Sunday, 10 June 2007

A Winter Gathering

I'm not the sort of cook that is naturally suited to fiddly creations. I'm happiest standing at the stove over something hearty that requires minimal utensils, pots and fuss. Yet this weekend I found myself up to my arms in hors d'oeuvres to celebrate The Writer's recent birthday and farewell him as he heads back to the UK. I can’t say I disliked it. If anything it's left me eagerly looking forward to catering for his welcome home party.

Tartlets of feta, cherry tomatoes with oregano
Tartlets of smoked salmon and crème fraiche with dill
Risotto slices topped with pesto and goats curd
Miniature sausage rolls

Lemon filled sponge cake with a citrus and mascarpone frosting

To spare ourselves a night in the kitchen we made a few small purchases; pork and chive dumplings, dolmades, dips, nuts. At 4am when the last platter had been cleared the sight of those freshly steamed pork and chive dumplings gave me intense delight.

Tartlets of feta, cherry tomatoes with oregano waiting to be whipped into the oven

Tartlets of smoked salmon and crème fraiche with dill

I was expecting the sort of disasters that usually eventuate when catering for large groups but was blessed to only have a few minor hiccups; finding myself covered in flour ten minutes before people started arriving, a baking paper lined tray that caught ablaze and a soy sauce spillage that necessitated a quick costume change. All small things when the only work I had that evening was to put a few trays in the oven and top up my glass. Certainly nothing to leave me wishing I’d called in the caterers.

All of these recipes require minimal preparation and rely on the quality of the ingredients but if you insist on making your own pastry (which I rarely do) then I recommend the below recipe for puff pastry. It can be quite temperamental so I'd suggest trialling the recipe before the big event or simply do as I do and buy ready made sheets!

Shortcut Puff Pastry

3 tbps butter melted
3/4 cup (150g) cubed butter (keep it in the freezer until needed)
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 iced cup water

Combine the melted butter, flour, salt and water until it roughly comes together to form a dough. Dot over the cubed butter but do not combine through at this stage. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Very lightly flour your counter and roll out the dough. If the dough becomes sticky chill again for 20 minutes. Fold over each side into the middle then fold in half so you have three layers. Chill. Place dough at right angles to previous position and roll out again only rolling in a left and right direction. Repeat the folding process and chill. Then complete one more rolling and folding process. This process should take about an hour including chilling times. Wrap and chill until required for use. When you're ready to use roll out to 4mm thickness and pre-heat oven to 220C.

For the feta and tomato tartlets I cut these into small circles and topped with a feta, a halved cherry tomato and a sprinkling of oregano. I used the remainder for a batch of spicy sausage rolls.


Lucy said...

Lovely - those feta tarts look gorgeous.

Cindy said...

Truffle, I could gorge myself on party snacks like those! You've excelled at one of my greatest weaknesses.

Nora B. said...

Sounds like a terrific menu, Truffle. esp. since it's fuss free. The tartlets look great - I would probably end up eating a few of those even before my guests arrive :-)

Truffle said...

Lucy- Thanks! They're so simple to put together but have such lovely vibrant colours I think.

Cindy- I am the same! I'm known to overdo it on party food. Thanks so much :)

Nora B- Thanks for the kind words. I did do a little trial run to sample a few items in the name of quality control :)

Little Foodie said...

Perfect! I love bitesize food. What am I saying? I love all food. Except celery that is.

Anonymous said...

I was there and I can vouch for the wonderful taste of the food. The sausage rolls were very tasty. Plus we also drank a bathtub of booze.

Anh said...

Truffle, you have done a fantastic job! I love small food like these. Would even make them for myself! :D

Susan said...

Beautiful results. You were wise to purchase some of the offerings. I once underestimated the time, blood, sweat and tears for a number of home made hors d'oeuvres for a New Year's Eve party. Never worked so hard, messed up so many kitchen tools... Almost missed the stroke of midnight!

katiez said...

Looks/sounds like a great bash!
I've really been getting into the wonders of puff pastry lately...however, I'm not about to make my own. If I ever decide to I'll know where to look ;-)

Cynthia said...

Truffle, I am so happy to discover your blog! Thanks for taking the time to visit mine and leave such an enthusiastic comment.

Sounds like you had a great party and the food looks superb.

I've added you to my blog roll and feeds so that I never miss another of your posts.

Helen said...

Terrific menu! How did the cake turn out?

mutemonkey said...

Gorgeous little smoked salmon tarlets, truffle! The one in the centre of the photograph looks nicest of all :)

Truffle said...

Amanda- I am the same. The great thing about bite size is that you have room to try more items which can only be a good thing!

Tim- Thanks very much! I am trying to forget the bathtub of booze. Oh dear!

Anh- Thanks. I'm tempted to do the same sometimes!

Susan- Sounds like a very stressful night! I had a criteria of only cooking things that needed no more than heating in the oven once guests arrived. Nothing worse than being stuck in the kitchen all night!

Katiez- I'm really enjoying puff pastry at the moment too. You're a wise woman. I've never had a problem with the ready bought stuff and I'd much rather spend my kitchen time on the fillings.

Cynthia- Thanks so much for the kind words. I'll be following your posts too.

Thanks Helen! The cake was light (apart from the frosting!) and lemony and there is none left which I'm taking as a good sign :)

Thanks mutemonkey! That's lovely of you to say.

The Gourmand said...

Im glad you enjoy entertaining crowds. I have vowed to never do it again after my last attempt. I hosted a dinner party for a friends birthday last month. By the time the guests arrived, I was so stressed out, all I wanted to do was get very drunk! Luckily my beloved Mike, came to rescue and saved the entire event by literally throwing me out of the kitchen! Admittedly the menu was on the difficult side- homemade pumpkin ravioli served in crystal clear consomme, followed by balsamic roasted duck with a red wine jus. Not the easiest of menus to serve to a crowd..Once again thankyou Mikey.