t say if the colour’s link with schizophrenia go further than anecdotal but it’s hard not to feel some kind of disconnect with reality as we see the gains of the last century being frittered away and the kitchen.. what’s that Mr Smeg? I should go on? Very well.

orangejsbxorange

Ikura (salmon roe) are spherical wonders. The pleasure of the translucent orange and the glossy sheen is matched only by the slight resistance to the bite of the membrane before it releases the amniotic fluids. They are like Paul Smith cuff-links in bubble wrap. Tobiko (flying fish roe) is nearly as pretty but has a grittier texture. I would have been happy just to pop them on a spoon, take a piccie and be done with it but since I’ve cooked about three things in as many weeks, I’d best do the thing with heat.

Blinis are fine slavic treats to have with roe and I’ve been feeling very slavic of late, no idea why. They are yeasty pikelets for people with too much time on their hands. I would adapt them by using buckwheat as a Japanese influence (it’s what’s in soba noodles) but soon find a recipe with buckwheat already in it. Nori then.

Blini Mix

orangeblini

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast; 1 cup milk (warmed); 1 cup all purpose flour; 1 cup buckwheat flour; 3 free-range eggs; 1 teaspoon salt; 1/2 cup milk.

Let the yeast dissolve in with the luke-warm milk and them mix in it with the flour. Cover with a tea-towel and leave in a warm place for two hours. Punch it down and then mix in the egg yolks and the rest of the milk. It should be smooth, but still light. Add the salt to the egg whites and beat to stiff peaks and fold into the mix.

The nori was three toasted sheets rolled together and cut into narrow strips with kitchen scissors and then mixed in. From here you need a blini pan but as I don’t have one, I used a biscuit cutter as a mould. Browned a little on both sides, you could see the thin strips of nori just below the surface.

orangeside

To stop the roe rolling off, I bought some King Island Crème Fraîche. The intention was to blend it with uni (sea urchin). No luck getting any so I thought I’d try just a sprinkle of wasabi powder and mix it in. Unwilling to gamble completely on this taste combination, I made a trio of wasabi, plain, and mixed wiith the tobiko. Finally I thinly sliced up some sashimi salmon for extra orange credentials and because it’s nice to eat and added some garnish of orange rind.

The eating was simplicity and the verdict is pleasant and interesting. Neither the nori or the wasabi overwhelmed but perhaps needing a splash of something citric or a nice bottle of a dry sparkling white. Yes.

orangefullsetting


That was quick:Foodgoat … something tasty every day: Is My Blog Burning #14: Hot Orange on Orange Action!!

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manlyccake

When it was announced that the interblogging food event of Is My Blog Burning #13 for this month was My Little Cupcake, I didn’t say yippee. I felt sad. I felt disenfranchised. I felt trapped inside my cage of masculinity. I felt lost. I felt hairy in an age of smooth. I felt weak. Don’t know how Bill Granger does it.

I can’t.

I must.

This one’s for Becky.

First step was to get rid of the sugary softness, I settled on a Yorkshire pudding batter.

Batter
Sift one cup of SR flour – needed for lift for the cupcake shape, and then place an egg in the middle of the pile and beat in. Add half a cup of milk slowly and then beat to a batter and then continue to beat for five minutes. Then stir in another half a cup of milk and refrigerate for half an hour.

Flavouring had to be meat. Salty beats sweet. Black pudding. Hard to find so I settled for 150gm of blutwurst from Elmars. Cut it into slices and then fried it up in mutton dripping; carefully saved from sunday night’s chops. This smoked blutwurst will crumble when cooked, mince it up further. Allow to cool and mix into the batter.

Get the oven up to 180C and add a dab of dripping to each muffin hole in the mini muffin tray. Place in the oven and when hot, fill up each one almost to the top with the batter, add a little water to any empty ones for even cooking. Cook for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Icing-sugarless Icing
Obviously icing sugar wasn’t going to be an option so I settled for a cranberry sauce. Half a cup in a pan, a splash of the last remains of a bottle of Wild Turkey, bring to the boil and allow to simmer until it thickens, adding small amounts of cranberry sauce to get the consistency right.

Remove cupcakes, apply cranberry, and eat.

onemmforme

Mantastic. Really. Bloody brilliant. Bravo me if I don’t mind saying so myself. Robbie says great.

robeats

muffplosion!: Is My Blog Burning? IMBB 13: Cupcakes and Muffins Galore!

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enjospread

Nick: I asked Tres if I could get a hovercraft.
Me: and she said yes?
Nick: She said no.
Me: Bummer. That’s harsh.

Enjo. If that rings no bells then you haven’t quite surrendered as completely to the inescapable pull of suburban bourgeoisification as I have. Having been somewhat more the indulgee in our relationship, I found it hard to refuse Toni’s decision to host a home sales party thingy and offered to be in charge of light refreshments.

Mediterranean cultures have finger food nailed so I went with a tapas theme. If you have a look at the pic from top to bottom you’ll see… toasted pita bread; hummus with pine nuts; roma tomatoes with EVOO, basil, maldon sea salt, and pepper; lightly toasted baguette; pesto; pan fired haloumi; olives; chorizo in red wine; proscioutto, coppa, and home made aioli; and $3 Mount Barker Red Cross wine chiller with freezer inserts.

It looks like a lot but it isn’t. The magic hassle-free combo secret is a couple of quick hot dishes, a couple prepared earliers, and a few purchases. Left me with mucho time to have few beers out back with Greg and Holly while the guests watched a shower screen being decalcified in the bathroom and oggled my Blue Stratos After-shave and Mandom Moisture Cream.

You can find the Chorizo in Red Wine recipe way back here. The aioli is here but I’d add the recommendation to stream in the olive oil while stirring, rather than using a blender, it prevents it going bitter.

The hummus requires a little explanation. Soak the dried chick peas overnight the place them in a ovenproof dish with an inch of water to cover. Put the lid on and cook in 180C oven for an hour or so. Pureed about 5 cups of chick peas with three garlic cloves . And a few tablespoons of roasted pine nuts and sesame seeds (in a dry frypan, mind they don’t burn). Grind a handful of parsley with enough EVOO to moisten and add that. Stream in 3/4 cup of combined lemon juice and EVOO, stirring. Season with pepper and, because it wasn’t quite there, I added a few drops of tabasco. Great warm, served with toasty pita bread.

Toni got the hostie present of those yellow moppie things and I got to jump start a bearded guy’s chopper with my Volvo. And just to clarify, dry sherry is not a wino’s drink, it’s a much underrated aperitif. So there.

volauventAs we discussed, you knew you were at a very special 80′s Perth party when the mini vol au vents came out. If you were lucky, you may have washed them down with now defunct Swan Premium. I’ve never made them before due to the difficulty of obtaining vole but decided to go with chicken instead.

To be frank, vol au vents are kind of a drag. I was going to just buy the shells but felt guilty so I compromised with bought puff pastry and then went from there. Cutting out the base and then the ring shape to go on top is dull, dull, dull. There’s a brief moment of magic when they spring up in the oven, but that’s about it. The filling was classic menu wank that I chose for no other reason than the combo of pistachio, chicken, and blue cheese sounded good. Quite tasty but the time taking fiddliness could have been put to better ends and the filling was an uncomfortable compromise between chunky and creamy.

Served at my sister and brother-in-law’s decade of being together do. Good on ‘em I say. Stopped in, pre-party, at the drive-through bottle shop at Steve’s for a bottle of ’95 something (bad year for France?). Wandered downstairs to have a look at their vintage-wine filled cellar. Very impressive and on a completely unrelated note, anybody out there with tunneling experience. POWs? Coal miners? Get in touch OK.

abcradio

Gah! On the radio yesterday and given my state beforehand, I was amazed it worked out to more than 6 minutes of

meep…Anthony are you OK?…meep.

Room, other person, yellow foamy thing in front of me, and the invisible audience. Settled after a minute or two, garnering reviews from family members of “polite!”, “well spoken!”. Bernadette Young, the presenter, was very kind. Had it been Liam Bartlett , I may have run off in tears as he probed further into the feasibility of my bold plan to pipe sunshine from Madagascar. The interview was: Sting fades out; what’s a blog, what’s on your blog, lamingtons, what are the bloggies, good luck see you if you win, fade out to Neil Young (which isn’t bad, had the music been the other way round…).

Now there was probably a hundred other things I could have mentioned but given it’s a local radio program what I regretted most was not mentioning the local blogging commmunity. They’re all on the Perth Blogs Wiki and those involved in the marvellous initiative the Perth Blognite last year, and not forgetting my fellow WA nominees Karen Cheng and Nikita Kashner. This still leaves a wealth of talent sitting on the right column there, so go have a look. And if you haven’t tried this blog thing before, give it a go.

Now, on to more familiar ground. Since the ABC continues to get the squeeze, I thought it’d be nice to take some food along in case they were hungry. I chose another slight variation of this Chicken Liver Paté recipe.

mushroomchickenliverpate

Paté is good. It uses the bits that other folks leave behind (too good for cats), it’s usually just bought but home-made tastes so much better, and it’s easy. If you can use a frypan and make a smoothy, you can make pate. It’s also a good platform to test minor variations in flavours and there’s something special in the way the onions collapes into golden softness, the way the livers dissolve in the blender, and the release of freshly ground spices. Three parts-

Onions

One white onion, the whites of two spring onions, and one garlic clove all thinly sliced and fride until soft with 40gm of butter. This time I also added a chopped field mushroom for a different flavour in stead of green peppercorns. Add it all to the blender but don’t blend yet.

Liver

400gm of chicken livers, connective tissue cut off and marinated in brandy for an hour. Fry in another 40gm of butter, turining often until just pinkishly cooked in the middle. Add to the blender. Add a splash more brandy to the pan and deglaze the residue by scraping with a wooden spoon over heat. Add to the blender.

Spices

A scaled back quatre epicés of 2tsp parts peppercorns and 2tsp of cloves – ground and one tsp grated nutmeg. Put this in the blender and blend until smooth and refrigerate for at least two hours.

The taste is a little muted and those not enamoured with liver could, easily double the spices. Delicious with James Squire Pilsner, medicinally administered once safely home to sooth jangled post-interview nerves.

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I usually have Friday’s off so I volunteered to cater for friend’s exhibition opening. It was a good chance to relive the days of The Flying Forks without lapsing into chain smoking. The brief was 50 people after work; in a kitchen with only a bench and a sink; no serving table; must be pickled onions; two hours; and $150 to spend on food (the sister was very insistent that this was not per person) so about $3 a head.

Planning

The best thing was to have three main things on the menu and they would be simple and easy to prepare. Prep would be done at home but assembly on-site to keep things fresh looking. Cold is harder than hot to keep people happy so the ingredients had to be good. I’d have one interesting thing to amp up general impression, it was Josephine’s exhibition, not mine.

Shopping

Usually I go out with a general plan and the change or add depending upon what’s out there. Costing is really three areas; cheaper carbohydrates; vegetables; and pricier deli goods like meat and cheese.

Food

Polenta cubes, with tapenade, chorizo, and artichokes

Polenta is cheap but quite a few people don’t like it. I think this has something to do with the relatively bland flavour not offsetting the texture. I added some grated parmesan to the polenta at the end of the cooking along with the usual butter and olive oil. It then went into two shallow pans at a depth of about 2cm smoothed over with a cake spatula with some butter on it. When chilled, given a quick sear on the stovetop griddle and then cut into longish cubes and put in an airtight container.

For serving, the cubes were place on a tray and topped with thin slices of Chorizo in Red Wine, artichoke, or olive paste (in a tube for easy application). Takes a minute or two and off it goes. Later I tried a few with a small scrunch of prosciutto.

Chicken Liver Paté

Bit of meatiness and pate provides brilliant flavour leverage. Chicken livers cost nothing and the extra money can be spent on good quality bread. I bought some baguettes and slim ciabatta. I used this recipe from before but skipped the green peppercorn, halved the spices, and cooked the liver in half butter half duck fat.

Sliced the bread on site with an electric knife and a spread of pate on each.

Crudités

Much in need of rehabilitation. Usually thin dried out strips of carrot hoping to be put in an average cream cheese dip and out of their misery. Lebanese cucumber, carrot and celery chopped generously in length and width. Kept in a slurry of ice and water to keep cool, moist and crisp. Served with a bowl of half red miso/ half mayonnaise in a wooden Japanese bath bucket.

Beef Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Still in a nice triangulation of interesting, familiar and likable. As there was less of this I served it early and that way it stayed on the menu in a you should have been here earlier way. I’ve got this idea of a kind of virtual viral catering where half the dishes are just “plants” going ” oh did you have the kings prawns, fabulous!” withhout actually having to serve them.

Everything chopped up in advance but assembled on site to make them fresher. The beef was sliced finley and marinated in soy, sesame, vegetable oil and a little bicarb of soda. Cooked and then marinated in equal parts rice wine vinegar and hoi sin sauce with a thinly sliced red chilli.

These went in the rolls with thinly sliced lebanese cucumber, shoots, sprouts and capsicum with a bit of hoi sin sauce.

Others

Japanese peanuts and later, two cheese plates – one with a wheel of stracchino cheese and the other with a sharp cheddar both with stuffed olives (no seeds to leave everywhere) put out for the late stayers to graze on.

Overall

Went smoothly and I could just keep sending out alternate trays. Everything was well received, celery was least popular. Paté got a few “you should sell this” comments but I’ve recently discovered drunk people say all kinds of crazy things.

Things like this are the track days of the foodie world. They allow duffers like me to hone their skills without the commitment of doing it professionally. It’s also one of these effortless virtue things which are good, you can help people out and enjoy yourself doing it – it’s not like you’ve volunteered to scrub toilets or shift furniture.

An extra point is be nice to staff. As I was doing this as a friend, the “hey over heres” come across as much more clockable than if I’d been staff but really there shouldn’t be any difference.

The real event though was a great success with 7 paintings getting the red sticker.

Exhibition:

Joséphine Luhan

free range studios & gallery 359 Hay Street Subiaco


1st to 15th October Wed- Fri 3-7pm; Sat 9am-3pm

Sunday Night Tapas

Silvania Franco has a straightforward book that promises much – Great Tapas. The patties cross the line from mashed potato blandness to tapas genius but it’s a shame they retained their name as a patty. Patti Smith perhaps. Ham was changed to prosciutto as there was an especially nice looking hunk of it already on the slicer at the deli. I used a 2yo NZ cheddar in the absence of manchego.

Ingredients: 4 slices of prosciutto-chopped; 200gm of grated cheese; 500gm of Ruby Blue potatoes – boiled and mashed; 1/2 cup of plain flour; 2 tbs of butter; muchos salt and pepper to taste.

Mix all the ingredients together and shape into patties the size of an iMac mouse. Fry in a little olive oil on both sides until golden (they are a little fragile).

Eaten with the marinated octopus I made (excellent if I might say so) and some bread and we were joined by a bottle of Alias Pinot Noir, substituting for sherry.

*The photo was me being spiteful at the poor exposure and just scrunching up the brightness and contrast, not big, not clever.

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Octopodes

Beasts. Of all the creatures there are few less like us than but even fewer that are our betters. More than just extra limbed or different skinned they are our lean-running adaptable betters – heads with limbs, bisexual, and cannibalistic. Our competitors for food, with exquisite taste in seafood, they plunder crayfish pots. Masters of unspeakable acts, they are, according to Hokusai, after our women [ not worksafe ].

Only one choice for our species, pickle the brute. You don’t have to thank me.

Unsure of how to go about this I went to here and here .

You may want to save yourself the grief and buy pre-boiled octopus. Mine was fresh and headless and weighed a kilo. Put it into a large pot of simmering water and left it there for a little over an hour, when the tentacle could be pierced effortlessly with a skewer. I then went about the nasty work sloughing off the skin and chopping the tentacles into small pieces.

Marinade half a cup of olive oil; half a cup of white wine vinegar; 1 tbs of balsamic vinegar; 4 cloves of garlic; about 20cm of fresh thyme; salt and pepper

Put the octopus into a jar, putting the thyme somewhere half way, and then pouring in the marinade, giving it a stir, and leaving it in the fridge. Three days later, it could still settle a bit more, but nicely tender, might have it tomorrow.

Invaluable was Pharyngula with Octopus Sex and Octopuses and, amusingly, The Cephalopod Page – FAQ

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