Thursday, November 23, 2006

Dinner For Friends

Food Bloggers Menu

Now that I’m back, there were some long-overdue things that needed my attention. One being my laundry, it has piled up ye high (hand gestures to the height of her hip) and I am gradually running out of clean clothing. This probably wouldn’t be such a problem if I were male, but seeing as that I am not, my laundry desperately needs doing. Boring household chores aside another thing that I needed to tick off my to-do list is this shamefully tardy meme that I was tagged with by not one, but three other bloggers almost a month ago.

Jeff, Ellie and Brilynn all tagged me for the Food Blogger’s Dinner Menu and after several weeks of no response, here I finally bring to you my menu. You probably thought I had brushed it off and forgotten all about it, however with last month being Good Food Month and having the most hectic work schedule, I just couldn’t give it the earnest attention that it deserved. Appalling really, but that's my excuse and I am sticking to it.

The menu is nothing spectacular, but it is something I would gladly serve my nearest and dearest, to wrap them in the comfort and goodness of a home-cooked meal. I love Moroccan cuisine and North African flavours, and whenever I get the opportunity to share in my fondness for such fare it is always met with giddy anticipation, mostly on my part.

Carrot and Chermoula Fritters with Garlic Mayonaise

So to start off our feast is a small serving of Carrot, Chermoula and Ricotta Fritters with garlic aioli. Chermoula, is a North African spice mix most commonly used in Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian cuisine. Spicy and earthy its main components are cumin, paprika and coriander, it adds a spicy dimension to these typically sweet and mild fritters.

Carrot, Chermoula and Ricotta Fritters

Carrot and Chermoula Fritters with Garlic Mayonaise

1 cup self-raising flour
1 tsp chermoula spice mix
sea salt and cracked pepper
2 eggs
20g unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup milk
½ cup fresh ricotta cheese

1 tbsp chopped coriander
1 medium carrot, sliced into thin strips
vegetable oil for shallow frying
baby spinach leaves, washed and drained
Garlic Aioli

Place flour, chermoula, salt and pepper, eggs, butter and milk in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
Fold in ricotta, coriander and carrot strips.
Place a tablespoon of oil in a small frying pan and heat over medium heat.
Add two tablespoons worth of the batter to the pan and spread into a small, neat circle.
Cook for 2-3 minutes each side or until the fritters are golden brown and bubbles have appeared in the surface.
Set aside and cook the remaining batter.
Serve with some baby spinach and a dollop of garlic aioli.

Lamb Tagine

To make sure your bellies are filled to the brim, next up is a Lamb Tagine with couscous. I love tagines, if there ever were to be a meal I am forced to live with for the rest of my life, then it would have to be the tagine. The myriad of flavours, from spicy to sweet, to herby and tangy all encapsulated in the one mouthful is pure ecstasy. I also love how the process of stewing in the tagine renders the meat meltingly tender. It's hard to go wrong with a tagine, it's a crowd pleaser if there ever was one.

Moroccan Lamb Tagine

Lamb Tagine

½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground black pepper
1½ tsp paprika
1½ tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cinnamon sticks
1kg shoulder of lamb, trimmed and cut into 5cm cubes
1 large onion, diced
4 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
120g dried apricots, chopped in half
60g dates, chopped in half
60g currants
90g flaked almonds
1 tsp saffron stamens, soaked in 1 tablespoon cold water
500ml lamb stock
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp coriander, chopped
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

Place cayenne pepper, black pepper, paprika, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon into a small bowl and mix to combine.
Place the lamb in a large bowl and sprinkle over half of the spice mix. Toss the pieces of lamb together to ensure that all pieces are coated with the spice mix.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave refrigerate for 2-3 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 150˚C.
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large oven proof casserole dish and add the onions and remaining spice mix.
Cook over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent.
Add the crushed garlic and continue to cook for 2 minutes.
In a separate frying pan, heat the remaining oil and brown the cubes of lambs on all sides, ensuring not to cook the meat completely.
Add the seared meat to the casserole dish.
When all the meat has been seared, de-glaze the frying pan with some of the stock and add these juices to the stock.
Then add the chopped tomatoes, apricots, dates, currants, almonds, saffron and remaining lamb stock to the casserole dish.
Bring to the boil, cover and place in the oven and cook for 1-2 hours or until the meat is tender. Check the meat halfway through.
When cooked, sprinkle over fresh herbs and serve with couscous.

Fig Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Lastly, who could forget dessert, it's the last stop on any menu and rightly so. If this meal were to be your last at least you die having had your dessert. It completes any meal and really a meal without dessert is an incomplete one. I am one of those people that plan their whole dining experience around dessert and always have room in their belly for something sweet. It's as if I have an entire other stomach just for it, some may call it a defect, but I call it a blessing.

And in case you were wondering, yes, I knew I was making these Warm Fig and Caramel Puddings even before I knew what the entree was. This cake is quite dense, although the texture is delicately soft. In every mouthful you will hear the crunchy resonance of fig seeds still intact after baking. Served with some vanilla ice cream and a drizzling, or a drenching of caramel sauce, which ever you prefer, this dessert is heaven in a cup.

Warm Fig and Caramel Pudding

250g dried figs
375ml water
¾ tsp baking soda
100g unsalted butter, softened
130g brown sugar
130g caster sugar
3 eggs
270g self-raising flour

Caramel Sauce
100g caster sugar
30ml water
150ml cream
1 tbsp Cointreau

Preheat oven to 180˚C. Prepare a baking tin with parchment paper.
Place figs, water and baking soda in a saucepan and bring to the boil, then simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.
Cool to room temperature then blend until smooth.
In another bowl, beat butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Fir in fig mixture and sift in flour. Combine until the flour is just incorporated.
Pour into baking tin and bake uncovered for 1 hour.
Stand cake for 5 minutes.
Tip out cake onto a wire rack and cool further.

Place sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar has dissolved.
Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes or until the sugar changes colour.
Remove from heat and stir in cream and Cointreau.

Serve pudding with vanilla ice cream and top with caramel sauce.

So I hope you enjoyed this virtual feast, and come over anytime soon!!


Anonymous said...

Yum. I'd like to try my hand at all three. And the fig pudding looks like it could make its way onto the Christmas dinner table instead of the traditional sticky date I make!

I love your blog. I wish I could eat it.

Eva said...

Hi Jen,

What a wonderful meal - but to be honest, I have something else in mind than saying the obvious: I'd like to ask for your help! Since I moved to Sydney a year ago (originally, I'm from Germany), I haven't been able to find a certain fruit. It's a special kind of plum, you'll find it described here:
In Germany, it ripens at the end of summer so it probably won't be available right now (but I haven't come to terms with all these different climate zones in Australia yet).
Now my question: Have you ever spotted something like that in any farm market/supermarket whatsoever? If not, you know probably more foodies around here to ask?
I'd really appreciate your help!


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you waited till you had time to do this - wonderful menu and recipes, and those photos are just to die for!

Anonymous said...

JenJen, I mean I am seriouly awe struck.
First, the photos are some of the most vivid and gorgeous I have seen anywhere in a while.
Second, the menu it's self is incredible, I'm wishing we weren't having turkey today (well, except with my family we really enjoy the turnkey because we're together). I love all these dishes.
Third, when can I come for this dinner.

Brilynn said...

This dinner was worth the wait!

Julia said...

WOW - impressive!! *drool....*
you can make me this menu anytime! ;)
your dessert is (as always) my favourite - it's simply amazing.

Anonymous said...

what a wonderful dinner!

Anonymous said...

lovely meal jenjen. I often choose the dessert first the tajine

Anonymous said...

What a menu! Please be sure to invite me to that dinner!!!

Helene said...

I am on my way!!!
Wonderful meal, pictures. I love everything you planned.
I'd better do my menu or Ellie is going to kick my behind!
Glad you're back!

ChrisB said...

You had me drooling what a delicious looking meal. I'd love to be on your guest list.

Anonymous said...

hi jen, such beautiful looking food! also, may i just side track a lil, may i know where can i get Valrhona chocolate in sydney?
thanks in advance

Edith said...

what a lip smacking meal. will I be invited next round. *wink*

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful menu for your come back. I'm glad to know you've taken your time to rest! Ok, I really enjoyed your virtual feast. Even if I love your dessert and tend to choose it first, your starter seems delicious. I'd love to be part of your guest once! why on earth don't I live in Sydney?? Please, please, I wanna find my internship there!!

Karen said...

Great Combinations-- as well as photos. I'd like to give it a try someday.

Jen said...

Amber- The fig pudding would definitely be a tasty variation to the classic sticky date. Hope you have a great Christmas!
Thanks Amber.

Eva- From what i gather from Nikki's post, that this fruit is a sort of plum??? Well I have seen a vartiety of plums at the markets, although nothing exactly like this. However if you were up for the detective work, try going to Sydney Markets (Flemington) and a few other Farmer's Markets and try looking for them there. Also don't be afraid to ask the suppliers if they have seen anything like it. Im sorry I wasn't much help, but I hope your search becomes "fruitful" : )

Ellie- Thanks so much, I guess you could say its better late than never.

Tanna- Thanks, for the encouraging words. I hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I'm sure your turkey tasted splendid!!
Come over anytime!!!!

Brilynn- Awww, thanks for your patience.

Julia- Thank you. I have this certain knack for making desserts more than anything else, I think it's because I absolutely love eating dessrt more than anything else.

Mimosa- Thanks!!!

Jules- I think a great meal revolves around dessert, but that's just because i'm such a dessert fiend.

Ivonne- You are welcome to come over any time!!!

Helene- The table's set and waiting for you to arrive!!
This was a really fun meme, you will love it. Although it would be more fun if actual foodbloggers did get to come over and enjoy the meal, maybe in the future.

ChrisB- Thanks, I could feed an army with this tagine, so come on over and help us clean it out.

Anonymous- To be honest I have never come across Valrohna chocolate here in Sydney, which is certainly a pain. But try asking suppliers like Simon Johnson if they know where you could source some here. I have also seen them on some restaurant menus, so perhaps you can ask them where they get theirs from. If it's unavailable in Sydney, you might have to get it shipped in from overseas, which is unfortunate.

Precious Moments- Of course you are invited, come over now!!!

Noemie- Yes, why on earth don't you live in Sydney?? It's the best city ever!! Well whatever happens, I hope you get that intership and we could meet up. You will love it here.

Karen- Thanks, hope you get a chance to give it a try. The tagine can get quite spicy, just so you know. In case you weren't into spicy food.

lobstersquad said...

welcome back!
I love your cookies and cakes, but that tagine is a serious contender for the best thing ever

Anonymous said...

Hi jenjen
Your tangine looks amazing and I'd like to make it at home. How many people does it serve?
Another jen