Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mid Week Dinner with the inlaws

Once a fortnight, Michaels parents come over for dinner which means I am catering for 8 people after I finish work. This is much easier in Winter when hearty stews can be thrown together, left to bubble away & easily stretch to 8 people. In summer I find it more of a challenge & lately haven’t been inspired by my results all that much. This weeks dinner however was really good. I made Jamie Oliver’s Italian ham & spinach tart from Jamie at home & it was pretty amazing, the pastry was lovely & the addition of rosemary lent that little bit extra I thought. I’m no pastry snob & quite often use frozen pastry especially when in a hurry but really there is no comparison to home made. It’s really not that difficult or time consuming either apart from the fact that you have to freeze/refrigerate in between steps. To make things easier I made the pastry on the weekend & froze it so I just had to thaw it out & roll it before blind baking & filling. The filling for the tart was quite different to the norm too, using sour cream (or crème fraiche as the recipe specifies if you want to spend that little extra and can find it), instead of normal pouring cream. The contrast between the savoury pastry, sweet, slow cooked red onions & the tangy creamy, cheesy filling was perfect. If you have access to the book/recipe, please try this one out.

I also loved making this & upon pondering what is my favourite cooking method I have come to the conclusion that baking definitely wins, whether it be savoury or sweet, I find it very satisfying, second comes anything sweet & third all of the other savoury dishes out there. This decision might be influenced by the fact that I’m pregnant now & love all things sweet, cant really muster up any enthusiasm for eating any sort of meat & just haven’t been that interested in cooking dinner at all which of course is quite different to my normal self.

For dessert I knocked up these strawberry cheese cakes perfect for a hot summers day when you don’t want to turn the oven on (though I did use mine a little for the tart this night).

Individual Strawberry cheesecakes

200g butternut snaps
150g butter, melted
500g philly cream cheese, softened
80g icing sugar
250ml thickened cream
4 teaspoons vanilla essence

Fresh strawberries to serve

Grease & line 8 x ½ cup capacity muffin tins. Crush the biscuits in a food processor until they resemble fine breadcrumbs, add melted butter & combine. Press this mixture into the tins & refrigerate until firm.

Beat remaining ingredients for 8-10 minutes until smooth & creamy. Fill cases with cheese mixture, top with strawberries, remove from tins & remove paper & serve.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Happy 2nd Birthday Chloe!

Chloe’s 2nd birthday is this Friday & to celebrate we gave her a nice little party on Valentines Day to celebrate.

Without about 30 or so guests plus little people to cater for I went the bbq option as I thought it would be the easiest & give me the most time to enjoy everything too. Some of my homemade smoked trout dip (which is now my favourite), hummus, Mexican dip, olives & stuffed bell peppers kept everyone happy nibbling until the ‘meat’ course. I kept it very simple too with a range of sausages & home made hamburgers, some corn cobs on the grill & a few salads on the side. This way I could concentrate on knocking up some fabulous desserts in the morning.

The main attraction was Nigella’s Chocolate Raspberry heart cake which is from Feast, the Valentines Day chapter no less. Mind you, the cake was chosen for the chocolate (Chloe's favourite food of all ) & wow factors rather than the coincidence that the party was also on Valentines day. It looked great & lots of little hands were trying to get their hands on it but we managed to save it for Chloe & the candles to get to first, as you can see from the photo she was quite happy & I was happy it turned out so well too.

I also made a batch of fairy cakes which went down well with the kids who don’t seem to need anything fancy & for the adults I made this fabulous lemon & blueberry trifle, definitely my favourite for the day. I think trifle is hugely underrated & people have notions in their head of trifles of the old days with custard & jelly & not necessarily any good. With some quality ingredients, not only does trifle taste wonderful, have endless possibilities for flavour variations, but its also damn easy to make, this one is staying on my ‘for keeps’ recipe folder to be made again for sure

For now Chloe is happy spending her birthday week playing on her 8 in one double slide/playset we hired for a week for the party & waiting for more presents & chocolate cake on her ‘real birthday’ this Friday.