Sunday, 8 August 2010

Family buffet

Had a mass family gathering at mine this weekend. Given the number of people and the amount my family eats, a buffet was the only viable option. An additional complication was that my aunt is a vege, so coming up with a meat-free selection added an interesting curve ball to my usual thought process. The buffet ended up as:
  • Strawberry and rocket salad
  • Broad bean frittata
  • Tomato bruschetta
  • Chips, crudites and dips - smoky roast aubergine, green pea, garlicky butter bean
  • Quesadillas - re-fried beans and mature cheddar and red onion marmalade and Cheshire cheese versions
  • Cheese and pesto wheels
  • Courgette carpaccio
I think the food went down pretty well, I was surprised by the lack of left-overs I had to choose from. Also I forget that this is a blog and people can read it and one of those people is my sister. She had guessed what was going to be on offer before I even had it on the table. I think I still managed to pull a few surprises out of the back though!

Also kudos to my sister who provided an ace beetroot chocolate cake for afters. It was demolished in moments; always a good sign.

Ah yes, then there's the issue of the photos. Not my best work, I'll admit, but I was caught in the eternal blogging conundrum of taking pictures and playing host. I want to take pictures and yet there are starving hordes salivating on the carpet and baying at the kitchen door demanding to be fed. How does one satisfy ones own needs whilst simultaneously pleasing guests? I'm not sure there's an answer to this one.

Courgette carpaccio

I was doubtful about raw courgettes. I was glad to be proved wrong by this elegant platter.

Strawberry and rocket salad

"Strawberries. In a salad?" silently questioned the collective cocked eyebrows. This doubt was rebuffed by this ridiculously tasty (yet incredibly simple) salad.

Broad bean frittata
This would definitely have been better slightly warm. I couldn't believe how much it shrank as it cooled. And before you say it, yes, I did slightly over cook the onions...

Dips - smoky roast aubergine, green pea, garlicky butter bean

I only made a small amount of the aubergine dip as I'm not a fan of baba ganoush, but I should have made LOADS! The smoked paprika made this phenomenally tasty. Definitely one to keep in the repertoire. The pea dip was refreshing and the butter bean dip was just a humous replacement (butter beans, garlic, lemon, olive oil) albeit remarkably smooth.

And finally, yet by no means least, the magnificent beetroot chocolate cake from my sister.

She showed me a picture of the batter which was deep crimson. It's a shame that colour didn't keep through the baking process. Guess that means I'll just have to make a red velvet cake...

Anyway, on to the recipes:

Courgette carpaccio (recipe from English Patis)

500g courgettes (about 4 courgettes)
Parmesan shavings
Parsley, finely chopped
For the dressing:
5tbsp olive oil
3tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1tsp wholegrain mustard
1tsp honey

1. Wash and dry the courgettes. Using a sharp vegetable peeler, shave the courgettes lengthwise into ribbons.
Tip: Peel one side until you get to the seeds, rotate 180° then peel the other side. Finally rotate 90° and peel the sides off (each piece should be bordered by green skin).
2. Mix all ingredients for the dressing together by shaking in a jar. Pour over the courgette ribbons. Stir and mix carefully. Arrange on a platter.
3. Refrigerate for an hour or two to allow the flavours to develop.
4. When ready to serve, top with shavings of Parmesan and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.

Strawberry and rocket salad (taken from this recipe from ProCook)

1 punnet Strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 bag rocket
Balsamic vinegar
½ red onion, sliced finely
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Briefly (~30-60s) blanch the red onion in a pan of boiling water. Dry on kitchen paper.
2. Place strawberries, rocket and onion in a salad bowl. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and toss to coat.
3. Season to taste with pepper.

Broad bean and feta fritatta (taken from this Valentine Warner recipe)

7oz small broad beans (podded weight)
2tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, peeled, chopped
6 large free-range eggs
100g feta cheese, crumbled
small bunch fresh mint

1. Cook the broad beans in a pan of boiling, salted water for 2-3 minutes, or until tender. Drain well, then refresh in cold water. When the beans are cool enough to handle, peel away the outer membranes.
2. Heat the oil in a small ovenproof frying pan over a low heat. Add the onion and season with a pinch of salt flakes. Fry for 8-10 minutes, or until softened but not coloured.
3. Meanwhile, preheat the grill to its highest setting. In a bowl, whisk the eggs until well combined and full of air, then season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
4. When the onions have softened, increase the heat to medium and pour in the beaten eggs. Sprinkle over the crumbled feta, mint leaves and cooked broad beans. Leave the pan on the heat for 2-3 minutes, or until the underside of the egg mixture is pale golden-brown.
Note: Do not stir the mixture.
5. Transfer the pan to the grill and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, or until the top side of the egg mixture is firm and pale golden-brown.
6. Place a large plate upside-down over the pan, then turn the pan over so that the fritatta falls onto the plate.

Smoky roast aubergine dip
(recipe from Cook Sister)

1 large aubergine
½ red onion, finely chopped
1 or 2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
Handful of flat-leaf parsley
¼tsp smoked paprika
2-3tbsp plain yoghurt
Olive oil

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Cut the aubergine in half lengthways, brush the cut sides with olive oil and place skin-side down on a baking sheet. Roast for about 20mins or until the cut flesh starts to turn brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
2. Fry the onion and garlic in olive oil. Once soft add the paprika and fry for a further minute.
3. When the aubergines are cool enough to touch, either scoop the flesh out of the skins.
4. Place the aubergine flesh, cooled onion mix and flat-leaf parsley in a food processor and pulse to a chunky paste.
5. Spoon the mixture into a bowl, add the yoghurt and mix well. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Green pea dip (taken from this James Martin recipe)

1lb frozen peas, defrosted and drained
½ red onion, finely chopped
Garlic clove, finely chopped
1 small bunch fresh mint leaves
4oz plain yoghurt
½ red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
1tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
1 lime, juice only
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Place the peas, onion, garlic and mint leaves into a food processor and blend to a thick purée.
2. Add the yoghurt and blend again, leaving the mixture slightly lumpy.
3. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the chilli, cumin, coriander and lime juice and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
4. Spoon into a serving bowl and drizzle with the olive oil.

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