Friday, October 12, 2012

Canape Countdown

Thankfully the 'catering committee' have limited their guests to 50 (think they have already got that sorted).  Not quite so thankfully, they have decided on 10 canapes per head (= 500 canapes eek!), but as not all will choose to eat the same as each other, the final decision is to be 30 (plus a few extra) of each of 15 different types. Didn't expect them to need so many varieties, as was only giving them a choice, however they loved the sound off all my selection, so that's what it is to be. Even each 'type' (a pate etc) will probably be presented several ways (on different bases: toast, or in a vol au vent etc) just to make them look more appetising.

At least the decision is to keep each variety of canape together on one serving plate, rather than have a mix on each, and this will save me a considerable amount of time 'messing around balancing the shapes/colours etc.  The club will provide me with all the platters although some canapes that might crush easily when covered in cling-film will be sent in boxes to be plated up at the venue.  Trouble with so many 'platters' is that most cannot be piled on on top of the other for delivery (unless I can make some cardboard containers to slip each platter into).

So far so good as far as the canapes are concerned  - but then they have chosen 5 desserts (one of these my daughter will be making, bless her), and they want 50 of one of my 'specials', plus 30 macaroons, and then about 25 or so of the others.  So it looks as though I will have a busy day (on the actual 'day'), but more a matter of assembly than having to do much baking.   Quite a lot (bases, pate, game pie....) can be prepared/cooked in advance, so again more a matter of organisation than anything else.  Just let's hope I have enough room in the fridge to hold what has been made, although I can use those Donald Russell polystyrene boxes chilled down with ice 'bottles' to store some in during the day.  Thank goodness I keep them (in the garage when not needed).

Today I'll be sorting out the recipes I'll be using, then making out my shopping lists, the shopping for what can be frozen (smoked salmon etc), and buying the special garnishes (caviare!), and a few days before the event will then get the remainder delivered.  Tomorrow how to give you an idea of what I'll be making.

Decided yesterday to have a trial run with the macaroons (having made them before), but this time wanted to see how long they would keep (unfilled) so that I know then how early they can be made.
Using only half the amount of ingredients in the recipe (egg whites, icing sugar, ground almonds), this made 40 (or 20 when sandwiched together).  As I'd made plain macaroons (not flavoured or tinted in pastel shades), decided to sandwich a few together with Nutella - my goodness, they went down well.  The 'committee' loved them, and B couldn't keep his hands off them.  I've still got about a dozen unfilled in an airtight box, so will leave them until over the weekend to see if they are still 'edible', and if so will then have time to make several batches of different colours and flavours.

As I'd got a pot of chicken liver pate from the freezer, decided to try piping this on some fingers of toast, and blow me - couldn't find my box of disposable icing bags.  Fortunately I was able (eventually) to find a small bag that I'd bought complete with metal 'pipes', so used this.  Then did find the missing box of (larger) disposable bags.   This reminded me (and worth mentioning to you) that when planning any cookery for (possibly) a party, first make sure you know EXACTLY where all your equipment it,  maybe days before needing to use it, put it all on one tray so that it is kept together. 
This is something I'll be doing early next week for there is nothing worse than wasting half an hour (or half a day in my case) trying to find something that you swore you knew where it was but then found it wasn't.

Another thing, always worth trying out the presentation if at all possible.  For instance yesterday piped the chicken liver pate on strips of toasted brown bread.  Well - the two being about the same colour it just didn't work.  Piped onto white bread or into a pastry case would have looked MUCH more appetising (although garnishes would help but I didn't add these as was only making a couple for my own approval.

Sorting through my 'saved' recipes (torn from mags etc, many of them over 30 years old and several from American 'Good Housekeeping mags (these having loads of recipes/ideas for biscuits - they call them 'cookies' - and also 'party food'),  and found that recipe for a gluten-free cake that I thought I might have thrown out, so am hoping that Lisa will be reading today's blog as this is something she was asking for.

Gluten-free Rich Fruit Christmas Cake: makes 1 cake
3 oz (75g) each currants and sultanas
12 oz (350g) raisins
2 oz (50g) mixed peel
5 fl oz (150ml) whisky
zest and juice of 1 lemon
5 oz (150g) gluten-free flour
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp mixed spice
5 oz (150g) butter, softened
5 oz (150g) soft dark brown sugar
3 eggs
2 oz (50g) ground almonds
2 tblsp milk
4 oz (100g) glace cherries, washed and sliced
1 tblsp black treacle (or molasses)
1 tblsp runny honey
Put the dried fruit and peel into a saucepan, then add the whisky, lemon zest and juice and bring to the boil.  Remove from heat, cover and leave to stand overnight.
Next day, sift together the flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and mixed spice.  Take another bowl and in that put the butter and sugar, creaming them together until light and fluffy, then gradually and alternately beat in the eggs and flour, then the ground almonds.
Stir in the milk, soaked dried fruit and glace cherries, finally adding the treacle and honey.  Give it all a good stir so everything is well combined, then spoon the mixture into a greased and fully lined  deep 7" (18cm) cake tin (using a double layer of baking parchment and allowing it to stick up above the tin to make a high 'collar').  Level the surface and bake at 150C, 300F, gas 2  for one and a half to two hours or until a skewer prodded into the centre comes out clean (check after the first hour and if browning too quickly, tent top with foil, shiny side up to reflect away heat).  Leave to cool in the tin.
Recipe suggests decorating the cake by brushing the top with melted apricot jam, then arranging a selection of glace fruits and nuts over the surface, then brush these with a little jam to glaze, but the cake could be marzipan and iced if you prefer.

Next recipe also uses gluten-free flour and somewhat similar to macaroons, but not quite so 'posh'. They would make a great gift to include in the home-made Christmas Hamper.  This is one of those recipes where the weights need to be fairly exact and though I've tried to convert the metric to imperial, best if you can keep to the metric.
Almond Nougatines with Chocolate: makes 16
3 large egg whites
4.5 oz (130g) caster sugar
3 oz (and a bit) (85g) ground almonds
1 tsp almond extract
1 oz (and a bit)  (30g) gluten-free flour
4 oz (100g) dark chocolate, melted
Put the egg whites into a large bowl and - using a hand held electric whisk - beat until it has formed soft peaks, then whisk in the sugar - a spoonful at a time.  When thick and glossy, gently fold in the ground almonds, almond extract and flour. 
Spoon mixture into a piping bag with a large round nozzle (although you can use a teaspoon) and pipe 2" (5cm) rounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, keeping them slightly apart to allow for spreading.
Bake for 45 minutes - 1 hr at 150C, 300F, gas 2  until the nougatines are crisp.  Use a teaspoon or prongs of a fork to drizzle the chocolate back and forth across the tops, and allow to set before serving.   These will keep for up to a week when stored in an airtight container.

Hope you enjoy your veggies from Riverford Alison.  If you'd had a medium sized box you'll probably find there will be enough there to last you two weeks (when feeding two).  I still have potatoes and carrots left from the first two boxes bought.  You'll probably find it will work out much cheaper if you have a medium-large box delivered occasionally (like once a fortnight - three weeks or so) as more weight of veggies are provided (in place of their 'free' delivery - which has of course ot be paid for somehow).  The only snag with this is that the veggies that need to be eaten really fresh (soft greens etc) need eating up within the first few days to get the benefit of their 'quality', although possible some could be blanched and frozen (spinach etc). Ideally, see what each box has to offer before the final choice is made.

In the newspaper yesterday (or day before) there was almost a full page spread about the rising cost of fruit and vegetables this coming winter due to the atrocious weather we've been having.  Well, did expect that (as I mentioned earlier), but it's not going to stop me buying 'organic'.  Good old Ernie came up trumps again yesterday, so that will pay for a month's Riverford. 

If the liver you bought is 'fresh' (in other words not previously frozen) Brenda, then slice it fairly thinly and this can then be frozen.  Pack only the amount you need per meal, each in a small bag with as much air removed as possible, as once sliced it would be difficult to separate once frozen.  It can also be ready-cut into strips if you like to cook your liver like 'gougons' (strips thawed, then dipped into flour and fried). 

Perhaps not surprising that I didn't even bother to go to bed last night as adrenalin was flowing through my veins after my 'canape discussion' last night.  The last thing I wanted was to lie in bed just thinking about food.  Normally I can drop asleep fairly rapidly (especially when I've sprayed my pillow with lavender), but when my mind is 'primed' then I can stay awake for hours.
Obviously I did nod off during the wee small hours, but was up and switching the washing machine on by 6.00am (loaded last night).  Then did a few calculations re cost of canape ingredients (they have allowed me free rein as to how much to spend as they want it to be really 'special'). Then after coffee and Marmite on toast, in here to write my blog.

Although finishing earlier than usual, really want to get back into the kitchen to sort out the recipes, make my shopping list, and can then put everything away and sit back and put my feet up for a few days before I take a trip to Morrison's and see if I can find what I need.  Dare not let B do this for he will bring the wrong things.  
Last week (for instance), I wrote a small shopping list for him, requesting him to find out (rather than buy) if Morrison's had any mini-bagels (stressing the mini).  They didn't, so instead of just coming home and telling me, he brought back about a dozen huge bagels, because - he said - they were on offer (and if something is on offer then B cannot resist it) if two lots were bought (or something like that), half were brown and spicy, with fruit, the others plain with sesame seeds on top. 
I ate one of the 'seedy' ones, much too heavy and a bit dry for my liking, then I split and toasted one of the fruit ones - a bit better especially when buttered, but again too heavy and 'dry'.  Are bagels always like this - if so how is it that many people seem to enjoy them?  I know traditionally they are served spread with cream cheese and topped with smoked salmon, but hardly the fruit ones?

The remaining 'seedy' ones have been frozen, and three of the fruit ones yesterday I cut up and put into a dish with some sugar, plus two egg yolks (used the whites for making macaroons) and one whole egg plus enough milk to make up to half a pint, then poured this over the broken bits of bagel.  Left it to soak for a few hours, then baked it in the over (like a bread pudding).  When ready it has risen to great heights, beautifully souffled, but B decided he didn't want to eat it then, and so it sank back and became rather 'heavy', but when heated and plenty of cream poured over B managed to wolf it down.
So giving B free rein to bring in certain ingredients, even when carefully detailed, really is not a safe thing to do when it comes to this particular party.   Anyway I''ll really enjoy 'scooting' round the store being able to buy things that someone else will be paying for (eventually).

Yes, really have to get on and get my 'party food' sorted.  B wants to cook his own supper tonight in his little wok I bought for him ages ago.  First I'll have to assemble all the bits he need.  He desperately wants to use my large chef's knife and 'chop things'.  The only thing I think that will need chopping will be spring onions, and he was very disappointed when I told him that many chefs prefer to chop them up using kitchen scissors rather than a knife, as it is easier and quicker.  He said he'd prefer to use a knife.  As I've sharpened the knife perhaps I'd should also leave the pack of 'blue plasters by the cutting board in case he slashes himself.

Another chilly and breezy day.  Apparently many parts of the country are again having  heavy rain fall.  Let us hope all readers are not getting close to the floods.  As I keep saying, 'whatever the weather, have a good day'. 
Before I leave, one final mention of something in the 'Food Unwrapped' prog.  This to do with 'sea-sticks'.  As I enjoy eating these, was expecting to find out that they are hardly fit for human consumption, but for one was extremely pleased to discover they are really good.  The fish - being processed to make it easy to 'shape', was good quality Atlantic white fish (haddock/pollack?), and the factory was amazing, so clean and organised.    This is a good product to start with when learning to make 'sushi' (wrap the rice round the sea-sticks and the nori round the rice).

Had to give myself a slap on the wrist for continuing to chat when I'm supposed to be working in the kitchen, so this time it must be:  TTFN.  See you tomorrow.