Thursday, August 31, 2006

August 24, 2006: Catering for Carol

We arranged to have Carol over for dinner on this night, to thank her for her generosity during our first couple of weeks in Melbourne. During our time in her house, we noticed her smallish appetite and addiction to avocado and crackers before dinner. Thus we decided to prepare a few rounds of nibbly food instead of an elaborate main meal. During the day Michael made pesto and dukkah in his prized mortar and pestle. (Dukkah is a Middle Eastern spice mix, best mopped up using toasted Turkish bread dipped in olive oil.)

(The recipes are included at the end of the post.) Carol arrived with the un-yuppie contributions of Cheezels and Snack chocolate, and I demolished about two thirds of the Cheezels before I even looked at Michael’s earthy gourmet creations. (Despite the overall tone of this blog, I’m not much of a food snob. My most craved food is probably chips.)

Our after-thought of a main course was an encore performance of the marinated tofu, this time with ginger in the marinade, with some carrots, bok choy and a wedge of lemon on the side.

The original dessert plan was to visit Koko Black, but it was a dreary cold evening and we picked up some treats from Brunetti before Carol arrived instead.

I carefully cut the cherry almond tart and sticky date pudding into thirds, unsure of how to deal with the chocolate cannoli. The sticky data pudding was unusually encased in shortcrust pastry, with a dense date-and-walnut centre and sticky sweet caramel topping. The cherry tart had more shortcrust pastry, an almond meal filling that tasted distinctly of amaretto, a layer of custard, and a few sour cherries and flaked almonds on the top. At this point the dilemma of how to neatly divide the cannoli was superseded by the dilemma of how to fit them into our full stomaches. The solution was to wrap up one cannoli and send it home with Carol, while stashing the other one in the fridge.

(we adapted this from Diana’s kitchen. Her recipe has more garlic and uses a food processor instead of a mortar and pestle.)

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, finely minced

Pummel the basil in the mortar until it’s mushy. Add about a 1/3 of the pine nuts and a clove of garlic and pummel some more. Add about a 1/3 of the parmesan cheese, pummel, and drizzle in some of the olive oil. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, and don’t use all of the oil if you’re happy with the consistency. (Extra oil probably helps preserve the pesto if you’re not going to use it all straight away.) Reduce the garlic further if you want to interact with anyone else for the next 24 hours.

Diana says, “Basil pesto keeps in refrigerator one week, or freeze for a few months.”

(This recipe is copied directly from the Australian magazine, January 28-29 2006)


65g sesame seeds
30g coriander seeds
15g hazelnuts
2 teaspoons ground cumin
sea salt, to taste

Roast the seeds, nuts and cumin separately in a small dry frying pan over a low heat until fragrant. Don’t let them become too dark. Pound everything together in a mortar and pestle until finely crushed but not pulverised. Mixture should be dry rather than a paste. Season to taste with salt then store in an airtight container until required. Serve with warm fried tortillas or warm pita bread.

Tip: dukkah is also lovely on roasted or grilled vegetables or warm wilted spinach.

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