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Category Archives: Having A Dinner Party?

Everything you need to know about pulling off the perfect dinner party or entertaining guests.

Strawberry & Pistachio Tarts

I hate making pastry. If I can get it from the frozen food section at the supermarket, why would I bother with the mixing, kneading, rolling, blah, blah, blah, right?

But sometimes, you just NEED to make pastry from scratch otherwise the recipe just isn’t the same. This is one of those recipes.

If you are lazy pressed for time, then I’m sure this delectable tart will be pleasantly acceptable with some pre-made frozen shortcrust pastry. But if you want a va-va-voom, toe-curling, eye-rolling explosion in your mouth, make it from scratch. I promise I will never force you to do it again.

I used Ina Garten’s recipe. Ina’s recipe calls for pretty, shelled and halved pistachios. I pounded the crap out of mine in a bag with a rolling pin for a little more texture. Between the sweet berries, crumbly buttery pastry and crunch of the pistachios, this is a great recipe for when you want to impress and worth the extra effort.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 tablespoons cold shortening (recommended: Crisco)
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 2 cups Pastry Cream, recipe follows
  • 2 pints whole strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 1/3 cup apricot jelly
  • 3 tablespoons shelled pistachios, halved, optional

Method

  1. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a small bowl and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Put the flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and shortening and pulse about 10 times, or until the butter is in the size of peas. Add the ice water and process until the dough comes together. Dump on a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. Roll out the dough and fit into 4 (4 1/2-inch) tart pans with removable sides. Don’t stretch the dough when placing it in the pans or it will shrink during baking. Cut off the excess by rolling the pin across the top of each pan. Line the tart shells with a piece of buttered aluminum foil, butter side down, and fill them with dried beans or rice. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and foil, prick the bottom of the shells all over with a fork, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
  4. Before serving, fill the tart shells with the pastry cream. Arrange the berries decoratively on top of the cream. Melt the apricot jelly with 1 teaspoon of water and brush the top of the tarts. Sprinkle with pistachios, if using, and serve.

Pastry Cream:

  • 5 extra-large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups scalded milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon Cognac
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, or until very thick. Reduce to low speed, and add the cornstarch.
  2. With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes. Don’t be alarmed when the custard comes to a boil and appears to curdle; switch to a whisk and beat vigorously. Cook, whisking constantly, for another 2 minutes; the custard will come together and become very thick, like pudding. Stir in the vanilla, Cognac, butter, and heavy cream. Pour the custard through a sieve into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold.
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The Perfect Cheese Platter & Xmas Lunch, Aussie Style.

As much as I love the concept of a white Christmas with a big feast with a traditional turkey and ham, etc, I have recently come to the conclusion that Christmases Down Under are pretty freakin awesome.

Being summer in the land down under during the festive season, many families will no doubt sit down to a traditional turkey dinner, despite the fact that it’s a million degrees outside, the sidewalks are melting and the backyard looks like a burn out barren wasteland. There will be flies the size of your pupils, all the men in the family will be crowded around the TV watching sport and the smell of barbecued meat mingles with the scent of a distant bushfire. (Image source, left)

We spraypaint white “snow” on our windows , leave santa cookies and milk and are fascinated with American Christmas movies when our Christmas couldn’t be any more different.

Christmas feasts have  come a long way in Australia. Yes, many will have an elaborate roast dinner with all the trimmings, but many Aussies are taking advantage of our fresh, beautiful produce, seafood and great cuts of meat and putting together mouthwatering lunches and delectable dinners.

Ideas for Christmas dinner & lunch, Aussie style:

Aussie BBQ

  • A good old fashioned Aussie BBQ- complete with sausages, lean cuts of steak, hamburger patties, grilled onions, corn on the cob, marinated chicken skewers, prawns and fish fillets.
  • To accompany the fine array of BBQ offerings, there’s the customary selection of salads- potato salad, pasta salad, Greek salad and maybe a rice salad.
  • Desserts for the great Aussie Christmas BBQ include the good old fashioned pavlova (Image source, right), trifle, choc peppermint log and chocolate & coconut truffle balls.

Sit Down Lunch

Because Aussie Christmases tend to be ridiculously hot and stressful, your Christmas lunch hostess is not likely to want to be slaving over a hot oven and the guests aren’t likely to be wanting a heavy, hot lunch. So we often opt for a light lunch, full of fresh flavours rather than a heavy meal.

  • Grilled or bake fish (whole of fillets)- barramundi, snapper, salmon and tuna are popular choices. Also, you can’t go wrong with prawns, scallops and oysters if wanting to impress your Christmas guests. We are luckyto have fantastic fresh seafood here down under and the seafood needs minimal preparation and cooking time so you can focus on the sides and desserts. (Image source, right).
  • The easiest way to appeal to the appetites of your guests is to offer a selection of salads or vegetable sides. If serving seafood, I would serve a brown rice and vegetable salad with a citrus and dill dressing; wok stir fried ginger and garlic vegetables if serving Asian-inspired fish. A big green leafy salad never goes astray. Lemon and garlic sauteed potatoes are always a hit as well as a light spinach and walnut salad. The options are endless, but the idea is keep the flavours light, keep the texture light and you want lots of bright colour.
  • The perfect dessert for a light Christmas lunch would be  something like some merengue nests filled with fresh berries and whipped cream; layered berry trifles complete with sponge, custard and fresh fruit, a big fruit platter with honey cream or for a bit of tradition, but with minimal work- how about some brandy snaps filled with whipped cream?

Aussie Christmas Dinner

When the sun goes down on a sweltering Christmas day, the kids have tired themselves out  playing with their new toys and the house starts to fill with dinner guests,  who are undoubtably already exhausted and still stuff from the Christmas lunch they have already endured with their evil in-laws, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. So keep it simple, tasty and light to avoid going to bed like a stuffed turkey.

  • Chicken or beef  are popular options for a light dinner- something simple like a roasted chicken or a stuffed, rolled beef fillet or chicken breast are great, simple ideas that are very satisfying.
  • Roast chicken stuffed with mushroom, leeks and bacon is delish and so moreish, your guests will forget how filling lunch was.
  • If opting for seafood, a baked salmon with salsa verde makes a statement.
  • Marinated chicken breast served with a lovely mango salsa is light and fresh and perfect for summer.
  • A roulade- beef, chicken or even salmon, makes a stylish main course and the possibilities and combinations are endless. Plus, presentation is almost guaranteed to be impressive when plating up. (Image source,right)
  • For the vegeterians, consider a layered chargrilled vegetable terrine.
  • If you’re aching for a traditional turkey, try a different stuffing- walnut, raisin and sage; quince and pistachio; cranberry and walnut; pistachio and pancetta stuffing.
  • You can’t go wrong by finishing the evening with a fruit and cheese platter. For the perfect cheese platter, you need to choose a selection of cheeses with various textures. Choose creamy cheeses like Brie and Camembert, a sharp crumbly vintage cheddar, a peppercorn cheese for a bit of spice, blue cheese (if that’s your thing),  and perhaps a smoked cheese, or fruit cheese.
  • To ensure that your cheese platter is perfect, serve with muscatels, dried figs, grapes, slices of crisp pear and red apple, walnuts, quince paste, water crackers and lavash bread or something special like a walnut bread.
  • Be sure to serve your cheese at room temperature, don’t crowd the platter and ensure there is an individual knife for each cheese. (Image source, left)
 

Teriyaki Chicken Skewers with lime dipping sauce

Teriyaki Chicken DelishDinnersWith the Japanese cuisine explosion a few years, things like teriyaki, sushi and yaki soba, which had never been heard before suddenly became all the rage.

Now I know teriyaki has been done to death. Now we’ve all tried it and decided if we like it or not, the quest is on to find a fabulous teriyaki recipe.

If you’re the type of cook to pour your marinades out of a bottle, welcome to my world. However, occasionally, I like to be bold and try and impress my husband so he will buy me things.

This recipe was a hit last night. I suggest you give it a try next time you have your eye on a new pair of shoes that you want for your birthday.

The magic ingredient in this recipe is Mirin, which is a sweet rice Japanese cooking wine. If you cannot get Mirin, go for some sake mixed with sugar.

Ingredients for teriyaki sauce

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup Mirin

2 tbsp sugar

For skewers

4 chicken breasts, sliced lengthways, fat and junk removed

For dipping sauce

1/3 cup fresh lime juice

2 tsp lime zest, grated

1/3 cup toasted sesame oil (if you only have vegetable or olive, that will do)

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon sugar, to taste

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

2 tbsp water

Method
Pour all ingredients in a pan.

Stir the mixture well.

Put the pan on low heat and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Remove from the heat and cool the mixture.

Store the sauce in a clean bottle in the fridge.

When you’re ready to use the sauce, pour it into a bowl.

Add sliced chicken breast and mix to coat thoroughly.

For best results, marinate, covered in the fridge overnight. However, if you’re time-poor, marinate for 30 minutes in the fridge prior to cooking.

Thread chicken onto skewers. Some people like to do this before they marinate. The choice is yours.

Cook skewers on a hot grill, turning occasionally until cooked through. The sugar in the sauce will cause it to caramelise, then burn quickly. You will have crunchy sweet black bits on the chicken, this is my favourite part!

To make the dipping sauce, mix all the ingredients together and that’s all there is to it! Enjoy!

 

Caprese skewers


This recipe should make about 24 skewers and is perfect for a light snack, lunch or party!

Ingredients

1 cup (250 mL) balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp (15 mL) Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt

1/4 tsp (1 mL) freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup (75 mL) extra virgin olive oil

24 x baby bocconcini

1 pt grape tomatoes (red and yellow)

2 x large bunches basil

24 x 6-inch (15 cm) bamboo skewers

_____________

Method

1. In saucepan, over medium heat, bring balsamic vinegar to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until reduced to ½ cup (125mL). It will thicken as it cools.
2. In a bowl, whisk together reduced vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper.

3. Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking to combine.

4. Trim basil leaf if necessary, and wrap each boconccini. Skewer wrapped cheese and one grape tomato (alternate red and yellow tomatoes if using, for contrast). Serve with dipping sauce.

Recipe source

Image source

 

Fabulous cocktail party planner

This planner is just what you need when thinking about planning your cocktail party.

It has cocktail and nibble recipes, information on how to set up the bar, how to make your own funky little drink parasols with your own custom designs and musical inspiration to set the right mood.

The planner is in PDF format.

You can download the planner here, courtesy of www.marthastewart.com

Image source.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2006 in Having A Dinner Party?

 

Gorgeous place cards that will impress your guests

I know that one of the hardest things to do is come up with inventive ways to catch your guests eye when they are seated at your sparkling, dazzling dinner table for the dinner you’ve been furiously planning for weeks.

With summer upon us here in the Southern hemisphere, incorporating lots of fruit into meals, drinks and even your decorations is a fabulous way to freshen up your dinner party and lift everyone’s spirits.

Pick glossy, healthy fruits to place atop napkins- pears, apples, gorgeous lush plums or nectarines, anything with a stem looks gorgeous and stylish.

Choose a nice paper and hand-write your guests’ name- it is much more personal, rustic and lends a nice touch. Punch holes in the corner of the tags, thread some ribbon or twine through the hole and tie to the fruit stem.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2006 in Having A Dinner Party?

 

Blood Orange Champagne Cocktail

With the festive season here, chances are you’re going to be drinking. A lot. Bring the fruitiness of summer together with the fizz of festive champagne and enjoy this champagne cocktail.

2 1/2 cups freshly squeezed blood orange juice

2 750ml bottles of Champagne, chilled

Pour 3 tablespoons of blood orange juice into each champagne flute. Top flutes with the champagne and serve.

This recipe should serve 10-12 people or you and your best friend on a Friday night.  Heheheheh.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2006 in Dazzling Drinks, Having A Dinner Party?

 
 
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