Eight Bells

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Birthday Dinner The Second

The in-laws are staying and it's the mum in-law's birthday so a slap up dinner is the order of the day. We went for a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean themed mezze type meal which was great fun to prepare (although a lot of time in the kitchen). As you can see from the picture there was a lot to prepare. To give you a rough idea, we were cooking for four adults. This is an excercise that will take roughly half a day but the results really are worth the effort.

Salted almonds
White bean dip
Baba ghanoush
Parmesan Aioli
Hot Tomato sauce
Lamb rack
Keftedes (fried meatballs)
Saganaki (fried Halloumi cheese)
Stuffed capsicum (bell pepper)
Peppered squid
Grissini (bread sticks)
Sesame crackers

Salted Almonds
1/2 a cup of whole almonds (skin on)
1 tablespoon of butter

Melt butter on medium heat, do not allow it to split or colour.
Add almonds & allow to 'sizzle' for 5 mins, do not brown.
Tip on to a plate with a couple of paper kitchen towels on, pat dry and salt.
Serve as an appetizer, half a cup would serve 4.

1 tin of chick peas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
6 cloves of garlic, roasted
The juice of one large lemon
1/2 a cup of olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 teaspoon of tahini (we actually used vegemite because it's always in the house and it's cheaper)

Blend all ingredients till smooth. Adjust flavour with salt & pepper and consistency with oil or lemon juice if required. Stand for 2 hours before serving.

White Bean Dip
You will find the recipe here

Baba Ghanoush
1 large eggplant (aubergine)
1 head of garlic roasted and the cooked cloves removed
2 tablespoons of tahini
1 teaspoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of parsely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper

Bake eggplant at 170C/340F on a tray for 1 hour till soft and almost collapsing.
Skin the eggplant and blend it and all the other ingredients to a smooth dip and adjust flavour according to your taste. Leave to stand for 2 hours.


Parmesan Aioli
1/2 a cup of plain aioli (purchased or home made)
1/2 a cup of parmesan cheese, grated finely
Salt & pepper

Blend, adjust taste and leave to stand for at least 2 hours.

Hot Tomato Sauce
2 tins of peeled and chopped tomatoes in juice
1/2 a cup of white wine (use a decent bottle of sauvignon blanc then drink the rest)
Salt & pepper
1 teaspoon each of oregano, parsely and thyme chopped
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1/2 an onion finely sliced or grated
4 cloves of garlic either roasted or just crushed raw depending on how strong you want the garlic flavour to be.

Put ingredients in a saucepan and blend until smooth with a whiz stick (use a food processor if you don't have one of these nifty gadgets).
Heat and simmer to reduce to about half over 1-2 hours stirring occasionally. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot or whatever temperature you prefer. We used the sauce on the meatballs and stuffed peppers.

Parmesan and Herb Crusted Lamb Rack

Keftedes (fried meatballs)
2 slices of bread, finely crumbled
1/4 of a cup of milk
300g/10 OZ of minced beef and pork (150g/5 OZ each)
1/2 a teaspoon of dried mint
1 tablespoon of chooped parsely
1 egg yolk
1 apple, peeled, cored and grated
Half a red onion, finely chopped or grated
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Break up the bread in a bowl and add the milk, leave to soak.
Put the meat into a bowl and add the mint, parsely, egg yolk, apple, onion and the soaked bread.
Season with salt & pepper and mix well with your hands. Form into small balls and leave to stand for 30 mins.
Pour approximately 1 cm of olive oil into a large frying pan over medium to high heat (not hot enough to smoke the oil). Cook the meatballs in batches as they can be tricky to turn and you don't want to stew them. Fry till golden brown all over. Don't push them around or fiddle with them, just fry them, turn them and fry again.
Remove from the pan and place on a plate lined with kitchen paper to soak up any excess oil.

Olive oil

Slice the halloumi into 1cm thick slices and fry till golden brown in olive oil over a medium-high heat.

Stuffed Capsicum

5 large red, orange or yellow capsicum (one of them finely chopped up)
200g of minced lamb
1/3 of a cup of uncooked Arborio (short grain risotto rice) rice.
Half an onion finely chopped
2 tablespoons of chopped parsely
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 a teaspoon of dried mint
1/2 a teaspoon of sweet paprika
1/2 a teaspoon of ground black pepper
1/2 a teaspoon of salt

1 tin of chopped tomatoes
50g/2 OZ of butter
2 tablespoons of olive oil

Preheat your oven to 180C/355F.
Put the meat in a large bowl with the onion, parsely, rice, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, paprika, mint, the 1 chopped capsicum and salt & pepper. Mix well.
Carefully cut the tops of 4 of the peppers away by using a small sharp knife and cutting down into the pepper (don't just slice the tops off). Remove seeds and as much membrane as you can, don't worry about getting it all out.
Using a teaspoon stuff the capsicum with the stuffing, don't over stuff.
Melt the butter and combine with the tin of tomatoes and the olive oil. Place the capsicum in an overproof container and pour the tomato/butter/oil mixture over them. Replace the lids and bake in the oven for around 1 1/2 hours.

Peppered Squid

Take 2 large squid preferably already prepared by your supplier. Cut the 'tube' into 1 inch thick rings then slice so that you have a strip of squid. Cut this in half and score on the inside (non skin side) in a criss cross pattern, be careful not to cut right through the flesh.
Take 1 teaspoon of whole sichuan pepper ,1 teaspoon of black pepper corns and 1 teaspoon of smoked red peppercorns. Heat a small frying pan and cook the peppercorns briefly on a medium heat moving the pan the whole time. Do not burn and remove when the aromatics really kick in (you will smell it) after about 2 or 3 mins. Remove from the heat and grind in a mortar.
Heat a frying pan on a medium high heat and add half your squid. Sprinkle about 1/2 a teasoon of your pepper mix on the squid, turn and do the same again. The squid will be ready after only about 3-4 mins. Remove and cook the other half of the squid in the same way.

And of course you can't have a birthday party without helium balloons.


At 7:21 PM, Blogger startrekker said...

You are SURELY not suggesting I make this for MY birthday which is, oh, wait, yes, it's NEXT FRIDAY. I would've if I could've but I shouldn't so I dould't. Thank you, Ogden Nash.

Excellent party, Jules. I enjoy your blog immensely.

At 9:55 PM, Blogger Julian said...

thanks star i enjoy you immensely

At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Startrekker
I hope you have a wonderful birthday! Mine was fantastic, even better than wonderful, and you can see what the food was like, and the balloons, and the trip to the zoo, and the wine, and the presents, and flowers, and the chocolates, and and and...
How lucky I am!

At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

... I forgot the jellybeans, and the cake! It had big chunks of Turkish Delight and the icing/filling/frosting was superb, melt-in-the-mouth delicious. Most beautiful cake I've ever seen, all pink and gold (or rose and lemon).

At 8:47 AM, Blogger blerv said...

looks great. half that stuff is a regular meal at my parents' house, mmm. :D

i never really got into babaganoush. maybe because the traditional romanian eggplant spread is 100 times better. but don't bother making it unless you're going to barbecue the eggplants over an open flame. http://www.netcooks.com/recipes/Salads/Salata.de.vinete.(Eggplant.Salad).html

At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting site. Useful information. Bookmarked.


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