I love hosting dinner parties, and what better excuse to combine great food, and great friends with a great company! This is the 3rd year that Yuppiechef is hosting a cookathon. The first year I made Jool’s Pregnant Pasta from Jamie Oliver’s Recipe Book and I managed the entire 3 courses in the 30 minutes he does. Last year we made dishes for the Enkosi Cookathon and even though my mielie pap did not work as the recipe was not right, it was a great challenge. This year we were given 9 dishes to choose from and we had to make 2 in order to be a part of The Jolly Cookathon.
I never have a two course dinner party, and so I chose three recipes from Andy Fenner’s latest cookbook, Taking it Easy. I always start with dessert and I decided to try a sugar free base for Michael Broughton’s milk chocolate and hazelnut bar. Unfortunately that did not work even though I did not use fructose, and so I decided to do the recipe as is. I was not very happy with the way the base worked out. I took it out of the oven when it was slightly crisp as the recipe stated, but it cracked and was very soft. I left it to cool before deciding to place it back in the heated oven for a further 2 minutes baking and as my oven cools very quickly, I left it in the oven to cool. This worked better and I placed the base on my round cake stand before moving on to the mousse, of which I made a sugar free version. This was easy to do, and I managed to get the mousse onto the base without too much fuss, but I did not flatten it out properly as my base was slightly bigger than the indentation of the stand, and I did not want it to crack further. Also, I did not want the mousse to run over the edges. After rearranging my fridge so that the cake stand could fit in it, I left the mousse in it overnight to chill. The following day I made the glaze topping. Not realizing that I did not have enough leaf gelatine I used powdered gelatine. The glaze worked amazingly well, and as I had sloped my mousse it was easy to get on, and needed no help to run down the sides perfectly. I only used a third of the glaze so for the next couple of weeks, all my cakes will be topped with this. Of course, I did not read the recipe through before starting and I see it was meant to be done in a rectangle shape! And served with caramel ice cream and toasted hazelnuts. I made a quick caramel and a quick ice cream and mixed them together and froze it until I was ready to serve dessert. The dessert is divine, and I will make a version of this again to wow dinner guests.
While the base for the dessert was baking, I moved on to the starters. I decided to make one of the main courses as an appetizer and chose Reuben Riffel’s gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce. I fudged the recipe a bit and prepared the gnocchi by feel as I had slightly over 200g of ricotta and I did not know how to halve an egg yolk exactly. I added all the Parmesan called for in the recipe, and 3 tablespoons of the semolina. Rolling it out was easy and I cleaned my knife in semolina each time it became sticky. If this is how gnocchi is meant to feel when making it then I am going to try again and perfect my recipe. These were placed very carefully in layers and into the fridge overnight. I made the sauce with slightly more Gorgonzola than called for, using a locally made cremenzola which is the same style of cheese. It was absolutely divine and I left it on a low heat while cooking off the gnocchi in batches. I used a rough semolina and I think that it was not the right choice as there was a slight bite to the gnocchi. Next time I will use my pasta flour as they were otherwise really good.
The main course was an easy choice for me as I loved Liam Tomlin’s Singapore chicken when we had it at the opening of Liam Tomlin Food. I used a huge whole chicken I got from Lazena, which was enough for 4 of us for dinner and left overs for Dave and I for another supper. I made my own stock using Nomu Liquid Fond. For the flavour additions to the stock I did not have white peppercorns and used a teaspoon of ground white pepper instead. The only thing I found confusing was in the instructions for the rice – it is impossible to get the rice started using the poaching liquid from the chicken while you are still poaching the chicken. I poured off 500mls of the chicken stock for my rice before I started cooking the chicken. I made all the ‘sofrito’ for the rice, but only made 200g of rice (1 cup) as that would be more than enough for 4 of us. I started off the rice according to the recipe but then continued with it as I would normally make my rice by adding the stock to the rice, bringing it to the boil and then covering and leaving it on the turned off plate to steam. This recipe has never failed me and the rice was perfect and tasty. For my long grain choice I used basmati rice.
For the togarashi dressing I substituted the peanut oil with apricot kernel oil as that is what I had in my grocery cupboard and at the moment I am not eating peanuts. I also only used 1 red chilli as I had a very large and very hot one to use. The sauce was super hot and I will make it again, but without all the cayenne. I used my Asian dressing for my plate, which worked really well with the flavours. However, when I heated up the left overs I added a teaspoon of the togarashi dressing and this uplifted the flavour a lot. This dish was complimented by the Chinese spice salt. The recipe makes far more than you need, but as I love Szechuan pepper and the effect it has on your tongue (like sherbet) I will use it again and again.
With the table set – wine opened, wine glasses, water glasses, a water jug with lime and mint, flowers in vases and the candles lit, I took some time out to relax before our guests arrived. We had a super evening, it was relaxed and no rush and Gina and Alex took loads of photos. A Jolly time was had by all.