Sunday, 28 February 2010

A 40th birthday celebration

I celebrated my Big 4-0 in February and had the best time cooking up a storm to feed my guests.

As often happens given the month, there were some last minute cancellations.
The trains were also affected due to tsunami warnings after the massive earthquake in Chile. In our rush to get things ready for the party, none at the Saffron household had heard about that terrible tragedy.

I didn't really have a theme in mind for my party this time, but Iranian inspirations featured quite prominently in the end.

Here we have Iran's famed chicken fesenjan, a dish of particular delicacy (if not good looks) made with pomegranate molasses, ground walnuts and saffron.

Another Iranian-inspired delight is Israeli chef Ottolenghi's take on the Persian frittata, kuku. His moreish version is chock- full of caramelised onions, eggplant, little zesty barberries, and all perfumed with saffron. This is perfect party food and will probably go into high rotation.

I doubt any of my guests had had kuku before, but they cleaned it all up!

I decided to make the Bangladeshi curry at the last minute worrying, as always, that there would not be enough food. It was a little lucky that I did, as my dear Iranian friend M, who was to bring a main dish, took ill and wasn't able to make it in the end. M, I'm still looking forward to trying the carrot stew (g). The fact I was able to whip this up on the morning of the party will give you some idea of how easy it is (g).

In the cold corner, I put out two breads and two dips: the Argentinian chimchurri and plain breads, and the Syrian/Lebanese avocado appetizer and hummus with pomegranate molasses dip I've featured here before.

The salad was a brown rice variation on my red-and-green Christmas staple wild rice, pomegranate and parsley salad. I am totally devoted to the dressing in this salad, and this time, with the new Microplane I received from Saffron Papa and Mama as a birthday present, the lime zest grating was laughably easy. What did I do before I had this darling implement??

The piece de resistance was, of course, The Cake. (Or if you count my usual chocolate number, two cakes!) The cream topped cake was baked by my dearest friend, H, as a special order. It was a mighty big project, involving baking the two delicate layers one by one at home in Tokyo, then transporting them and the goodies to decorate the cake all the way to Yokohama for assembling the following day!

Called Persian Love Cake, this is not a true Iranian cake, but a divine cake inspired by the saffron, cardamom and rosewater flavours of the East. I don't think I've tasted anything more heavenly. Thanks, H. It was a spectacular end to what I think was a pretty good meal.

Thanks, also, to my dear friend Malaka at Aloha Mahalo for taking the lovely pictures you see here. If you can read Japanese, she blogged about the party here.


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