Tuesday, July 31, 2007

July 29, 2007: An indoor picnic

Our community of Queensland migrants welcomed two new members, Kerrie and Daniel, this weekend. To celebrate their arrival I wanted to cook everyone a meal but with our posse stretching to about 13 members there was no chance of a sit-down dinner party. Instead I devised an indoor picnic, where we could enjoy lounging about on cushions and spill lunch on checkered blankets with the comfort of oven-baked food and protection from Melbourne's wayward weather.

I was in no doubt as to what would emerge from the oven: trays of golden brown pastry. Vegan pastry, no less! Borg's frozen puff pastry (it's at Safeway) is as tasty as any buttery supermarket pastry I've tried. I used it to make (non-vegan) "meat" pies and party-sized non-sausage rolls and had a jar of Chinese-style barbeque sauce at the ready (for the record, the pies are easily veganised and there's been some discussion of tweaking the sausage rolls with silken tofu).

The pastries were really the main event of this meal, and they drew the appreciative comments, but I knew I had to feed my guests some veges too. Pictured above isn't a couple of pear quarters, but actually some rosemary braised fennel. This recipe comes from Clotilde Dusoulier's first book Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen. I've just borrowed the book from the library and it's a cute as the blog (and as Clotilde herself, of course!). This dish had the advantages of complementing the faint whiff of rosemary in the pie filling and of being served at room temperature, allowing me to prepare it early.

The second side was composed of potatoes, leeks and artichokes - another dish that can simmer away in a pot long before guests arrive and then be reheated just before serving. The recipe comes from the lovely ladies at Mondo Organics and is my favourite side dish for these pies. Leftovers can be wrapped up in pastry themselves as another winter meal.

While these sides are each excellent pastry partners, they ended up being rather similar in colour and texture. I probably would have done a bit better to choose just one of them and then rely on a crisp green salad for a bit of lift. Live and learn, right? Luckily Jo-Lyn stepped in with some crisp, fresh produce - cucumbers, mint and fruit for Pimms all round (pictured at the top)! This summery gesture was supported by a generous serving of sunlight through our north-facing windows.

You know that any meal managed by me would have to include dessert, but you'll have to wait until my next post for that one. For now, you just get a couple of new vege recipes.

Rosemary braised fennel
(from Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen by Clotilde Dusoulier)

4 small fennel bulbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup stock
1 tablespoon lime juice

Cut the stalks off the fennel, quarter them and then cut some of the core off - make sure the 'leaves' are still connected together.

In a large pan, heat most of the oil over medium-high heat. Add about half of the fennel so that they're not crowded up, and then brown them on each side. Leave 'em for a few minutes and don't be too impatient! When the first batch is done, transfer them to a plate and repeat with the remaining oil and fennel.

Return all of the fennel to the pan, then sprinkle it with the salt and rosemary. Add the wine, stock and lime juice, bring it to a simmer and cover. Turn the heat down and cook the fennel until tender, about 20-25 minutes. Remove the lid and cook down the liquid until it's syrupy. Clotilde reckons this will only take about 5 minutes, but my fennel juice took at least 15 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Winter potatoes with artichokes, leeks and mint
(from a Mondo Organics newsletter)

1 x 400g can artichoke hearts
500g potatoes, peeled
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons dill
3/4 cup olive oil (I'd suggest reducing this to 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup "chicken" stock
300g leeks, chopped
2 tablespoons mint
juice of 1/2 a lemon

Place the first 7 ingredients in a large saucepan or casserole dish and simmer on low heat, covered, for 45 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the mint and lemon juice just before serving.


  1. This looks and sounds lovely. I think pastry is almost always a safe bet when entertaining, especially in winter. I love the sound of those sides. I'm always looking for side dish inspiration so will have to try them very soon.

  2. Truffle, I would definitely recommend the potato dish - it's not too labour intensive and has great flavour!

  3. Those potatoes look fabulous.
    I could see it going over so well - it's got such pizazz for a humble potato dish, delicious!

  4. Thanks, Dayna! Glad you stopped by. This potato dish definitely comes with a big thumbs up from me. :-)

  5. I love love LOVE this potato dish. I ended up using a jar of marinated artichoke (but would suggest if you do this to reduce the oil even more). Delicious :)

    1. Cool! Thanks for dropping by to comment, fallfromfashion. :-)