Who me? Do luxury? (Project Food Blog Challenge 3)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Whoa! I’m quite blown away that I’ve actually made it to round 3 of Project Food Blog, and it’s obviously thanks to all of you, thank you for voting, commenting and just visiting and reading. You have my sincerest gratitude.

Well, onto challenge number three then - host a luxury dinner party for a minimum of four guests.

Hold up a minute…say what? I’m not too sure about that luxury part. We’re the sort of family who prefers campsites to holiday resorts. We do road trips not cruise ships. What would I know about luxury?

Don’t get me wrong, I love to entertain, and enjoy having people over so I can feed them. But the guests invited to my home are usually close friends, the sort who won’t spend the evening scrutinising the creases in the tablecloth or noticing the silverware (or lack thereof).

Yes, there are creases in the tablecloth! Oops :) My decorating style is to do it simple - a bit of string, flowers from the garden and empty jam jars with sea glass and tea lights in the bottom. And I tend to always get white crockery, that way, I can mix and match odd patterns and shapes easily.

If I had to describe my entertaining style, it would be more Buzz Lightyear (falling with style) than Martha Stewart.

So, here’s my spin on what luxury means on my planet, and if there are any issues, just take it up with Star Command ☺

Luxury means the chance to cook for Nana and Pop hand (Mr. Kitchen Hand’s parents), we don’t get to see them very often because they live 275kms away (true number, I checked on the drive back). In case you're wondering, my previous post explains why I'm visiting them.

Cheers! The mini-critics, their grandparents and me - that's five for dinner. And that's the entree you can see on the plate, the oysters are served warm swimming in a garlic sauce, and topped with puff pastry "covers".

Luxury means seafood. For as long as I can remember, my family marked special occasion meals with seafood. I remember always wanting to frequent a specific restaurant on my birthday, and the chosen dish was always Chilli MudCrab.

 Prepping the oysters for the entree. I made a garlic butter log with some diced parsley and lemon rind added to it. The whole thing is then capped with puff pastry.

For this dinner party, we had the added luxury of using fresh seafood sourced locally. Nana and Pop Hand live close to the Clyde River in NSW, an area well known for oysters.

Bridge over the River Clyde

Luxury means indulgent grandparents who turned over their kitchen and did babysitting duty so that I could prepare my challenge. (Thank you!).

Luxury is travelling by car so I could lug my massive cookbook along to help me decide on what to make. If I had to choose one cookbook to rescue while fleeing the house, I’d grab my (The) Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander.

 Shaping tuiles, and my desert island cookbook

And of course, I indulged in all sorts of other luxuries while preparing the meal – clean running water at the turn of a tap, electric oven that worked at the flick of a switch, shops that stocked (almost) every edible item imaginable. I lead a truly luxurious life ☺.

Well I suppose I better share the menu with you now. Let’s start with dessert first (quelle surprise! ;P). Seriously though, I always plan my entertaining menus working backwards from the sweet. I know it sounds a bit odd, but that’s the way we roll at the Skewer House. Dessert is usually something that can be made ahead, and needs to look a little bit impressive, or failing that, be very easy to assemble and taste great.

With dessert decided, I then work my way to the beginning trying to keep chosen flavours sympathetic with the ending. For example, I made a cinnamon/caramel parfait (an ice-cream of sorts) to be served with mango sauce and coconut tuiles. Working backwards, I decided on a barbecued snapper in a north African ginger marinade, to be served with a rice pilaf, and two simple but interesting salads.

I always try and prepare dessert the day/ night before the party, which leaves me lots of time for getting the other food ready. In this case, I made the caramel parfait and tuiles the night before, and the mango sauce on party day. All the components were kept separate and assembled just before serving.


That’s the extent of my “plating” though. I prefer to serve food communal style, where the dishes are placed in the middle of the table and everyone helps themselves. This way, I don’t have to worry about judging appetites and juggling portion sizes, everyone can have seconds or thirds as they desire. My greatest worry when serving guests is of underfeeding them and sending them home hungry! Communal eating is also ingrained in my psyche – it’s a very Asian style of eating, and I believe many other culture observe similar customs.

Party in progress.

I spread out the rest of the cooking tasks over the day of the party. Usually I write a list to help jog my memory, but not in any particular order because I’m just not that organised. I also shop for any fresh ingredients on the morning of D-day (D=dinner).

Usually, I concentrate on the food and the (very minimal) décor, and my wing-man Mr. Kitchen Hand sorts out the music, the drinks and the service. But he’s away at the moment, so I let the grandparents BYO ☺.

We start on nibblies, pour the wine, talk, eat, laugh, eat some more and the party gets underway.

You know it's a good party when the guests start wearing the decorations on their head.

Being able to feed the people I love? That’s a luxury I’ll always be grateful for. Thanks for coming to dinner with me ☺

The Test with Skewer dinner party featured the following dishes. This is such a long post I won’t type out recipes for each of them. One component of the most important dish (dessert) is featured on the Australian Gourmet Traveller website, and I’ve linked to it. A lot of the other dishes are based on recipes in Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion, so I’ll give you the page numbers for them.

Nibblies – toasted pita crisps – I used store bought bread (labelled Lebanese bread), which I split in two and then cut into triangles. The triangles were drizzled with a bit of olive oil, seasoned with salt and sprinkled with paprika, then baked until crisp. Store in an airtight container.


Black pepper pappadums – um, open packet, decant. (hey, a little cheating is allowed right?)

Garlicky yoghurt sauce – based on tzatziki minus the cucumber. I mixed finely chopped garlic and mint with yoghurt, then seasoned this with salt. Just before serving, sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the top so it looks like you went to a bit of effort. (Falling with style, think falling with style).

Entrée – oysters with light garlic butter (pg 667, The Cook’s Companion)

Main – Baked fish in a north African ginger marinade (Pg 473, The Cook’s Companion) I barbecued the fish instead -getting to use the barbecue is a luxury because it’s usually Mr. Kitchen Hand’s domain.

 Spices for the fish - chilli, cumin seeds, coriander, ginger, tumeric, garlic, paprika

Carrot salad (idea from The Cook’s Companion) – make carrot ribbons with a vegetable peeler (I used 2 carrots), stir through some diced parsley, dress with lemon juice and garnish with black olives.

Cucumber and tomato salad – Mix cubed tomatoes, cucumber and sliced red onions together, dress with lemon juice, then sprinkle with fried coconut (salad idea and fried coconut recipe – pg. 329, The Cook’s Companion).

Fried coconut (I made something similar here)

Rice pilaf – (pg 859, The Cook’s Companion)

Dessert – Caramel parfait

Coconut tuiles – pg 333, Cook’s Companion

Mango sauce – roughly chop flesh of one mango, cook over low heat with about two tablespoons sugar. Stir constantly until mango collapses and forms a sauce. Chill until required.

Thanks for reading!

(And if you wouldn't mind terribly, I'd love a vote :) You can click on this link or on the widget on the top left of the blog. Thanks!)


chocolatesuze said...

love serving food communal style too it's just so much easier and I reckon there's more of a sharing vibe. love the idea of the puff pastry hats!

Sarah (Syrup and Honey) said...

Congratulations on making it to round 3...keep it up. That fish looks and sounds AMAZING!

♥LOVE2COOK♥ said...

Congratz Shaz! Simply but cool setup there! I just loved to see ur daughter, feel like pinching her chubby cheeks! So cute with the deco! :D

Jennifurla said...

What a great dinner party, lovely spread

Lady said...

Oh you did a great job. Looks like a beautiful luxurious feast!

3 hungry tummies said...

Congratulations! I am glad you had a great weekend and also managed to finish this post. The food looks great especially the fish!

Barbara Bakes said...

Love your idea of planning the dessert first and then the rest of the meal around it. That's the way I'd like to roll.

shaz said...

chocolatesuze - communal eating=fun :) Wish the pastry hats were my idea, but it's totally Stephanie.

Sarah (Syrup and Honey)- thanks! The fish was really good, there have been requests for it to feature on our Christmas lunch menu :)

♥LOVE2COOK♥ - ha ha, I always want to pinch her cheeks too. She won't let me of course.

Jennifurla - thank you.

Lady - cheers! We had a great tim

3 hungry tummies -phew, I am so relieved I managed to finish the post too he he he

shaz said...

Great minds think alike eh Barbara :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Well done Shaz! What a delicious sounding dinner party and one where I'm sure everyone felt like a King or Queen! :D

ohonemorething said...

Such a great post! I loved reading about what luxury means to you. Who says luxury has to mean a bunch of pretentious things? Anyhoo, the menu sounds really special, and so do your guests :D

XO best of luck--you've got my vote!

Cook.Eat.Love said...

Stunning. You did luxury really, really well. I would love to come for dinner. Got my vote!!

Lingbo said...

Congrats on making it to the next round! That snapper looks ridonkulously awesome. :) And I love the gorgeous table settings! Just voted for you!

Sippity Sup said...

It looks like you area family that does luxury now. Good job. GREG

Lindsey @ FRESH AIR + FRESH FOOD said...

I agree! Luxury is seafood and a babysitter while you're making dinner! Beautiful. You have my vote! http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/3/view/1176

Jeannie said...

I don't mind eating the dessert first:D Great job! Love your sense of humour.

Jacob's Kitchen said...

Great post! The menu looks really delicious, and your little touches made the table look really lovely too. I think simple is always good.

I voted for you! =) good luck! Fingers crossed that we both make it through to round 4!

onlinepastrychef said...

You and I have a similar idea of luxury, I think. "Open packet. Decant." My favorite part! You certainly have one of my votes!

jen cheung said...

VOTEDDDDDDD! Good luck! Wish you all the best!

jen @ www.passion4food.ca

The Duo Dishes said...

Hmmm, you claim to not do luxury, but this looks quite luxurious. Your table setting is very cute! And the menu divine. Lucky lucky guests.

Kelly @ Barbaric Gulp! said...

I love how you define luxury!

Sounding My Barbaric Gulp!

Natty said...

Your idea of luxury is quite similar to mine, especially in regards to OYSTERS. Yummy yummy!

shaz said...

Lorraine - thank you, they did have a good time.

ohonemorething - cheers and thanks for the vote!

Cook.Eat.Love - love to have you over anytime.

Lingbo - ha ha thanks, claiming ridonkulously as my new fav word.

Sippity Sup - thanks greg, still not convinced we do luxury but we do eat well :)

Lindsey- yup, babysitting is like gold!

Jeannie - thank you, glad I can make you smile.

Jacob's Kitchen- thanks, fingers very tightly crossed.

onlinepastrychef - I love your style :)

jen cheung - thank you.

The Duo Dishes - haha that's not luxury, that's just falling with style.

Kelly - thank you.

Natty - mmmm, oysters,mmmmm

Jeanne said...

This dinner looks beyond luxurious to me! I love the fresh oysters and the fish. And of course, dessert is the best part - it sounds amazing! Voting now.

Serene said...

Wow, this is so gorgeous and impressive!

BigAppleNosh said...

Everything looks so delicious! You've got my vote! :)


Lori Lynn said...

The most charming post! Love your fish shots.
You got my vote.

Jessica {The Novice Chef} said...

Everything looks fabulous! What a wonderful menu! Hope we both make it to the next round! :-) You have my vote!

CrystalsCozyKitchen said...

Looks good! I've made coconut tuiles and they are absolutely divine.
I'm sending a little red heart your way. Good Luck!

Damaris said...

just voted for you. good luck.

Casey Angelova said...

Great dish! That fish looks awesome. You've got my vote!

shaz said...

Jeanne - thank you, much appreciated

Serene - thanks!

BigAppleNosh - right back at ya!

Lori Lynn - I'm humbled, thank you. Your feast was amazing (folks, you need to check her post out).

Jessica {The Novice Chef} - thank you, love your pumpkinny post.

CrystalsCozyKitchen - thank you, from OZ ;)

Damaris - Thanks!

shaz said...

Oops, missed one, thanks Casey

Food Lover said...

I LOVE everything about your dinner party, I love the dishes in it, I love how you decorated and organized the table, wish you good luck :)

Krissyp said...

I like this! Local oysters, a little flare, and the mini critics ofcourse. Great spread, I wish I was there. You have my vote!

Butter said...

Great Title...and after reading this - YES YOU Do luxury! Excellent starting the menu with dessert first! The entire meal looks and sounds amazing!

- Butter
(Running On Butter)

Fiona at Life on Nanchang Lu said...

How homesick did this post make me?? The succulent snapper, those oysters, the azaleas, I could go on....
One great thing about living in Shanghai is that it attracts lots of visiting chefs - I was lucky enough to go to a lunch with Stephanie Alexander and shyly handed over my very battered first edition of The Cook's Companion for her to sign. Excitement! It was one of only three cookbooks I brought when I left Australia....

Amy (Shiny Cooking) said...

Amazing decorating style, wonderful-looking food. Plus wearable decorations! :) Got my vote of course.

danasfoodforthought said...

You can definitely do luxury! The food looks delicious and your table looks beautiful I love all the fresh flowers!! Good luck with this challenge!

shaz said...

Food Lover - thank you so much.

Krissyp - much appreciated.

Butter - dessert is such an important part of a balanced diet, no?

Fiona at Life on Nanchang Lu - Oh lucky you! If I ever met Stephanie Alexander in person I'd probably be too tongue-tied to say anything to her! If I moved countries, I'd definitely be packing the companion too :) Thanks for the vote.

Amy (Shiny Cooking) - cheers!

danasfoodforthought - thank you so much, good luck to you too :)

jen cheung said...

Congrats Congrats going onto challenge #4!!! Must be exciting for you! Good luck and all the best. Happy Thanksgiving to you! You'll be getting the next vote from me :) Your awesome!

Have a happy thanksgiving!
jen @ www.passion4food.ca

shaz said...

thanks for the wishes Jen, this was challenge3- I didn't make it to 4 unfortunately .