Sunday, 9 June 2013

.... And then I cooked a four course Banquet. Yeah.

Once a year, the centre hosts a banquet as a fundraiser and I usually do the cooking. This year the theme was Portuguese. There is not too much traditional Portuguese food that's vegetarian, they are more famous for their cod and meat, so I had to be a bit creative in my menu choices.

I went shopping during my lunch hour and then made two of the courses and set up tables when I got home from work. Then on Saturday I had some help chopping vegetables in the morning, by the time G came round we were swimming in a sea of chopped onions, mushrooms and kale. 3 lb of mushrooms is quite a lot, as it turns out! It was a fun day of getting messy, gossiping and drinking tea. G seemed to spend the whole day humming - at one point it was Thomas the Tank Engine and at another point it was the Eastenders theme, but for the most part it was Sesame Street - I'm sure that every time I hear that tune I'll think of food, like some Pavlovian response. In the evening, two of my housemates joined me to help serve and wash up. We made four courses for 11 people - between the four of us we rocked it!

First course was Caldo Verde, a potato and kale soup served with warm baguette and butter.
Caldo Verde
serves 6

5 medium potatoes
6 1/4 cups of water
3 cloves of garlic
4 tbsp olive oil
1/4 lb cabbage, finely shredded
salt and pepper to taste

- peel and chop the potatoes and boil in salted water with the garlic. I roasted the garlic first - chop the top off a bulb and put on a few drops of oil, then wrap in foil and put in the oven for 30 mins at 180 C. When they are soft, mash and add the olive oil and cabbage. I took a portion of the soup out and blended it just to give it a bit more substance.
- boil uncovered for 3 mins
- season to taste. Serve in bowls with a drop of oil in the bottom.

Next up came the salad course.
Chickpea Salad
serves 6 - 8

1 head of garlic
2 x 15oz cans of chickpeas
1 tbsp fresh basil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

- roast the garlic (See the above recipe).
- boil the chickpeas. Mix with the basil and balsamic vinegar. I ended up using some raspberry balsamic vinaigrette that I had lying around. I also used green beans as well as chickpeas which worked really well.
- when that has cooled down, mix in the garlic and toss in the tomatoes and season with spices.

For the main course I made a Cauliflower Marranca from the Moosewood Cookbook. It's not a particularly Portuguese recipe, but it sounded good so I gave it a go. We made two trays with cheese and one without for the vegans / dairy intolerant people. Both dishes were pretty yummy and very filling. I used millet, but you could easily use cous cous or quinoa or anything else. We served up with a salad garnish.

And finally we had a choice of either almond lemon cake or fruit salad for dessert. For the fruit salad I just chopped up some pear, some orange and some strawberries and added a bit of lime juice and some cinnamon and garnished with some fresh mint from the garden. Interestingly, I accidentally made the whole banquet gluten free without realising it... I guess that's how I roll.

Almond Lemon Cake

4 eggs, separated, at room temperature
2 tbsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 cup / 100g white sugar, divided into 50g and 50g
1 1/2 cups / 170g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp white or cider vinegar
pinch of salt

- preheat oven at 175 C. Line a 9 inch springform pan with parchment paper and grease it.
- in a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the lemon zest and 50g of the sugar until smooth.
- add in the almonds, cardamom and baking powder, and beat until smooth.
- in another bowl, beat the egg whites, starting on low and then increasing the speed. When bubbles start to form add a pinch of salt and the teaspoon of vinegar. As the mix increases in volume, sprinkle in the remaining 50g of sugar a bit at a time. Beat until soft peaks form.
- fold the egg whites into the almond mix.
- bake for 35 mins.
- let it cool and then take out of the springform.

We got quite a few compliments, it was lovely. A few people asked for the recipes, and one lady said I should be on Masterchef! Everyone the other side of the wall seemed to enjoy themselves. I know the kitchen staff did. Naturally I fed everyone (we were taste testing, what?!) so we all got four courses as well, just with a lot more running around in between. To finish off we served up coffee and mints, so while the guests had those we did all the washing up and cleared away most things. I took the table down and cleared away and was in bed by 11.30. Fantastic!

Dessert is served!

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