Friday, March 2, 2012

Baby Nellie turns 1 - and we eat good food.


By now you may know that my daughter Nellie turned one a few weeks ago (in case you missed it, I've posted here and here on Nellie's party). In this final installment of the goings-on I thought I'd let you know what we ate.

I need to state upfront that I have no delusions whatsoever of being any sort of food stylist. No sirree. I leave all the prettiness and misting with oil and noodle zjooshing to Donna Hay and her ilk. I also don't claim to be that great a cook, what with my limited repertoire and haphazard approach.

But I do bring some enthusiasm to the kitchen, if little technique on 'plating up' (or as my mother calls it, 'serving'; or my mother-in-law, more accurately, 'dishing'. I'm sure George, Matt, Manu and company die just a little bit every time they hear this. Our household is a 'plating up' free zone. But I digress.). It's for this reason I will be celebrating the excellent photographic work of professionals where possible. I thank them heartily, in advance and from afar.

For some inane reason I felt strongly about cooking terrines for the party. After the hoopla of Nellie's baptism lunch, where I wanted a really long table of guests with food along the table, I was thinking this time of a picnic-style lunch of mainly cold food and salads followed by a killer dessert table. Terrines just seemed to fit the bill. Slight hurdle: I had never actually made one. Not one. And yet I was determined to make three.

I did some research and settled on the following three terrines:

1. Baked Tomato and Spinach Omelette - don't be put off by the 'omelette' reference. It's by all accounts looks like a terrine, and since it fit the bill for a vegetarian option, I christened it as such. I found it in 'Delicious' October 2008. It was dead easy to make and really was very nice (although I didn't serve it with olives). Although vegetarian, it does contain a lot of eggs and cream (sorry vegans).

2. Pork and Chicken Terrine - again I referred to my trusty and dog-eared collection of 'Delicious' magazines, this one being March 2011. This is a bit like a Donna Hay meatloaf I make occasionally, using pork mince and wrapped in prosciutto. This one actually calls for pancetta but I successfully substituted prosciutto as it needs to be long pieces to properly wrap the terrine and I could only find round pancetta. Again, this was easy to make and a good meaty option. I did, however, ditch the pretty farmers salad as pictured.

3. Polenta and Chorizo Terrine - sadly I don't have a picture of this. I did find some on the net of other people's fine kitchenwork if you care to do a web search, but Donna Hay has chosen to not share this recipe or picture gratis that I can find. It comes from my other dog-eared recipe magazine collection, specifically Donna Hay issue 46.

This terrine tasted a lot better than it looked. And it looked pretty much like the picture in the magazine. I know that sounds not so flattering and maybe you're thinking now of not trying this one but please do - with the following modifications. Firstly, it asks for a 1 litre loaf/terrine dish. Do not be fooled. It needs about 1.5 litre. Or you need to find a use for lots of leftover cooked polenta (fried is fantastic, by the way). Secondly, the design of the terrine is inherently flawed in that the construction asks for a layer for polenta, then the loose chorizo layer, followed by another polenta layer.

This is all fine and good until you attempt to slice it up, when the layers just come apart because there is nothing to keep them together. I suggest keeping the chorizo layer away from the edges of the terrine pan so the polenta layers can join and 'encase' the chorizo layer. Despite this, it was really delicious, particularly when slightly warmed prior to serving (although this made serving it even trickier - and we come full circle to it tasting a lot better than it looked.

Moving on.

I love me a good chicken sandwich, in the Melbourne Cup Birdcage catering style. And I've got the best recipe, which has never let me down, and which, if I may be so bold, is better than any I've had in the Birdcage. There, I've said it.

Of course, you guessed it, this recipe come from the trusty recipe mags, this one being extremely ragged from constant use, such that I hardly need to refer to it any more.

It's a Belinda Jeffrey recipe from Delicious, November 2006. Ideally, if you are feeling beatific in an epicurean kind of way which engenders bread making from a 55 year old master yeast using spelt flour handground by virgins by a waxing moon within 10 'foodmiles', then yes, feel free to poach your own free range chicken for several hours. Or, as I usually do, pop down to the local supermarket and pick up one precooked. I've done both and I know which one is less fuss for not that much difference in flavor. Up to you.

Either way, this recipe is the best I've found. I made a double batch and served as finger sandwiches, crusts off (to my father's horror. But it really does produce a more dainty finger.)

Again, I didn't take a picture of these superb sandwiches, expecting an expertly-produced one on the net. Curses. Back to 'Food Styling - What Not To Do' for my next food post.

Rounded out with my mother-in-laws 600 dozen mini party pies and sausage rolls (there were a lot), my mums mini quiches and some pre-delegated salads, mains were done.

Dessert was another thing altogether. I had asked my cakemeister pal Georgia to do me the honor of a birthday cake. When she requested a meeting to discuss everything from flavor, color, frosting versus icing, size, candles, cake decorations and desired sweetness, and arrived at the front door with enough cookbooks and magazines to start a specialty bookstore, I knew she was serious about the job, and therefore the right girl for same.

We decided on a Fruit Tingle cake as seen here. Be warned: it is extremely sweet. But oh so, well, sweet. Perfect for a first birthday party. I have to say Georgia's effort was superb, particularly as she made matching cupcakes to make sure there was enough for everyone.

I made my mini pavlovas with cream and a berry coulis and some of Jamie Oliver's chocolate cheesecake brownies using gluten-free flour. My beautiful neighbor Jen made a dynamite Baked Lemon Cheesecake. Add Honey Joys, Coconut Ice and Chocolate Crackles and really, would you rather be any place else on a sunny February afternoon?

Happy Birthday Nellie!

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