Tony's Birthday Got Forked
After his milestone birthday last year our friend Tony , the silver fox (not that I'm giving away is age...) invited us around to celebrate another year and I offered to be the caterer. I knew that the order of the day would be great music (he's an ace D.J.) and laughs, in his and his lovely wife Ali's beautiful home. I just had to make sure that the food didn't disappoint.
With ten guests arriving at different times, I figured a buffet would be a good way for people to come and go as they please and it also meant that the food I cooked needed to taste just as good cold as it did hot, so I set to planning the menu.
Ok, before I start, I need to explain that I'm not a chef and all the dishes I made came from much loved cook books from brilliant professionals who, as it turned out, made me look really good! A special thank you to Emma Spitzer, who's book dominated this meal with the utmost success.
A few things that sprang to mind the moment I offered to cook: 1. What if there isn't enough food to go around? 2. Am I going to make everything on time? 3. Am I going to get to enjoy the party as much as the guests? Answers below..
I began my food prep on Thursday with the Labneh (Vegetarian dish) by Emma Spitzer from "Fress" cook book. What is Labneh? A set yogurt made from strained yogurt with its origins in the Middle East. This is the second time I've made this and it won't be my last - The most self sufficient of dips, I tied the yogurt up in a muslin cloth, sat it in a sieve over a bowl and left it in the fridge. The whey slowly drips out resulting in a thicker creamier consistency that adds a freshness that counterbalances the spicier dishes.
On Friday morning I started making the bolognese sauce for the Lasagne (definitely not vegetarian) by Gizzi Erskine from "Gizzi's Healthy Appetite" cook book. This really was a Labour of love and the 3 hour's of slow cooking made the sauce all the richer and tastier for it. Whilst this was cooking I made the Hummus (Vegan dish) by Emma Spitzer. Being Greek, it felt wrong not to include a dip that has been added to the table at almost every family meal I've ever had. I've tried many hummus recipes before and non of them come close to this one, this might have something to do with the splash of soy sauce in it.
Next up was the Cambodian Wedding Day Dip (vegan dish) by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall from "River Cottage from Veg Everyday!" cook book. I'm assuming that it's given name has something to do with it being made for special occasions. This was my curve ball dip, Mushrooms, coconut milk, peanut butter and chillies?! I think this ended up being the birthday boy's favourite dish and I'll no doubt be making again at some point.
With the Bolognese sauce simmering away, I move on to the filling for the Spanakopita (Vegetarian dish) by Tami Weiser from The Kitchn, I couldn't cater for a party without bringing a bit of Greek to the table! This Spanakopita recipe (spinach and feta pie wrapped in filo pastry) is the best I've tried so far.
6 hours later, my kitchen looks like a Tsunami has hit it, dried bolognese splatters on cupboard doors, run away chickpeas, 6 kitchen towels strewn across the room (I kept losing them and bringing out another) and a pile of washing up to do that sunk me to my knees. On the plus side, the food was looking good.
D day or as its Tony's bday, should that be T day - It's Saturday morning I get on with making the Red Cabbage, Black Olive and Beetroot Coleslaw (vegetarian dish) by Emma Spitzer A lovely and light alternative to the regular coleslaw and would probably be a great accompaniment to barbecue too.
Another great alternative is the Potato and Egg Salad with Spicy Cucumbers (vegetarian dish) by (again!) Emma Spitzer , similar flavours as the traditional one but with a little more oomph!
The Fried Cauliflower and Caramelized Red Onions, Toasted Israeli Couscous and Almonds (vegan dish) is on the front cover of the "Fress" cook book. It looked pretty..... so I made it. It was delicious and now I'm obsessed with Israeli couscous! One of my friends in particular enjoyed it so much I passed on the recipe.
I assembled the Spanakopita, baked it and constructed the lasagne, using the bolognese sauce, ready to cook at Tony's house. In my "Greek- mother-panic-no-one-gets-hungry" mode I added a Lentil and Tomato Salad (Vegan dish) by Jane Hornby from BBCGoodFood , and picked up fresh flat breads from the Turkish bakery close to home.
Our friend Steve ( Vegan dish ;-) ) picked us up and under my watchful eye, we carefully piled everything in to the back of the van for party time!
We drank, we laughed, we sung an out of tune Happy Birthday, we got a bit sunburnt and we ate...a lot! With the amount of food I made, it could have fed another 5 or 6 people so yes, I cooked enough food, yes it was all cooked in time and yes I still managed to enjoy myself despite having to leave a little earlier as I almost fell asleep in the garden!
Happy Birthday Tony x