Tag Archives: roasted butternut

Thoughts on Cooking + Celebrating

27 Nov

YUM!Yesterday was our Thanksgiving. What a wonderful night – and all my favourite F’s in one place: friends, family and food! We had a great time, and it was truly a moment to sit, laugh, love, eat and be thankful. And it was a day to truly indulge in the pleasures of cooking. I was thinking about it, and while some of the dishes were specific to an autumn feast, most of the guidelines and the menu structure are applicable to just about any celebration.

When making a big meal for a group of people, I like to think about what I will cook, and then go shopping. I try and shop and cook according to these few guidelines:

  • I try and make sure that I wont be completely bound by my initial menu ideas. If something at the shops strikes me as being particularly beautiful and fresh, then I adjust, change tack, re-imagine. Flexibility is all. If I want to make a raspberry tart, but the blueberries or strawberries look much better, well then, I just change the recipe!
  • I look for a certain flavour and richness balance when I am cooking many dishes – sweet, savoury, light, creamy, indulgent, healthy. Making everything with cream and butter for example just makes a meal in which people cant really enjoy it all – too rich everything cancels out the pleasure. But a few really rich dishes counterpointed by sharp, savoury, fresh – now thats something special!
  • I try and find a colour balance – browns and beiges need to be tempered with green, red, purple, orange. Fruit and vegetables come in such a gorgeous array of colours and texture. Big meals are the perfect time to take advantage of such variety.
  • I make sure to make enough – but not too much. One of my biggest problems as a cook is that I used to make such immense amounts of food that people got overwhelmed. Now, I try and make enough so that people can go back for seconds, but not enough so they will be uninterested in dessert. We had about 15 people at dinner. I made garlic mashed potatoes with 9 large spuds instead of 15 – because there were so many dishes, each person had a good amount of the mash, but there wasnt a huge amount left over.
  • I like to have what I consider a taste thread running through the meal. This might mean one component which I add to most dishes – sometimes as a highlight, other times as a flavour enhancer. Most of the time people dont spot the taste thread, but I know its there, and I know that it really connects all the disparate elements of the meal. In the case of our Thanksgiving Dinner menu, I caramelise-roasted about 7 heads of garlic. And I used that garlic in just about everything! I also added maple syrup to quite a few dishes as a sweetener, but also as a secondary taste thread. It worked for me!
  • I pay attention to where I am – when cooking here in Malaysia, I look to make some things with a little nod to our Asian tastes. So the cranberries were made into a chutney with a healthy dose of chili. And the butternut was roasted in a soy sauce-sesame oil marinade tempered with maple syrup. Context is important.
  • And finally, for me, the number of dishes is important. I always try and present an odd number of dishes. I dont know why this is important to me, but it is. Its part of how I imagine a meal and I always try and cook an odd number of things. May be its Malaysian custom – I know when making traditional meals with rice and curry and accompaniments, we always try and make an odd number of dishes. When getting married, the gifts the bride and groom give each other have to have an odd number. Whatever it is, wherever it comes from, it works for me!

So given those guidelines, here is what I prepared for Thanksgiving Dinner.

  • Mushroom pot pie – three different kinds of mushrooms, parsnips, leeks, caramelised garlic, red wine, quark/cream, covered with a home made puff pastry
  • Wasabi mustard cream – a savoury whipped cream with wasabi, mustard, and spring onions instead of a gravy – the sharpness and brightness of the wasabi and mustard giving a kick to the rest of the meal, and was inspired by my amazing horseradish quenelle with the mushroom pot pie at Per Se
  • Roasted Butternut – a whole butternut, skin on, halved and sliced thinly, and tossed in a marinade of soy sauce, maple syrup, sesame oil, fresh sage and olive oil. Roasted until darkly caramelised and gorgeous.
  • Rocket Salad – A fresh simple green salad of rocket leaves and avocado. A refreshing breath of clean green.
  • Cranberry Chili Chutney – cranberries cooked thick and jewel like with chutney spices, a touch of maple syrup, an onion, and a few caramelised garlic cloves
  • Braised brussels sprouts – from my earlier recipe – I used 5 cups of brussels sprouts, halved, with 1/2 cup of cream and a tablespoon of maple syrup. The sweetness of the maple syrup elevated the rich creamy nuttiness of the brussels sprouts beautifully!
  • Caramelised Garlic Mashed Potatoes – unabashedly rich and creamy – a stick of butter, cream, half a cup of caramelised garlic, creamed with three different kinds of potato. Lots of salt and pepper, and the final dish was probably the best mash I have ever made!
  • Cornbread Stuffing – the cornbread was made with maple syrup instead of sugar, and combined with sauteed leeks and spinach, toasted pine nuts and a small handful of chopped caramelised garlic. Combined with eggs, milk and grated parmesan and baked in a large shallow pan. The gold green combination was very pretty.
  • Cheddar Cheese Scones – because I love them so much, and couldnt resist. Such a quick delicious bread.
  • Passion Fruit Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream – refreshing and yet creamy – a wonderful end to the meal
  • Raspberry Tart – gorgeous lush tart with a pistachio crust, bittersweet chocolate cream, raspberries and a vanilla whipped cream. Decorated with pretty purple edible flowers. It was, if I may say so myself, really stunning

And there you have it… 11 dishes, prepared over the course of two days. A wonderful feast for beloved friends. I hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving too. Much love x

 

Birthday Dinner!

23 Aug

Tonight was my beloved sister’s birthday dinner. It was a feast of feasts. I am so full I can barely type, let alone remember all the recipes! So am going to let the pictures do the talking. I will post recipes soon, I promise! Happy Birthday beloved MZ!

By the way, I decided that everything was going to be served cold or at room temperature except for the mushroom pie, which came hot from the oven. It is a hot humid summer’s day, and it was just so much nicer to eat things that were not burning hot. I also found that this really enhanced flavour… things just taste better, in my opinion, when they are not at extremes of temperature (the only exception to this is of course ice cream)… room temperature lets the full flavour come out undisturbed.

Hope you enjoy these pictures as much as we enjoyed the meal – family, friends, laughter and a whole lot of love.

Broccolini with lemon and almonds

Broccolini – very easy, and astoundingly delicious. Toasted almonds. Broccolini (basically baby broccoli with little flowers) given a boiling water bath for a mere minute or two until just tender. Cooled for a moment in ice water. Then dunked into about 1/3 cup olive oil + juice + grated rind of a lemon. Bit of salt and pepper. Toss with almonds and refrigerate overnight. The almonds make this dish really nutty and beautiful, and the lemon makes it bright and sparkly.

Roasted Butternut + Arugula

Roasted butternut on a bed of arugula. A simple olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper dressing sparingly poured over the top. Strewn with sprouts, which I dislike, but which the birthday girl adores!

Parsnip Mash with Truffle Oil

Parsnip mash with truffle oil and cracked black pepper…. easy peasy. Peeled, sliced parsnips, simmered in milk. When soft, drained, mashed with a bit of the reserved milk, some butter, salt and cracked black pepper. About a tablespoon of white truffle oil mixed in at the end. Sublime and silken.

Honey glazed carrots

Gorgeous organic carrots – honey glazed, with a touch of cinnamon and a heap of butter. A little burnt, and a lot delicious. Our Mum’s recipe…

Heirloom tomatoes

Chopped heirloom tomatoes, slicked with olive oil, salt + pepper, and chopped parsley and basil from the garden. So goood!

Fig, ricotta + goat's cheese tart

A fig tart from my imagination that turned out beautifully! A walnut crust, with a ricotta + mascarpone base. Sweet wine poached figs, sliced and stuffed with goat’s cheese. It was REALLY good. I will post the recipe tomorrow!

For the Birthday Woman!

Personalised mushroom pie 😉 Portobello, white button, shiitake, and truffle oil, bound with a bit of sour cream, panko and fresh parmesan, baked in a puff pastry crust.

:)

And finally a blackout birthday cake, with lashings of fresh cream.

Happy Happy Birthday to my most beloved sister. You are my heart 🙂