I wanted to keep the menu fairly simple (in terms of taste), as there were a few people coming who I hadn't cooked for before. I also wanted to choose dishes that would be able to sit around, as I wasn't sure what time everyone was arriving.
A Fundraising Menu for Approximately 15
Cheese Stars (How to Eat)
Caesar Salad (Modern Classics I)
Chickpea, Coriander and Feta Salad (Falling Cloudberries)
Baked Pasta with Mozzarella and Tomatoes (Jamie's Italy)
Strawberries & Grapes
Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream (Magnolia Cupcakes, Donna Hay Icing)
Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Chocolate Buttercream (The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)
My day started quite early, around 8am, so I could set up the kitchen and prepare the food. As per usual, I'd been prepping and baking the night before, but there was still quite a bit to get through.
I had the bright idea of making my own Caesar salad dressing, despite the fact that I hate making mayonnaise and it always takes me twice as long as it should. I did it in the blender - whizzing up egg yolks, anchovies, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and parmesan cheese, then adding vegetable oil in a slow and steady stream. I've previously only made mayo in the KitchenAid mixer, and was surprised to find the dressing constantly splattering everywhere as I was making it, including my hair. I felt like Miranda in that episode of Sex and the City where they go to the tantric sex class.
Anyhoo, after 15 minutes of noisy and annoying blending, the dressing suddenly curdled on me and turned feral. Blergh. However, remembering Nigella's sage-like advice from How to Eat, curdled mayo (unlike custard or hollandaise) can be saved! I had to start again with a fresh egg yolk (this time in my trusty KitchenAid with the whisk attachment), and add the curdled mess, little by little, whisking all the while. This was much less nerve wracking than the original process, funnily enough. The end result was a smooth and satiny, but slightly too thick, Caesar dressing.
Caesar salads also need bacon! I had 12 rashers to fry, so I thought it would be a perfect time to get some more patina happening on my carbon steel pan. It was a very, very greasy process.
Then, it was time to set up.
Fundraising kit from The Leukaemia Foundation - stickers, info display, celebrity chef picture.
Funky napkins from Ikea. I felt very "auntie" during the day when I yelled out, "Don't use those, use the cheap ones!" when someone tried to mop up some spilled soda water with them.
People started arriving around 12:30, with the bulk of people getting there at 1, by which time pretty much everything was set up and ready to go.
Casesar Salad - lettuce, hard boiled eggs, dressing, bacon, cheese, croutons. I found that lots of people picked at the bacon pieces as a nibble/canapé - interesting.
Chickpea, Coriander and Feta Salad
Next up is the baked pasta. I made the vat of sauce the night before, boiled the pasta in the morning, and put them together when people had arrived. I then layered the pasta with lots of cheese (home brand mozzarella, thank-you very much) and shoved them in the oven.
Hilariously, I'd made waay too much food. I tripled the quantities of the pasta bake (which is supposed to feed 4), but with so much going on, people only ate small amounts of each thing. We finished that big white dish, but the one at the front of the photo was pretty well untouched. Luckily my friends Adri & JZ chipped in some extra money and took the untouched pasta bake to a "bring a dish" party they were going to that night. (There was actually enough pasta for a 3rd dish, which I didn't bake, but put into the freezer for a future meal).
People and food...
Whilst people were eating and talking and donating, I popped a couple of flammkuchens in the oven. (Flammkuchen. Literally "Fire Cake". Actually thin-crusty dough topped with sour cream, bacon, thyme and red onions).
There was no room for dessert, but we seemed to manage.
Vanilla Cupcakes! These were leftovers from the charity cupcakes. Remember I left 16 un-iced and froze them? Well, I took them out the morning before the lunch to defrost, and iced them the night before. They defrosted beautifully, and on the day of the lunch still tasted lovely and fresh.
Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. (Yes, that's 2 x chocolate, 2 x butter and 1 x cream). I'd used a 47% cocoa dark chocolate for the icing, thinking that would be equivalent to an American semisweet. The taste was great, but as you can see the icing was quite pale. Next time I'd stick to a hardcore 70% cocoa chocolate to get a richer colour. The original recipe makes a 3-layer 23cm cake; I went for a 2-tier effect, using a 20cm tin and a 25cm tin. When icing the cake, I cut the larger cake in half horizontally and put icing between the layers, and was going to do the same for the top layer, but there wasn't enough icing to go around, so the top layer stayed whole.
I cut off tiny pieces of cake around the sides for us to eat, but I think by this stage most of us had reached our sugar limits. In this instance, I might have been better off making a big flat rectangular slab cake out of the same mixture, rather than this tall monster, to prevent the finished product from looking so big and overwhelming.
Hehe, check out the bottom layer of cake - squished thin under the weight of co much cake.
My friend Liam inexplicably arrived at 10pm, ("Oh wait, you said it was a LUNCH?"), but there was lots of leftover cake for him to enjoy. With the remainder of this cake, I sliced it up, wrapped it in gladwrap and stuck it in the freezer. To my joy, buttercream freezes very well.
A big thanks to everyone for coming to my little lunch, and especially to Adri for suggesting the bakesale! (And for your awesome selling power!!!!) Until next year...