Wednesday, 14 January 2009

40th anniversary bash roundup

Saffron Mama's Glasgow trifle--one of the dishes that didn't make the feast table

I'm back in Japan now after a fabulously relaxing few weeks in Australia. With my "only-17-years-late" graduation, Christmas and New Year in quick succession, there was plenty of excitement, too. The last big event of the trip was a Ruby Wedding anniversary party for Saffron Papa and Mama!

Saffron Papa, Mama and I cooked up a storm in the three days leading up to the party and managed to make rather more food that was strictly necessary (g). (So much so, actually, that some did not even make it to the table!)

Some of the party guests were kind enough to comment on my contributions, so I am rounding up the recipes here to make it nice and easy for them to replicate them at home if they choose. I would also point them to the original recipe sources, all of which are documented in my blog posts below, for more treats in the same vein.

A selection of Middle Eastern appetizers

Turkish tomato dip/salad
Moroccan carrot dip
Turkish red pepper, walnut and pomegranate dip

Lemon-spiked main courses

Moroccan lamb with peas and preserved lemons
(Note to our guests: Saffron Mama made more preserved lemons than we needed, so contact her if you would like some. Otherwise, they are very easy to make.)

Pakistani mince and potato curry

Finally, I'd like to thank all our guests for their own culinary contributions--Cypriot dolma-dakia stuffed vine leaves, the world's best lasagne, jumbo pavlovas, a fruit platter, and brownies and a lemon meringue pie. What a great feast it turned out to be!


Uncle D's Cypriot dolma-dakia

Photo courtesy of Saffron Papa

Uncle D, a good friend of Saffron Papa and Mama's, is Greek Cypriot and has a great interest in food and travel. As you can imagine, we bonded almost instantly (g).

For many years, Saffron Mama has raved about his dolma-dakia. Imagine my joy, then, when he offered to make these special stuffed vine leaves for the big do for my parents' 40th anniversary. Never one to let a foodie opportunity go by, I cheekily finagled having the making of these delectable parcels done at Saffron Papa and Mama's to see how it is done myself. A long-time fan of stuffed everything, I have scores of recipes for stuffed vine leaves, but no access to the leaves. So this was my maiden dolma-dakia voyage.

The actual dolma rolling was very easy and the vine leaves much more forgiving than I had imagined. Leaves a bit small? Rip up some less perfect specimens to make up the size. Tears in a leaf? Just patch it up the same way!

Like kibbe, jiaozi/gyoza and other fiddly stuffed foods made in great quantities, the process of making dolma-dakia is quite relaxed and convivial. Uncle D and I quickly stuffed a huge pan of over 1 kg of mince into leaves, but I could have kept going all afternoon. Once rolled, the little packets were layered in tight circles in a pot and refrigerated for further cooking on the day of the party.

These are meat-stuffed dolma-dakia, but I have it on good authority that Uncle D also makes a killer vegetarian version. Can't wait to try that one next time, Uncle D!

Uncle D's Cypriot dolma-dakia

Serves many

1 kg lean minced beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped finely
1 small handful fresh mint, chopped finely
1 tsp mixed spice
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 400 g tin tomatoes
1 empty tomato tin of water
1 cup long-grain rice
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
salt & pepper
800 g fresh vine leaves

150-200 ml lemon juice

1 For the filling: Begin browning the mince and add the onions, herbs, mixed spice, tinned tomatoes, water, tomato paste, rice and lemon juice before the mince is fully browned. Season well with salt and pepper. Cook for around 5 minutes, then leave to cool. The rice will continue to absorb the liquid as the filling cools.

2 For the vine leaves: If tender, pour boiled water over and leave for 5 minutes, then drain. If less tender, place in a saucepan, cover with cold water and simmer for 4 minutes, then drain. Any unused vine leaves can be frozen for later use. If the veins on the leaf are still tough, you can cut out the thickest part, but you should try to keep the integrity of the leaf intact.

3 To roll dolma-dakia: Place 1 prepared vine leaf vein side down with the point facing away from you. Place around 1 tbsp of the cooled mince mixture cross-wise on the leaf at the place where the veins meet up. The amount of filling you need will depend on the size of the leaf. Fold up the two flaps of leaf closest to you, and roll away from yourself, squeezing down on the filling and tucking the edges in neatly as you go. Do not roll too tightly as the dolma will swell further when cooked. Place rolled dolma in tight layers in a pot large enough to hold them. Refrigerate until needed.

4 To cook: Pour on most of the lemon juice and enough water to come halfway up the side of the topmost layer of dolmas. The cooking liquid should be quite tart. Add remaining lemon juice, if required. Weigh dolmas down with a plate to prevent them moving or splitting during cooking. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for half an hour or so. Serve cool as part of a meze table.


Saffron papa's traditional Boxing Day mango sorbet

It is a tradition at Saffron Papa and Mama's that we have Saffron Papa's special mango sorbet on Boxing Day. It just happens that mangoes are at their best in Australia at just this time of year. When we were last visiting in 2006/7, Queensland mangoes were going for 99 cents each at the discount supermarket Aldi. While they had come up in price this time, they were still reasonable enough to make a nice big box of this luscious, fruity ice.

Ostensibly, this was made for the big 40th anniversary celebration, and we were not allowed any before then (!). However, it didn't actually make an appearance until after the shindig due to cries of No more! from our very well-fed party guests. Not to worry, that just meant all the more for us! (Sorry guys...)

The recipe is from Low Fat, No Fat Cookbook, a Reader's Digest title I am not familiar with, other than this one lovely idea (thinking, as I do, that taking all the fat out of food takes all the pleasure and flavour out of it).

There is a slight graininess to this sorbet that might be improved by churning it in an ice-cream maker. Lacking one of these, Saffron Papa uses an electric mixer in place of the whisk in the recipe, and I think he's on the right track, especially if you are doubling or tripling the recipe, as he tends to do. Not that it matters, really: This is just like eating frozen mango and much to be recommended after a big Christmas feast.

Oh, and in keeping with the tropical theme, the leftover coconut cream makes great pina coladas on the side!

Note: This sorbet contains uncooked egg whites, so make sure you use really fresh eggs.

Mango sorbet

Serves 4

1/2 cup (125 g) castor sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
500 g fresh mango flesh or mango pieces in syrup, drained
2 tbsp creamed coconut
2 egg whites

1 Place the sugar and 1 cup of water into a small saucepan and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 min to make a syrup. Strain the lemon juice into the syrup, then put aside for 15 min to coll.

2 Puree the syrup, mango and creamed coconut in a food processor, or with a handheld mixer, to make about 3 1/4 cups. Pour the mixture into a freezer-proof container, cover and freeze for 2 hours, or until just firm. (Use the fast-freeze setting if your freezer has one.)

3 When the mango mixture is frozen, whisk the egg shites until they form soft peaks. Scape the mango mixture with a fork to form crystals, then use a whisk to beat in the egg whites, making sure they are well mixed. Return the sorbet to the freezer and freeze for 1 hr 30 min.

4 Remove the sorbet from the freezer and whisk again, Press down with a spatula and return to the freezer for a further hour, or until firm.

5 Remove sorbet from freezer 20 minutes before serving. Any remaining sorbet will keep, frozen, for 3 months.