It was an impromptu decision to have my family over for the official first house warming of the house. It was B.T who suggested it and he felt that the house was definitely complete right now - previously, he didn't want anyone over until everything was done! He wanted to at least invite my folks over before we left for HK so we picked a day and we started thinking of the menu for dinner and preparing 2 days before.
We were kinda nervous. We both cook on a regular basis and specialize in different types of dishes but this was our first dinner party and cooking for 6 people is quite different. When The Studio was being renovated, he said that he'll leave it to me to decide on the decorations of the house and was hesitant to change the crockery but now sees how nicely everything ties in. For the dinner menu, I decided on it and they were all dishes that we had never done before (except for the butternut squash soup trial that we did).
Everyone loves the final product of the place - big yay and amazed at how the place has transformed and in fact looks bigger than before. We broke out the new candles, the lighting was warm and dim and B.T was happily demonstrating his new entertainment system. It helped that I did a lot of the preparations for the food the night before so it turned out to be rather relaxing when we cooked except the brief moment when he accidentally burned a little of the soup but it turned out fine. The soup was tasty but we didn't add enough stock so it was more of a puree paste than a soup :P
I was afraid that the attempt to bake the pavlova would be a flop but thankfully it all worked out and I'm very happy with the results. B.T loved it as well and we were surprised at how easy it was to make. The fact that we don't have a proper oven - just an oven toaster, I did estimations on the baking time. Also, we used a regular baking tin instead of a swiss roll tin so the meringue roll wasn't exactly a roll - actually I've no idea how the final product is meant to look like as the recipe came without pictures! The salad turned out fab too and we'll probably be repeating some of these for the next couple of dinner parties to come!
I am really happy that my family loves the place and enjoyed the dinner. The best part is seeing everyone enjoying the food - except that I didn't know that my BIL doesn't eat mangoes or salads but he loved the meringue. And Mudder who text-ed me in the early morning just to tell me that she was really impressed with my culinary skills and the dessert which she loved. Yay! Now I just hope that it isn't beginner's luck and the next few attempts will be even better :P
For the recipes below, these are my modifications so it's slightly different from the original. Also, I don't follow recipes 100% strictly and make my own variations for example, the salad recipe required raspberry vinegar which I couldn't get so I improvised instead.
Avocado and grapefruit salad
This salad is quick and easy to make and the most time is spent on pitting the avocados and the grapefruit. Both can be prepared the night before to save time during the actual cooking time itself. I love the combination of the sweet and zingy taste of the grapefruit married together with the cream texture of the avocado and as I used raspberry jam instead of raspberry vinegar, the dressing is has chunky fruit bits which adds a really lovely texture to the salad. This serves 6 people.
4 tsp of chunky raspberry jam
2 tbspn of balsamic vinegar (add more if you prefer a more tart and tangy taste)
Pinch of sea salt
3 tbspn of olive oil (add more to achieve desired consistency)
2 tspn of djorn mustard (I used wholegrain mustard)
2 ruby grapefruit
1) Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, raspberry jam, mustard, salt and oil, season with black pepper and set aside.
2) Cut away the peel of the grapefruit, cut between the membranes to remove the segments/pulp, reserving any juice.
3)Peel and pit the avocados and cut the flesh into bite-sized pieces.
4) Combine leaves, avocados, grapefruits and drizzle any remaining grapefruit juices over and toss with the salad dressing.
Mango Pavlova roll
The original recipe calls for passionfruit as well however, it was difficult trying to find passionfruit! So we gave up and just made it with mango. This is a versatile dessert. I've no idea how a pavlova looks like and this is a variation as it's a roll of baked meringue filled with cream and fruit and the top has dessicated coconut on the outside creating a lovely crispy taste. I'm usually not a fan of coconut desserts but this one went really well with the meringue. I can think of so many variations you can do with this recipe. Use strawberries or any kind of berries instead, of even durian (definitely not for us though as we both hate it) or peach and you can add in some finely chopped nuts or instead of coconut, finely chopped almonds.
5 (small) egg whites
3/4 cup (165g) caster sugar
1 tspn vanilla essences
1 tspn white vinegar
1 tspn cornflour
1/2 cup (25g) dessicated coconut)
300ml thickened cream
2 medium mangoes sliced thinly
1) I used a toaster oven which required no pre-heating but if you use a regular oven, preheat to moderately slow.
2) Grease a 25cmx30cm swiss roll pan (this is ideal but my toaster oven cannot accommodate so I used a regular baking pan), place a sheet of baking paper so that it covers the base and extends over the two opposite sides of the pan.
3) Beat egg whites in small bowl with electric mixer until soft peaks form.
4) Gradually add sugar, beating until dissolved between additions. Mix in vanilla essence, vinegar and cornflour.
5) Spread mixture into prepared pan, sprinkle with coconut (cover it with the coconut as it gives a nice texture and crunch). Bake in moderately slow oven for about 20 minutes or until meringue is browned lightly. (note, even if the top isn't browned, the bottom might be).
6) Cover a wire rack with a sheet of baking paper. Invert meringue onto paper, remove lining paper, cool, coconut side down.
7) Whip cream until soft peaks form. Spread over cooled cooled meringue. Top with mango.
8) Roll meringue firmly from long side, using baking paper to guide meringue as it rolls.
9) Chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours.
10) Slice the meringue into serving sizes and decorate with the remaining mango on the side.