Welcome back foodiecureans! What’s been going on lately? Last week entailed a catering job for good friend-slash-super assistant, Penny. Penzo made the big 3-oh on Saturday and Melbourne celebrated by putting on some mighty fine weather. I also offered to do the food as one does for such occassions.
We kept the menu to finger food with a twist of winery chic, as was the theme of the day. The brief was “I want lots of food but people don’t need to be full”. Well, lots of food I can do! As usual, I try to keep as many ingredients seasonal as I can, and as much fresh produce as possible.
Since Penny and I have a date at the Melbourne Showgrounds’ Farmers Market every Sunday, I purchased a whole host of ingredients from the market and designed the menu around what was available. What I got was:
- Broad Beans
- Myrtleford Butter Factory butter (OMG!!)
- Baby spinach
Sadly I didnt get around to whipping up the broadbean dip, so the broadies are still blanched and waiting to be peeled in my fridge (Penz, I’ll bring some round during the week!).
Since there were a couple of vegans in attendance and a handful of vegetarians, and with my preference to cater vegetarian, it was a no brainer to keep the menu vego.
What did the guests snack on?
Witlof Cups with Kholrabi Salad and Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
My personal favourite on the menu was the Witlof Cups with Kohlrabi Salad. Yup, the kohlrabi has made another appearance in form of party food. Is there no end to this delightful little radish?
I kinda just keep recycling my kohlrabi salads from this post, but it’s so perfect for summer with it’s slight hint of green apple flavour. I prefer the one with the greek yoghurt base as I feel the mayonnaise is too heavy for the delicate flavour of the kohlrabi. Adding some chopped walnuts for crunch, nori and a few finely chopped olives for saltiness (not too much or it will over power), little dash of grain mustard for pungent, and the sweetness of the roasted cherry tomato tops it off perfectly. Serve in a bitter witlof cup and you have perfect summer finger food that is incidentally quite healthy with all that fresh produce in each mouthful.
I also really love my new mandolin. It turns this:
Into this, in mere seconds:
Fried Polenta Squares with Sweet and Sour Gerkins and Vegan Aoli
The polenta squares with gerkin and homemade vegan mayonnaise was another fill ’em up effective finger food. Who doesn’t love grilled or fried polenta? How delectable…all that crispy corniness with creamy oozy interior in each mouthful. I decided to spear the polenta with sweet and sour gerkins for a retro touch and add depth to each bite. It took me 4 goes to get a vegan mayonnaise I was happy with.
Vegan aoli isn’t as scary as it sounds. Replace the egg with 1 Tblsp corn flour (or egg replacer) and 3 Tbls water. Warm over the stove so it becomes gluey and add 1/4 c soy milk and whisk till smooth. That becomes your ‘egg’ componenet. Put in a food processor with a dollop of dijon mustard, a dash of vinegar, pinch of salt and a roasted head of garlic. As you do with conventional mayonnaise, with the motor running on low slowly drizzle in 6 Tblsp of olive oil. I tried using half virgin olive oil and half vegetable oil – because of it’s milder flavour – but it split, so creamy full bodied oil only seemed to work. The soy gives a necessary creaminess that is otherwise lacking.
Caramelised Shallot, Pumpkin, Feta and Thyme Pastries
This is a classic combo with a punchy effect. Thyme straight from my garden and some gorgeous marinated feta add a finer touch.
To caremelise the shallots, I like to use a dash of apple cider vinegar and about a Tblsp of brown sugar. Cook sliced shallots (or red Spanish onion works well) in a fair amount of olive oil on very low for about 1/2 hour – but the heat has to be very low so as not to brown or crisp the onions.
To assemble, cut puff pastry into squares, top with onions, thinly sliced pumpkin (whatever is in season), quality feta and some fresh thyme leaves. Cook on lined sheet tray in 180C for about 15 minutes until golden.
Spinach and parsley triangles and pillows
Is there any more of a perfect finger food? Wilt washed spinach leaves, chop finely, add handfuls of chopped fresh parsley, fresh ricotta, good shake of nutmeg, and season with white pepper and pinch of salt. Stuff into some puff pastry , seal the ends with milk and press with a fork. Brush with more milk (I used soy even though the ricotta aint vegan but you could just as effectively use tofu as I have done in the past) and bake on lined trays at 180C for 20 minutes.
Red Lentil Dahl with Papadams
One of the most popular dishes of the day and so effective. People often overlook the humble red lentil, but done right these little tykes are amazing! I whipped up this dahl recipe from Peter Singer, minus the coconut milk and cinnamon and used fresh tomatoes instead of canned. Result = perfect for dipping with that wow factor. And all chefs aim for the w-o-w.
As for the papadams, they take 2 seconds, but there is a knack. Hot oil, put them in and let uncurl for about 2.5 seconds, flip over for 1.5 seconds and then pull out and drain on paper towl. That’s it. Don’t over cook and flipping is necessary to ensure they stay round because they curl up in the hot oil.
Summer herb and lemon myrtle frittata
Easily going to be a favourite. Cook potatoes in salted boiling water – use potatoes that will retain their shape such as waxy nicola potatoes (generally a good all purpose potato). Once cool, slice into 1/4″ slices and spread over the bottom of a 22cm lined cake tin in 2 layers. Whisk together 5 eggs, 1/3 c cream, salt, white pepper and a good sprinkle of dried lemon myrtle (again, that w-o-w factor). Pour over the potatoes. Sprinkle over handfuls of fresh chopped herbs such as basil and oregano and a small grating of vegetarian cheese such as Nimbin Tasty. Bake in 180C for 25 – 30 minutes until golden. Let cool in tray then turn out and cut into slices.
Gnoccho Fritto with blue cheese, balsamic reduction and roast cherry tomatoes
Presentation wise, these didn’t turn out as I envisaged, but the taste combination was exactly right. Gnoccho Fritto is pasta dough that has been cut and fried and the result is crostoli-like. I wanted to serve these with grilled apricots, but I ran out of time and just couldn’t get it done. The leftover oven roasted cherry tomatoes served as a fine substitute. My reduced balsamic is also a bit too runny and stained the fritto rather than adhered to it. You live and learn and improve. If you make an eggless pasta dough, these can easily become vegan…I’ll have to devise a vegan blue cheese substitute. Stay tuned!
Beer battered eggplant
What a hit and very simple! Something about beer and oil that goes magically together. Make a basic beer batter using flour and ice cold beer and whisk. Make sure it’s neither too thick or too thin. Leaving the skin on, cut eggplant in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/4″ thick. Dust in flour, coat in batter and drop into hot vegetable oil. I find frying in a wok the most effective for it’s deeply sloping sides. Keep the temperature steady. You want the eggplant to take about 2-3 minutes to cook so the interior goes goey. If the oil is too hot the batter will cook and brown too quickly leaving the eggplant undercooked. Turn about halfway through to cook both sides. Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with flake salt.
Chocolate and beetroot brownie with lemon icing
I didn’t get a pic of these tasties for 2 reasons; they were still warm when I went to slice and thus crumbled, so I left one half prepared on the chopping board only to be devoured by curious guests – the ultimate compliment! The second one was strangely crumbly after cooling and didn’t like being cut into neat squares at all so it just got served in ultra rustic style with lemon icing dolloped on top. Not pretty, very tasty. I have to admit the lemon icing is the perfect accompaniment to the earthyness of the beetroot and chocolate combo. Defo a winner! You can find the recipe here for the brownies (scroll down). The icing is simple; icing sugar, zest of 1 lemon and enough juice from the lemon to form a thick icing. The zest imparts a yellow hue in uneven streaks. Very pretty. Wish I took a picture now…
Thus concludes How to Cater for a 30th Birthday Bash. If you’ve any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you. Ciao for now. x