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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cooking Lately

I can't say I have been most inspired in the kitchen lately...when life gets busy or hectic I tend to resort back to what I know and what I can make without a recipe and my slow-cooker.  However, I did have a few friends over for dinner last week and did a bit of a southern (USA) menu.

For starters I made hushpuppies with a spicy aioli and baked brie w/ maple syrup & walnuts.  Hushpuppies are basically fried cornbread, another southern favorite (so yummy).  I can't say they are very good for you but they sure do taste good!

The main dish was a South Carolina favorite 'shrimp and grits'.  Most Australians have never seen or tasted grits so I thought this would be fun to make.  I think they liked the taste and texture okay, but my portion sizes were a little large so I don't think anyone managed to clear their plate.  Sorry my pictures aren't great but basically it is sorta like a gumbo which you serve on top of the grits, which is like a creamy corn based porridge (savory).

I think our dessert may have been the best of my absolute favorite pies - keylime pie, although I could not find 'key' limes here in Australia so I just had to use regular limes and go figured I picked now when they are extremely expensive.  I think my 5 limes cost about $10... but the pie sure was good so I figured it was worth it.  It is also one of the easiest pies to make here is the recipe for anyone interested:

Key Lime Pie Recipe

1 pack of plain cookies/graham crackers (about 2 cups)
1/2 walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
125 grams melted butter (one stick)
Puree the first 3 ingredients until you have fine crumbs, then stir the butter into the mixture with a fork.  Mixture should be wet enough to then press into your pie dish or you can use a spring form pan.  Once you have formed the crust, bake it in the oven for 10 minutes.

4 egg yolks
1 can condensed milk
1/2 cup lime juice (about 4 limes)

Simply whisk these ingredients together until nice and smooth and pour into the crust.  Bake for 15-20 minutes on 180C/375F until pie has set.  Let the pie cool and then refrigerate.

For the topping I think fresh whipped cream is the best option mixed with a little mascarpone cheese and a couple of teaspoons of sugar.  Or I also tried mixing lemon curd in with the cream and it was divine.  You can also serve this pie with fresh berries and sprinkle with lime zest.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wedding Cake # Two

Lemon Vanilla Cake filled w/ Lemon Syrup, Lemon Curd & Vanilla Bean Mascarpone Custard Cream and Grand Marnier  Meringue Buttercream Frosting
My second wedding cake...made for dear friends Lucas & Lyl.  I thought it was pretty good considering I have never even had any cake classes (but I would be pretty keen to take one).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Orange & Almond Cake Recipe (gluten-free)

I have thoroughly enjoyed this orange cake recipe which I snagged from Delicious magazine last month.  I have altered it a little bit and also included a recipe for Mascarpone Vanilla Bean Custard...which is a great addition to this little cake, which I topped with candied kumquats.

Orange & Almond Cake

1 orange
3 eggs
100g sugar (I used organic rapadura sugar)
1 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Place the orange in a small saucepan and cover with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Simmer the orange for one hour, topping up water as needed.  Drain, cool slightly and whiz in a food processor until a puree.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
Beat the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.  Stir in the zest, vanilla, baking powder and almond meal, then add orange puree, stirring to combine.  Pour the batter into muffin tins, ramekins or a cake tin.  Bake 12-15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Mascarpone Vanilla Bean Custard

Making a base custard and adding to it has become one of my favorite recipes, this compliments all kinds of desserts and can so easily be flavored however you like.  It is also perfect to use for cake filling, pies, crumbles, parfaits and is also delicious right out of the bowl!

4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar (or a little more if you want it sweeter)
1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup mascarpone cream
1 cup whipped cream (optional)

Place milk and vanilla bean (scraped) in a small saucepan on low heat.  Meanwhile whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch.  Once the milk is hot, just before boil, strain it into the bowl with eggs.  Whisk together and put back in the pan over low heat.  Stir constantly until the custard begins to thicken and starts to boil.  Lower heat and stir quickly until thick and creamy.  Then remove from heat and let cool before placing in the fridge.

Once custard has cooled, whisk in the mascarpone and then fold in the whipped cream if you want a lighter texture.  Then you can add any additional flavors you want, such as lemon, berry liquors, cinnamon, etc.


Friday, September 30, 2011

Dinner at 'Quay'

What can I say my husband really out did himself this year...I could not have asked for a better surprise and experience, dinner at Sydney's number one restaurant 'Quay'!  It was amazing.  He also surprised me by organizing one of my dearest Aussie girl friends to come in from out of town (7 hours away) to be my dinner date.  Sam is a fellow foodie, so this was also a special treat for her.

Sam and I dolled ourselves up and headed out to Sydney's finest... Pete dropped us off and we kicked off the night with two delicious drinks, mine had to be one of the best cocktails I have ever had (some type of vanilla infused martini).  We also had perfect seats right by the window looking out over the water.

Next we chose our four courses...Sam was a fabulous dining partner and was happy to share everything, so we both really got to have eight different things.  For our first course we settled on a 'salad of rhubarb, endive, beetroot, purple carrot, rosa radish, kohlrabi, goat's curd, pomegranate molasses and violet' and the other was a tuna dish which I cannot remember everything in it, but it was very good.  The salad had so many different textures it was just a beautiful sensation of taste and textures in your mouth.  Yummy. (Unfortunately my picture don't do any justice to the food!)

For the second course we chose 'Slow cooked coturnix quail breats, pumpernickel, walnuts, quinoa, truffle, chestnuts and milk skin.'  This was absolutely melt in your mouth amazing...I had never had quail before and was pleasantly surprised, the combination on this plate were perfect.  Our other dish was a little harder to swallow but we managed, it was 'Gently poached southern rock lobster, golden tapioca, shaved squid, lobster velvet and pea flowers'.  I am not a huge seafood fan so was not too surprised that the squid was a little overpowering for my liking, the lobster was melt in your mouth delicious, but sadly we both had to leave the squid on the plate.

Our third course was definitely the favorite (other than dessert).  We had one dish that was a risotto with white asparagus, truffle cream and I can't remember what else I just know it was phenomenal!  I think I could probably say this dish was one of the most incredible things I have ever eaten.  The other dish was 'Berkshire pig jowl, maltose crackling, prunes, cauliflower cream, perfumed with prune kernel oil'  I don't normally eat pork, but on this occasion I thought I better give it a shot.  It was very rich, but all the flavours together really were beautiful.  But the risotto was definitely the winner (I know my picture does not make it look that great, but I promise it was amazing!!)

And alas there was ever awaited moment to try the 'real' Snow Egg!  As you might recall I attempted making this recipe at the end of last year and it was the hardest thing I have ever made.  Peter Gilmour (the chef) apparently changes the Snow Egg based on what fruits are in season, so I got to try the 'Jackfruit Snow Egg'.  The whole dessert experience is pretty incredible with the layers of texture and taste, but I think I would have to say the jackfruit flavor was not my favorite, it was by no means bad, just different and unfamiliar.
Our other dessert was the 'eight texture cake' which was absolutely divine, I think it will have to be my next major recipe attempt...I will keep you posted when I find the time to make this 8 recipe dessert that is seriously a chocolate lovers dream, it was the perfect thing to finish on.

It was an unforgettable evening indeed, so a big thank you to my husband and my dear friend Sam!  What a treat...and we even got to catch a glimpse of the chef himself (he came out to visit the table beside us).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

'The Winery'

I was absolutely spoiled this year for my birthday!  First I headed out to celebrate with 3 of my girlfriends who also have birthdays in the same week, we ended up at a place called 'The Winery' in Surry Hills.

It was absolutely fabulous.  Everything from the ambiance, to the drinks, the food and of course the company!  And it was very reasonably priced which made it even better.  We kicked off the evening with a jug of White Wine Sangria - chardonnay, cointreau, martini bianco, mint, lychee, lemon.  We were quite pleased when later on we realized all the jugs are half price on Sunday, we decided to order another one!  This time we got the Rose Wine Sangria - rose, strawberry, martini bianco, lemon.

For appetizers we shared the Stuffed Mushrooms with Ricotta, Pesto & Pine nuts, they were so good I decided to recreate my own version for tablenosh the following week.  We also shared the 'rock lobster salad' which was exceptional especially for the lobster lovers.
Pumpkin, Ricotta & Sage Ravioli
For mains, we decided to share 3 different things 'Champagne, Grape & Chicken Pie' (it was seriously the best pie I have ever had), 'Pumpkin, Ricotta & Sage Ravioli' and 'Barramundi in a Bag'.  They were all delicious but the pie was definitely my favorite.

And then there was the dessert...double chocolate brownie w/ fairy floss, cheesecake w/lime mascarpone and banana date butterscotch pudding w/ caramel ice cream!  Delicious!  It was indeed a fabulous night with the girls!
 banana date butterscotch pudding

Springtime Tablenosh Re-cap

Last Saturday night brought my second to last tablenosh dinner in Sydney!  I was a bit slower to finalize this menu but the recipes finally came together on the day.  The theme should have been 'S' because that seemed to be the common thread.  It was a family-style meal which worked really well and meant lots of great interaction around the table.

The Aperitif: Strawberry Mint Cocktail

Starters: Spicy Prawn Balls w/Coriander Dipping Sauce
              Stuffed Mushrooms with Ricotta, Pesto & Pinenuts

Mango, Avocado, Tomato & Feta w/ Cos Lettuce & Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
Baby Spinach w/ Caramelized Walnuts, Roasted Capsicum, Goats Cheese & Crispy Proscuitto
Main:  Baked Whole Snapper w/ Garlic & Herbs
            Baked Whole Snapper w/ Cherry Tomatoes, Lemon & Chives
            Garlic, Chili & Coriander Prawns
            Grilled Corn & Avocado Salsa
            Crispy Roasted Potatoes
            Pan-fried Asparagus

Desserts: Strawberry & Rhubarb Crumble
                 Chocolate Truffle Cake
                 Vanilla Bean Mascarpone Custard

I was quite pleased with the fish considering it was only my second time ever really cooking a whole fish, I think the guests were happy too!  They were whole snapper and I basically just stuffed them with different herbs and lemons and some garlic, very simple and easy.  The men at the table did a great job of figuring out how to cut them up, since I had no idea.

The evening was filled with lots of laughter and chatter, it was a great vibe and a great group of people.  I am still amazed it actually came together since I was off to an extremely late start with everything.  Thank goodness for my fabulous sous chef Jen, she was my backbone for the night.

We finished off the evening with tea and coffee and then a splash of dessert wine.  It really was another great tablenosh dinner, I can hardly believe the year will be coming to close soon with my big finale in November.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Food lately...

I decided earlier this week I really needed to take a second and do some blogging on some of my latest food experiences.

I will begin with a few of my recent outings.  A couple of weeks ago I did 3 nights of dining out in a row, which is A LOT for me, seeing as Sydney is not exactly the most affordable city in terms of eating out.

On the Wednesday night I went with a few friends to a place in Surry Hills called 'Table for Twenty' their concept is in many ways very similar to a tablenosh dinner and I heard about it when I was originally investigating the underground dining scene in Sydney. Table for Twenty now operates mainstream, but continues to seat people together at large tables for family-style eating and engaging together.  It was really fabulous time, I had a great night with my friends as well as meeting a few other people at our table.  For a flat fee of 50$ dinner included some organic wine, bread rolls and a delicious mezzanine platter with grilled veggies, home-made cheese and savory meatballs.  The main course was pork cutlets (I had seared tuna) with oven roasted potatoes, wilted spinach and a beautiful salad.  My favorite dish of the evening was the blueberry coconut tart that we had for dessert, it was absolutely divine!

The following evening I headed out to dinner again this time venturing to Concord with fellow foodie friend, Michael Shaffron to test out a Malaysian restaurant called 'Jackie M'.  This was my first time really eating Malaysian food and let me just say it was absolutely delcious!  Rather than re-cap the food experience I will just send you to read what Michael had to say on his blog gosstronomy and his pictures are also heaps better than mine!

The only part Michael doesn't mention is my small drama that occurred at the end of dinner.  We were just about to finish up when my husband called to tell me I needed to 'Go Move the Car' explaining he had just received a phone call from the cops saying I had parked in front of someone's driveway (it was a dark side street and obviously I did not take note of the driveway)!  Before hanging up he also said 'make sure you take someone with you b/c apparently they are pretty upset.'  I grabbed Michael to go with me and as we neared my car I could see about 10 people out on the sidewalk in front of it.  I called out to them saying, 'I am SO SO sorry.'  Well, let's just say before I had even finished my sentence there were at least 3 people screaming obscenities at me and I mean verbal abuse like I had never experienced!  It was unbelievable, I lasted about 30 seconds of getting pelted with the meanest things anyone has ever said to me before I just looked at Michael and said 'let's just get in the car clearly they are not accepting my apology.'  I am SO glad I took him with me and am pretty much thankful my car wasn't smashed in and I didn't get beaten up.  So, as much as I LOVED Jackie M...I am not sure if I will ever make it back to that part of town or at least I won't be driving :).

The next night we headed out again with a couple of friends for dinner in the city, I still pumped up on Malaysian food so we made an attempt to check out Mamak in the city, but the line was way too long for us.  We ended up at Miro tapas bar instead and enjoyed sharing a few plates of tapas along some sangria.  The food was pretty good, but I was mostly just pleased we car pooled and not to have anyone yelling at me by the end of the night!!

After the big week of dining out I slowed down a bit and was back in the kitchen again working on my wheat-free, low-dairy and sugarless cooking.  This was of course impossible to maintain while practicing wedding cakes.  But the other day I created a date slice with a carob glaze and other than the butter had no dairy and was wheat free and used no refined sugar.  I was very pleased and I think my afternoon tea guest was also satisfied with such a healthy little treat.

Then there was the Risotto I made the other night, which turned out to be a real winner.  I primarily used pearl barley mixed with a little bit of arborio rice.  I love using the pearl barley because it is heaps healthier and has a lot more texture.  I had roasted some red peppers earlier in the day and thought I would those would go well along with some baby spinach, goats cheese and a splash of black truffle oil (this alone make any risotto taste so good!).  I grilled a few chicken breasts to serve alongside.  It was indeed probably the best risotto I have ever made, Pete and I both agreed.  A wheat-free, dairy-free, sugar-free dinner delight indeed.

So, just to finish with some 'coffee-talk'...which is not really about me and our own recent experiments with coffee (we just had our first roasting lesson yesterday!).  I have realized it is one thing to make a good coffee and to be a cafe that is proud of your coffee, but is another thing to be SO worried about YOUR coffee reputation that you cannot handle anyone in your cafe with a coffee from a different place.  Let me recap my latest cafe experience in Newtown this past Saturday.

I headed over to Newtown to catch up with my friend Nikki for brunch on Saturday and while I was waiting ordered a coffee at a lovely little cafe called 'Foodarama'.  Once Nikki showed up we decided to head up to another cafe called 'Martini', so I got my coffee to go and we headed up the street.  There was a table just inside and as we decided whether to sit inside or outside, the barista called out 'not with that you won't.'  Nikki and I both looked at each other not quite sure what he was talking about and then he said it again a bit louder and bit a ruder 'not with that you won't, can't you see I am trying to run a coffee shop.'  It was at this stage he was referring to the coffee I was holding in my hand! Basically this man was SO concerned about someone seeing me with a coffee cup that had a different label on it that he RUDELY told us to get out!  Nikki and I were absolutely stunned, we conferred on the sidewalk and I went back in to explain 'we just left another cafe to come to yours and eat your food and you are asking us to leave because of my coffee?', he handed me a different coffee cup to place my cup in, I took the cup walked out the door and Nikki and I decided there is NO way we will ever be back to his cafe.  When did the customer become the enemy and service go OUT the window...I felt like saying buddy you need to GET A GRIP!  (ps. I was holding a 'campos' coffee cup...maybe that was the problem, he felt seriously threatened...)

That's enough food chat for now from me.  My fingers are starting to hurt and if anyone is reading this you might also be ready for a break :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

More Cake Tasting!

Yes, it is true I have taken on making another 'wedding cake' for a dear friend.  I tested two new recipes over the weekend and had the bride and groom do a taste test to choose which one they liked best.  These were the choices.

Cake # 1
Lemon Cake with lemon curd, triple cream and grand-marnier buttercream icing.

The bad news was I am still getting used to my new oven and I pretty much over-baked both cakes!  Ugh, it was rather disappointing but what could I do.  The lemon cake was an egg based cake very similar to a chiffon cake, or at least was an attempt at chiffon, I have a feeling I over mixed the batter!  Then I made a cream filled with whipping cream and mascarpone.   The syrup was just sugar, lemon and water boiled down to create a syrup, I mixed it with the lemon curd and brushed the cake with that first before spreading the cream on.  As for the buttercream frosting, I made a standard buttercream meringue frosting and then added some grand marnier a some of the lemon syrup bringing a nice subtle flavor through it.

Cake #2
Vanilla Bean Cake with passion-fruit custard cream and swiss meringue buttercream icing.

The vanilla cake was my favorite even though it was also a little dry, for me a butter based cake always wins.  The passion-fruit custard cream was so good I think I could have eaten the whole bowl!  I brushed the cake with a passion fruit syrup first and then did the layer of custard.  For the tester cake I did four layers which was probably a bit too high, I also made it square which I have now realized makes icing the cake incredibly difficult.

The final cake will be round with three layers I hope.  And after much analysis we decided to try and merge the concepts.  So the goal is to give the vanilla cake some lemon zing and stuff it with the lemon curd and rather than a passion fruit custard fill it with vanilla custard cream and do the same grand marnier buttercream frosting.  The wedding is in October so I still have a bit of time to practice!

Here are some smaller versions I did with the extra cake batter for a friend's morning tea.  So yummy!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hearty Winter Tablenosh Dinner

My first tablenosh at the new house...I think it took me a little longer than I expected to get the place ready and I had to move a bit of furniture around, but somehow I managed to get 12 people in the kitchen for dinner, it was nice and cozy.  It was a good lively bunch different to other nights in that one booking was a group of six and another a group of four, so quite a few people who already knew each other.

I had fun testing a few of my recipes during the week and was feeling pretty good about most of the menu.  Of course there are always a few minor things that always remind me that I am still learning and just an experimental cook.  This time it was the roasted garlic and cauliflower soup.  I made the soup the night before and got it out on Saturday but could barely taste any garlic.  So, I roasted up some more garlic and added it to the pot, but still not much flavor so I added some garlic granules as well.  Then I had the bright idea that maybe I should heat it up and that would help boost the garlic flavor.  Well friends sure enough once the soup was warm all the flavor came and WHOA you could definitely taste the garlic.  Needless to say I had to then tone it down with some more stock and cream.  The final product was delicious it just took me a while to get there!

This menu had a bit of a citrus theme, I kicked off the night with a Mulled Citrus Wine.

And some starters:
 Prosciutto, Brie & Fig Bites and the the Roasted Garlic & Cauliflower Soup.

Then the Entree Salad 
A baby spinach, roasted beetroot and goats cheese salad with a honey-balsamic vinaigrette. 

The Main 
Creamy Chicken, Mushroom and Leek Pies with Roasted Sweet Potato Mash and Sauteed Asparagus.

 I was very excited about the pastry I used for the pies, although I think I could have been a bit more generous with it!  I used all Carême all butter pastry which is supposed to be amazing (

Next came the Citrus Dessert Trio (this was my personal favorite)

Petite Orange & Almond Cake
Orange Blossom Panna Cotta
Homemade Orange & Cardamom Icecream

After dinner and dessert the guests retired back to the lounge room to enjoy a few more glasses of wine and then I served tea and coffee.  This is where I offered to try making espresso drinks on the coffee maker my brother-in-law just gave us.  Let's just say next time I will only offer the usual (drip coffee & tea)...unless I have completed a barista course by then!

The night was made complete with Spiced Orange Truffles and Brown Brother Orange & Flora Muscat as the digestif.  Yum.  It was a great night for me indeed and I certainly hope the guests enjoyed meeting a few strangers and enjoying some in-home-cooking together.

The next tablenosh dinner is on the calendar for September 24th, if you are interested in a seat please email .

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cooking wheat free!

I am on a new 'lifestyle' kick which includes no wheat, no sugar (refined) and no wheat!  It has been hard work but also meant I am finding lots of new ways to cook with good 'pure' foods and it is amazing how much better I feel for it (once I was over the sugar withdrawal!).

The hardest part is cutting out the sugar, I have certainly realized how much sugar we eat and how much we crave it.  So, I have been working my way through trying out different organic pure sweeteners.  My favorite thus far is making a date paste by pouring boiling water over dried dates and then using my stick mixer to puree and make a paste.  A couple of days ago I made a wheat-free carrot, zucchini & date loaf.  It turned out pretty well considering I made up the recipe!  But I have a feeling anything sweet would have tasted good, so we were happy.  It was even better toasted with a little butter for breakfast.  It could have used a little bit longer baking time, but otherwise was a moist wholesome treat (recipe below).

Don't worry the tablenosh dinners will not be affected by our new lifestyle!  I am working on a good hearty winter menu for this coming Saturday night's dinner including a signature 'dessert trio'.

Wheat-free Zucchini, Carrot and Date Loaf
1 Cup Barley Flour
1 Cup Spelt Flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup (2 carrots, grated)
1/2 cup grated zucchini
2 eggs
1/2 cup rice milk (or maybe a little more if needed)
1 cup date paste (make with one cup of dates and boiling water to soften)
1tsp vanilla
2 tablespoons butter

Mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl.  In another bowl cream the butter, date paste, vanilla, eggs and milk.  Slowly add the dry to the wet and then scoop into a greased loaf pan.  Bake on 180/350 for about 55-65 minutes or until done.

*Please note, I made this recipe up so you might to give or a take a little on some of the measurements.  If you want it a little sweeter add 1/4cup of maple syrup.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sweet Potato Soufflé Crumble Recipe

I have been meaning to post this since the Christmas in July dinner.  I found a recipe on that I sounded good, then I made a few changes and added a crumble topping.  I really like it because I did not use that much sugar and the lemon zest and coconut add a nice touch.  It was a real hit (even with the Aussies who would never normally have sweet potato this way), one of my friend's was literally scraping the dish clean!

You will need:
4-6 sweet potatoes (peeled and diced)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
zest and juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup butter melted
2 eggs

1/2 crushed walnuts
1/2 dark brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup butter melted

1. I decided to dice the sweet potatoes and bake them first with a little sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice covered on low heat until they were soft (for a quicker method just boil them).  This worked well because so much more flavor gets released this way and it also meant they were not saturated with water and I did not really have to strain them.  After they are soft mash them up in a bowl, you can use beaters to do this.

2. Then add spices, lemon zest and juice, sugar, butter and cream.  Whip with the beaters until nice and smooth and then beat in the eggs.

3.  Scoop sweet potato puree into a baking dish and bake on 180C/350F for 30 minutes.  You can then add the topping and put it back in the oven or if you are preparing ahead of time just let this cool and refrigerate.  Bring it back to room temperature before you add the topping to continue baking.

4.  To make the topping.  Mix all the dry ingredients together and then pour the butter over and use a fork to combine, should be crumbly and moist, if not then add more butter (I made this up so am guessing on the measurements!)  You could make up whatever kind of topping you like for this, using pecans, almonds, oats, whatever works.

5.  Sprinkle over the souffle and bake for about 10-15 minutes on 180C/375F or until it looks a little toasted and crunchy. 


Monday, July 25, 2011

Christmas in July Dinner 2011

Even though we just returned from Fiji on Thursday, I could not give up the chance to do a Christmas in July dinner with some good friends...some meaning 24 adults and 8 children/babies!!!!  Who knew I could ever cram so many people into our little apartment, but somehow I did it!  We thought this dinner would be a good chance to have one last shindig before we farewell our Dover St. apartment and move next week.

The plane touched down on Thursday night, I started prepping on Friday and spent all of Saturday & Sunday cooking, cleaning, decorating and rearranging the furniture so all the guests would fit.  We had a table of 12 in the kitchen/dining room and another table in the lounge room and not to mention a few mothers in the hallway juggling their plate's along with the bubs.  It was a fabulous evening, I was so delighted to have our little home filled with so many beloved friends and for them all to enjoy a tablenosh dinner.

Once again I was humbled in my cooking...I cooked the Turkey on the barbecue for the first time and thought 'it sure is a lopsided looking bird', well when I went to cut it I realized I had cooked the darn thing upside down!!!! No wonder it looked so funny! So, yes I was humbled again and reminded I am still learning every day and making mistakes along the way.

The party kicked off at 4pm with a few appetizers and some winter warm-ups.  Warm Spiced Cider and mulled wine were a good way to warm up the afternoon, along side baked brie with fig jam & walnuts, salmon canapes, smoked ham with honey mustard and a few other things to nibble on before dinner.

This was the dinner menu: Herb Roasted Turkey, Sage Roasted Pork Belly, Cornbread Stuffing, Roasted Butternut, Corn & Leek Wild Rice, Aunt Isa's Mac n' Cheese, Pan Fried Green Beans, Sweet Potato Souffle Crumble,  Roasted Beetroot & Baby Spinach Salad and Sourdough bread.  (Sadly I totally forgot to put out my cranberry apple chutney!!)

It was pretty hilarious trying to get everyone seated along with getting them a plate, cutlery and food!  It felt like a family affair indeed.  We ended up with a mixture of buffet and some food on the table.  It was nice and squishy but I think everyone eventually found a seat and a plate.  I shared a seat and my husband who was carving the Turkey (last to be served) ended up eating his dinner out of a bowl!

After dinner we did a 'kris kringle' gift exchange, everyone piled into the lounge room, drew numbers and the fun began.  It really got crazy once people starting stealing and swapping, I think the wine glasses were the most wanted, it was all good fun and a nice pause before dessert.  I was very pleased with the berry balsamic vinegar I ended up with and fortunately no one tried to steal it off me.

I decided to do four desserts and had hoped to have a beautiful maple cinnamon ice cream to compliment everything, unfortunately it did not quite work as planned and was a bit more like semi-freddo (the taste was still good).  There was pumpkin cheesecake with a gingerbread crust and fresh cream, a dutch style apple pie, a chocolate-pecan tart and gingerbread cake w/ caramelized apples and warm caramel sauce.

The pumpkin cheesecake is always a hit and I was surprised at how many people loved the semi-freddo, I think it was the the pure maple syrup and hint of cinnamon, such a good combination.

By the time dessert was over, I was so overwhelmed by the site of my kitchen I thought I might skip offering tea and coffee!  Let's just say it is over 24 hours later and I think my kitchen is finally back in order.  It was well worth it, what a great night and a great feast.
There were piles of dishes everywhere!!!