The long weekend meant that I had some spare time on my hands so what better way to spend it then by slaving for a day in the kitchen so I could have friends over for dinner? For some this might seem too much like hard work yet is the perfect way to spend a day for me. Everything turned out lovely even though I don’t think dessert quite came together as per the recipe.
To start with we had a Caramelised leek, chevre & sage tart, the recipe was in a recent Gourmet Traveller & can be found here. I love the combination of leek & goats cheese & have made many different variations on this classic recipe over the years, this one was particularly good & I got to use some fresh sage from my newish herb garden.
Next up was a warming Basque Style Seafood stew from Allan Campion & Michele Curtis’ book ‘Food with Friends’. I love this book as most of the recipes are quite simple yet impressive at the same time. This one was brilliant in that you make the base first & then all you need to do when your guests are there is heat it up & add the seafood so there is not too much time wasted in the kitchen where you might miss out on the potentially juicy conversation in the other room! The smoky paprika, saffron & red onions really gave it a Spanish flavour & some crusty bread to mop up the juices made it more than enough to fill our bellies to bursting.
Desserts were these warm chocolate-espresso fondants also from Gourmet Traveller, the recipe again can be found on-line here. Again most of the prep was done in advance so I just had to put them together before baking in the oven and in the end although they tasted pretty good I don’t think it quite worked for me, the batter was very thick & as a result the sides didnt seal properly around the oozy centre & they also didn’t rise much so I only got 4 puddings where the recipe stated 6 & I used a smaller mould than stated. Still as I said, delish though I wont be making this one again.
For those of you who would love to try the stew which I very highly recommend, here is the recipe, note - I omitted the crabs & I only added half of the almonds which I think was heaps.
Basque-style seafood stew
60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
2 Spanish onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 small red chillies, deseeded & diced
2-3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
12 saffron threads, infused in 2 tablespoons boiling water
250ml (1 cup) white wine
750ml (3 cups) chicken or fish stock
1 x 400g can tomatoes
500g pipis or mussels
500g firm white fish fillets, cut into chunks
18 green prawns, peeled & de-veined
2 red capsicum, roasted, peeled & sliced
150g blanched almonds, chopped
salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Heat a large heavy based saucepan over medium heat. Add oil & onion & cook for 4-5 minutes until soft. Add garlic & chillies & cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add bay leaves, paprika, saffron & white wine. Bring to the boil & reduce by half. Add stock & tomatoes, bring to the boil, then reduce heat & simmer for 15 minutes. Set aside until ready to serve.
Wash pipis or mussels & remove beards. If using live crabs, freeze for 1 hour to put them to sleep. Cut each crab into quarters, leaving claws attached. Rinse each piece under cold running water to remove innards. Drain well & refrigerate until needed along with fish & prawns.
Reheat sauce, check seasoning, add capsicum & almonds. Once boiling, add crabs, cook for 3 minutes & then add pipis or mussels and prawns. Cook for 2 minutes then add fish & cook for 1 minute. Season to taste. Sprinkle with parsley, serve in large bowls with crusty bread to mop up all of the juices.