Stomach's Eleven were on the move, and this time it was my turn to host our travelling dinner party. I don't naturally like organising, but I do hate being stressed, which is why everyone always laughs when they spot the usual "dinner party to-do schedule" on my fridge. But planning ahead does pay off. It means I can cook certain dishes or elements thereof a few days beforehand, and there's less chance of shrieking "oh my god I forgot about the _____" in the half-hour before guests arrive.
I've been meaning to make roast pork with crackling for quite some time, and a ravenous crowd of food lovers seemed like the perfect opportunity. From here, a Spanish-style theme followed, for there was sangria and tortilla and albondigas meatballs, but also a few non-Spanish dishes like my favourite roast pumpkin salad (the hit of the evening apart from the crackling) and an impromptu combination of seared chorizo with cubes of fetta, chickpeas and mint.
I'm always conscious of appeasing guests' appetites with something to nibble on before dinner. To my surprise, the baked polenta was a huge success, triangles of crispy baked polenta which I served with a small bowl of the tomato sauce from the meatballs, as well as a small dish of smoky chipotle sauce from Disaster Bay Chillies.
2 1/2 cups (625ml) milk
2/3 cup (100g) polenta + 1Tb extra for sprinkling
25g butter, diced
canola or olive oil spray
Bring the milk to a gentle boil in a saucepan. Lower the heat and slowly pour in the polenta in a steady stream, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir for about twenty minutes or until the mixture thickens considerably and will leave the side of the pan.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter. Mix well and season with salt and pepper as required. Pour the mixture into a greased cake tin about 30cm by 20cm. Smooth the surface of the polenta and allow to cool in the fridge for at least two hours, or overnight, until set.
When the polenta is set, slice the polenta into bite-sized triangles or finger-sized rectangles. Transfer the polenta to a baking tray lined with baking paper, leaving a small gap between each piece. Spray generously with oil and then scatter generously with extra polenta. Bake at 200C / 400F for 12min or until golden. Serve with a tomato relish (I used the sauce from my meatball dish to save time) or chilli sauce.
Gambas al pil pil garlic prawns
Next time I would definitely peel my own banana prawns for the gambas al pil pil as the flavour of peeled prawns really doesn't do this dish justice. I wouldn't hesitate on going crazy with the garlic either, and allow the garlic to really caramelise before adding the prawns.
Tortilla espanola Spanish potato omelette
This is probably one of the better versions of tortilla espanola I've managed to create with its gorgeous golden hue and enough egg to keep all the potato together. In the past I've probably tried to pile in too many potatos into the pan. I still adore the comforting combination of layers of softened potato sweetened with onion and swaddled in a yellow blanket of egg. It's also a great dish that can be made ahead and warmed if necessary. [Grab Your Fork recipe]
Chorizo, chickpeas, fetta and mint salad
Roast pumpkin salad with rocket, asparagus, red onion and toasted almonds
[Grab Your Fork recipe]
Whenever I cook meatballs, I take great pleasure in bashing the mince with gusto, a tendering tip I first saw demonstrated by Maggie Beer on The Cook and the Chef. It simply involves picking up the entire mound of mince and then throwing it against the side of the bowl about 20 times or until you feel the meat "relax", an aggression-indulgent process that also guarantees tender meat.
Albondigas meatballs in tomato almond sauce
250g pork mince
250 beef mince
4 cloves garlic crushed
1 large onion, diced finely
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
flour for dredging
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 x 440g tins of whole tomatoes
150ml white wine
1/3 cup almond meal
2 teaspoons of sugar
salt and pepper
Combine all meatball ingredients and tenderise by picking up the entire mix and pounding it against the side of the bowl until you feel the meat start to "relax". Season with salt and pepper then refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Roll mixtures into small walnut-sized balls, dust lightly with flour and then panfry in batches until golden and cooked through. Set aside.
To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the onion. Fry gently for about five minutes, then add the tomatoes. Add the white wine and almond meal and bring back to a simmer. Add the sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about ten minutes and then use a handheld blender to puree, or otherwise continue cooking until the tomato breaks down.
Both the meatballs and the sauce can be prepared ahead and stored in the fridge until needed. When ready to serve, gently heat the sauce and meatballs together in a saucepan until warmed through.
Is there any greater delight than roast pork with the accompanying joy of bubbled crackling? I cooked 4kg of roast pork for ten people (it was Stomach's Ten for dinner this time) and we managed to eat three-quarters of this in addition to all the other dishes.
2kg of pork belly with skin and preferably rib bones still attached
1 teaspoon of salt
Score the pork belly skin with a sharp knife. Put the pork in a large saucepan or stockpot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 90 minutes. Remove to a colander and then pat dry with a paper towel. Place the pork between two sheets of baking paper and weigh down with tins to help flatten the meat. Leave for an hour in the fridge, then remove baking paper and rub skin with salt. Leave uncovered in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
Place the pork on a rack in a roasting tin and pour in about 2cm of water. Roast in a 240C oven for 20 minutes, then lower heat to 200C and cook for 40 minutes. If the skin hasn't blistered sufficiently, place the pork under a hot grill under it bubbles into crackling. Use foil to stop areas of crackling burning if other parts still need more heating.
Dessert was banoffee pie - I figured that the dulce du leche counted as a Spanish contribution. [Grab Your Fork recipe] - I didn't use macadamias this time, and needed only one tin of caramel. A handy tip is to boil two tins of condensed milk anyway, so you have a spare tin of caramel for a faster banoffee pie next time.
Adding the caramel (or dulce du leche) to the biscuit base
Adding the cream to the layer of caramel and bananas
You can never have too much cream when it comes to banoffee pie
Black sesame cupcake cones
And because it was M&L's birthday (one week apart!) I created an ice-cream themed birthday dessert for the ice cream afficianados. The G-man didn't even realise these weren't ice cream but icing on top of cupcakes. And the flavour? Black sesame because that's one of L's favourite ice cream flavours :)
Black sesame cupcake cones
125g butter, softened
125g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3 Tablespoons of black sesame powder (from Asian grocers)
1 teaspoon of black sesame oil
1-2 Tablespoons of milk
12 flat-bottomed ice cream cones
Preheat oven to 180C or 170C if using fan-forced.
Place all the ingredients except the milk into a food processor. Blitz in short bursts until the mixture is well combined and smooth.
Whilst pulsing the mixture, gradually pour in one tablespoon of milk through the food processor funnel. Blitz until the milk has been incoporated. The mixture should look smooth. Add another tablespoon of milk if necessary. Taste the mixture and add more black sesame powder and/or black sesame oil if preferred.
Place a mini muffin tin on a baking tray and fill with ice cream cones. I used a small dab of cake batter on the bottom of each cone to help secure it to the tin. Spoon a small amount of batter into each cone, less than a third of the total height of the cone (I had to do a second batch as the first overflowed). You will probably have 1/3 of the batter leftover. Bake this separately as cupcakes or mini cupcakes.
Place the baking tray carefully into a 200C oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
When the cakes are cool, pipe over generously with black sesame icing so it resembles a soft serve ice cream cone.
Black sesame icing
Beat 125g softened unsalted butter with 250g pure icing sugar and 3 Tablespoons of black sesame powder using an electric mixer. Beat in 1 teaspoon black sesame oil. Beat until smooth.
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Stomachs Eleven: Christmas 2010 (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Teochew feast (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Mole poblano and pulled pork tacos (Me)
Stomachs Eleven: Pizza and friends (Miss Rice)
Stomachs Eleven: Ten kilograms of mussels (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Shanghainese banquet (M&L)
Stomachs Eleven: Wagyu shabu shabu and dessert sushi (Silverlily)
Stomachs Eleven: Stuffed deboned pig's head + nose-to-tail eating (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: French feast (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Whole suckling pig and Chinese banquet (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Hotpot night (M&L)
Stomachs Eleven: Crackling roast pork and black sesame cupcakes (me)
Stomachs Eleven: No ordinary steak dinner (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Polish feast (Miss Rice)
Stomachs Eleven: Christmas 2009 (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Char siu and Hainan chicken (me)
Stomachs Eleven: Amazing impromptu dinner party (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Dumplings and Shanghai soy duck (M&L)
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3/08/2009 10:46:00 p.m.