Sunday, October 28, 2012

Now for a Rest!!!...

Back with you again, fairly bleary-eyed I have to say.  Yesterday ended the day feeling almost like a zombie, but managed to gather enough energy to go to the sailing club 'do' where I was very happy to meet up again with Eileen.  Of course I'd forgotten my camera, but Eileen took some lovely shots of the food and she is sending them to me by email.  Whether I'll be able to transfer them to my blog remains to be seen.   But here is a run down on what I made (and the several problems that kept occurring on Friday/Saturday).

There were different bases that I used for the toppings, some various types of rye bread, some bruscettas, some ordinary bread, several different shaped pastry 'cases', and some lettuce leaf 'cups'.  Using the same topping on different bases made them seem 'different' (for instance two ways is served baby prawns was to fold some  in guacamole on one of the 'rye' type bases, then again served as 'prawn cocktail' - for these 'invented' a rather attractive form of presentation.  I removed thin slices from the 'green' length of a cucumber, then cut the cucumber into half-inch rings.  Removed the centre from each using my smallest scone cutter (but a large metal piping nozzle could also have been used as a 'cutter' - or even an apple corer).  Each ring of cucumber placed on a square of buttered rye (or similar) bread, then filled with a teaspoon of prawns.  A little home-made Marie-Rose sauce spooned on top (leaving gravity to let it work its way down), then using my (clean) eye-brow tweezers to jpick up one of the larger baby prawns to place on top of each.  They looked really pretty.

The blinis also went down well.  Some had just a dollop of sour cream on top with a very little 'caviare' (lumpfish roe) placed on top then sprinkled with the finely chopped green part of spring onions, the others had a dollop of sour cream with a little roll of smoked salmon on top then garnished with a little 'caviare' and a frond of dill.

I'd made a bowl of egg mayonnaise, and some of this was spooned onto rye bases and topped with smoked salmon/dill.  I'd also halved some small (larger than cherry) tomatoes, scooped out the seeds/flesh and then filled these 'cups' with the egg mayo, garnishing each with a sprinkle of mustard and cress. 
I'd bought some quite small sweet pepper (pointed ones), these come in three colours: yellow, orange and red, and I find them a lot more use than the larger bell peppers (same taste/texture), so sliced these top to bottom and removed any seeds and membrane (very little in each), and filled those with the egg mayo - they added needed colour to the table display..  Topped them with slivers of Peppadew to add a bit of 'bite'.

Made some Coronation Chicken and piled this into bite-sized square pastry cases (spreading a little mango chutney over the pastry to make a seal (but don't think it needed any sealing).  Made a lot as apparently this dish is 'popular' at the club.  They all got eaten!

Made a similar 'savoury', this time serving Beef Teriyaki on salad in round pastry cases.  Other thinly sliced roast beef I ended up spreading with a little horseradish cream and the rolling the meat round thin fingers of beetroot or small gherkins (cornichons). Holding the roll together with a cocktail stick.

The ham I tried to make into 'cornets', but it kept breaking up, so ended up slicing some home-made brown mini-loaves thinly and spread these with butter and mustard, then topped with a thick fold of ham then more bread to make mini-sarnies, a halved cherry tomato on top all speared together with a cocktail stick.

The mini-choux buns I filled with a mixture of whipped cream with some 'Seriously Strong' spreading cheese, plus some cream cheese and chives.    Some of this mixture also spread onto some of the bases and topped with egg mayo.

Tiny lettuce cups (from a Baby Gem lettuce) held a blend of crabmeat, guacamole, and chopped cucumber (this cucumber was the bits cut from the centres of the cucumber cups).  Some other cucumber centres were sliced thinly and one slice then garnished the top of slices of spicy crisp bruscetta bread that had been spread with chicken and chorizo pate.   
Chicken pate was spread over many more Rosetta's, each topped with a little cranberry sauce.

Some pastry bases were filled with smoked mackerel pate, a little mackerel left as 'flakes' to lay a sliver on top of some, the others topped with a bit of parsley. 

Made a bit batch of mini-quiches (assorted fillings) that helped fill another platter, but the centre-piece of the evening was the Game Terrine.  Now have to say this is the first time I've ever made this and although following the recipe carefully, found there were problems mainly because of the container used.  Planning to use a very long metal terrine mould (collapsible and the side held in place with wires pushed, realised this would let water into the mould when it was placed in a bain-marie.  So had to very carefully line the mould with a single sheet of foil-backed baking parchment, the thickness at the corners making it a bit difficult to fold neatly, but in the end managed it.  Then had to stretch rashers of bacon to line the mould before adding the prepared meat.

The filling to the pie was a mixture of breasts of pheasant, partridge, and wood pigeon, some of this blended together in the food processor with a bit more bacon and some spices/seasonings.  This then put into a bowl with some wine and the rest of the meat that had been cut into chunks, then left in the fridge to marinade overnight).  Used this to half-fill the terrine, then laid chicken breasts along the whole length to cover the game, then topped with a final layer of prepared game.  Folded the overlapping bacon over the top, plus a few more rashers down the middle length, then covered tightly with parchment and foil.  
Then of course couldn't find a roasting tin that was long enough to hold the terrine, so ended up using some light-weight foil tins that were barely long enough but could be bent at the ends (ending up looking a bit like a boat), and used three of these to stand the weight, placing the lot on a baking sheet for safety, then in the oven before I poured in boiling water around the terrine to come up to the height of the container sides.   Topped up with water half-way through the cooking time of one and a half hours (160C).   I gave it 15 minutes extra to be on the safe side, then left it in the turned-off oven for half an hour before removing it.

After cooling at room temperate for a couple or so hours, laid two foil-wrapped house bricks on top (the filling fortunately was slightly higher than the tin) and then put the lot in the fridge to chill overnight.  The next day removed the bricks, removed the tin and wrapped the terrine in foil to keep chilled (it weighed a ton).  An hour before departure yesterday put the terrine on a plate and removed a slice from the end to give a good appearance (it was later cut at the venue into slices), and it did look very good indeed - there was me in fear and trembling that it hadn't worked.   There were chunks of solid game flesh running through the minced mixture, this different bird flesh cooked in various shades of pale to dark meat, with the chicken being white.   The terrine was placed on a bed of watercress on a long metal platter that I fortunately had, then cherry tomatoes and cornichons spread all round.  It looked really professional.
One of the guests at our table found a bit of lead shot in her slice of Game Terrine. I told her that this proved it was all quality wild fowl, nothing birds were 'farmed'.

During the week had baked some cheese straws using left-over short pastry,  but decided to try an easy way by cutting very thin strips from the sides of block of puff pastry (so that the layers could be seen running from top to bottom of each strip), then laid each strip flat, sprinkled over pepper and salt (could have added dried herbs and Parmesan but didn't), and then rolled them out even longer and thinner, because they were so long cut them in half, and when baked at 200C for a very few minutes, the pastry had stayed flat, spreading sideways instead of upwards as puff usually does and these made great 'cheese' straws.  Once cooked and cooled slightly these were packed in air-tight containers and stayed crisp.

Had two almost disasters with a couple of the desserts.  The Strawberry 'champagne' jellies were made by melting a pack of strawberry jelly using half a pint of water, the intention then of adding sparkling wine just before it was setting, to bring it up to the pint.  Mixed together the bubbles should should stay in the jelly.
Problem was I had bought one 150cl bottle of sparkling wine (very cheap actually), and needed to make four pints of jelly to use with this.   I'd made the jelly, but even whilst still warm (to me) this began to (almost set), so I poured it into 25 wine glasses, and immediately topped each with the wine, stirring it in as I went.  I'd also put three halved small strawberries in each glass - these then rising to the top (as I knew they would).

Checked the jellies later and discovered to my horror the jelly had sunk to the bottom and begun to set and the sparkling wine was at the top - unset.  So as had used up all my jelly and most of the wine, decided the only thing to do was tip the lot through a sieve to catch the wine, then put the jelly (and strawberries) in to the microwave to melt it again.  This time mixed the jelly with the wine before putting the mixture into the glasses, adding the last bit of sparkling wine left in the bottle, and it actually WORKED!  Didn't seem to lose any of its 'sparkle', but have to say it caused me a few worries at the time.

On Friday made the Tarte au Citron'.  As it was a Mary Berry recipe knew it would be good, but she always warned it was a bit tricky to make, even though the recipe seemed simple enough.  I'd asked B to stay out of the  kitchen whilst making this as didn't want to be distracted, and of course half-way through measuring ingredients there was knock on the back door.  Our neighbour wanted ot borrow B's cycle pump!.  So I fetched B and went back to making the posh 'lemon tart'.  Got confused as to what point I'd got to, but sorted it out and then another knock on the door - neighbour again wanting to speak to B.  To cut a long story short, began beating the eggs, adding the sugar and squeezed lemon juicek, lemon zest etc, poured it into a blind-baked pastry case (this made the night before), and put it into the oven.
Checked the recipe to see how long it should be baked and then (horrified) noticed I'd forgotten to add double cream to the egg mixture.  The tart had been in the oven less than five minutes, so rapidly removed it, ladled out some of the filling into a bowl, then tipped the case (still in the tin) over to pour out the remainder, then added the cream, whisked it in, then refilled the case and back into the oven.   I knew that many custard tarts are often started by making a warm custard to use as a filling, so hoped it would work with this.  And it did.  It turned out perfectly although where the filling had  poured over the pastry rim when emptying it, this had gone a rather dark colour after baking, but was able to trip the pastry down to just above the level of the filling and it (sort of ) looked OK.

Although was not myself hungry at all (having 'sampled' most of the canape toppings throughout the day as I worked), did have a wedge of the 'Tarte au Citron' when at the club and it really did taste wonderful (even though I say it myself, but put this down to Mary Berry).  Will really hve to make it again, and it really isn't that difficult.

My daughter had done the Millionsaire's Shortbread and Florentines for me, and I had one of each of these as well and she had done a brilliant job.  We make a good team (we used to work together doing  'catering' in the past).

A final (almost) disaster was the Melon and Parma Ham.  Normally I cut the melon into cubes, wrapping each with the ham, and did this yesterday, but as it stood for a while the ham went very soggy and looked awful, probably because the melon was ripe and overly moist (but perfect otherwise), so I removed all the ham, cut the remainder of the melon into chunks, placed them in a bowl with a bowl of shreds of Parma ham in the centre with skewers so the guests could help themselves.  That seemed to work.

For once I really enjoyed the evening at the club for there was no mention of boats at all (boats bore me), and with the 'dress to impress' on the invitations, most of the men came in evening dress, black tie, white tie.  I said to Eileen it looked very 'Downton Abbey', and have to say I really felt at home.  They were even selling cocktails at the bar.  We all had a free glass of 'champagne' and £3.000 of gaming chips to play BlackJack, Craps, or Roulette.  Because I'd made the food I was given another free glass of wine.  Drink always make we want to go to 'the cloakroom' and of course I then found I couldn't unbolt the door after I'd bolted myself into one of the cubicles.  I struggled and struggled, and thought I'd just have to stay there until someone realised I'd disappeared, but then they'd have to break the door down...!!! Eventually I gave the door a massive pull towards me to close it even further and then the bolt slipped open. Phew - that was a relief.

Several of the ladies were wearing cocktail dresses, glittery clothes, black dresses etc.  Even I managed to scrub up a bit wearing a recently bought black velour skirt and black top with a see-through black jacket with silvery squiggles.  The skirt I'd bought three (or was it four) sizes too small as I'd lost weight, but didn't think it would fit me (the aim was it was an incentive to more weight to wear it, but it ended up fitting perfectly, think I should have bought a size smaller).  But was well please that I at least had something worth wearing.

Some of the men didn't wear evening dress, more to look 'rich', such as a JR outfit (including stetson) as in Dallas.  My B (bless him) had hired a sheik's outfit unbeknown to me (changing in the men's room once we had arrived) and looked really good.  He got called many things during the night such as 'Shake a Leg' or 'Mustapha *** (must have a.....).  He won second prize for costume.

In the raffle B chose a big box of biscuits (he said he chose it because he knew I could make use of the tin - which I can).  I also had a win and my choice was abox of Ferrero Rocher chocolates - my favourite and I know I shouldn't eat sweets, but there you go.

I got bored with gambling (I'd won, then lost, then won, then lost), so gave B my left-over gaming chips and went and sat down again to watch everyone else.   Eileen joined me later, she showed me the photos she'd taken of the food, and I was surprised how good it looked.  Think having been surrounded by the 'makings' the past couple of days I could barely see the wood for the trees if you know what I mean. 

Loads of people came up to me to say how much they enjoyed the food, and how 'upmarket' it was. The Game terrine was a great success, and with the food left out for people to 'graze', was able to see that most of the evening there were lots of people around the table continually helping themselve.  Practically all the food went.  Most of the little left we brought home and I sat at ate some of it once I had sat down in my easy chair.

Not sure what is happening in the world for during last week my mind was on nothing but food. We could have had a world war (started and finished) and I would never have known.  What I did realised was how cold the weather has suddenly turned, and as I kept the heating out of the ktichen on Saturday (and had the back door open part of the time), also wearing short sleeves (hygiene reasons), ended up having the shakes (which I suppose was a mixture of shivering with cold and over working).  At least, after changing and having a drink at the club felt a bit better, but wished I'd taken a warm shawl with me.  Once back at home, and snuggled up in my chair nibbling some food brought home, and watching TV until the andrenaline had subsided, then went to bed and slept like a log.  Having the extra hour in bed (now the clocks have been put back) has also helped, but today amd going to take it easy and just use up some of the left-overs to make B his (and my) suppers. 

Thanks so much to all who have sent in comments wishing me well.  The parting shot as we left the club last night was 'we must talk about the Christmas meal..!  Don't mind what they want me to make as long as it is not loads and loads and loads of canapes again.   Had to admit to myself that I think I've grown a bit too old to take on the amount of work that I did last night, but have to say I'm proud that I was still able to do it.  But enough is enough.  There are limits.

Well, it's raining (this has at least raised the temperature a bit, but has made the day seem gloomy), and I'm now going to make myself a cup of coffee and sit down and read the Sunday paper and sort out the kitchen later (it looks as though a bomb has hit it - no time to clear up before we left last night although I had managed to do all the washing up). 

Hope to get back on track with my normal 'rambles' tomorrow, and hope to see you then.  TTFN.