My Parents’ Dinner Party – “Trust Me, I’m a Professional”

4/21/2005 11:29:00 PM

At my parents’ request, we had some of their friends over for dinner last night, and I cooked. There were 11 people in total.

Here’s the menu:

Bolinho de Bacalau (Brazilian Cod Cakes)
Jamie Oliver’s Thai-flavoured Beef Carpaccio with mixed green salad
Nigella's Chocolate Espresso Cake with Café Latte Cream

I spent the whole day enjoyably, and sometimes, strenuously, working in the kitchen, listening to Scissor Sisters, Gwen Stefani and Tommy February6.

The company was great, the food was nice (if I may immodestly say so myself), and it was a fun night! We had a kids’ table (5 of us, aged 16 to 23, so not really “kids”) in the kitchen, and the 6 adults sat in the dining room. After dinner, it kind of dissolved - the boys went to play video games, and Georgina and I got really hyper and started sexually harassing our friends on MSN – words like “macropenis”, “orgasm”, and “masturbation” popped up frequently. But trust me, I’m not a pervert! I was just jacked up on caffeine and sugar!

I think this menu represented a major development for me, in that I actually managed to exercise restraint in my menu selection, and didn’t leave everyone in a turgid, post-prandial bloat. You see, between the deep-fried salt cod and potato fritters, and the dense chocolate espresso cake, nothing more than a light, fresh salad of mixed greens and quickly grilled and thinly sliced steak was needed.

Oh yeah, and I’m on a diet, so was planning on just eating beef and salad. Hmmm… I ended up having at least 6 cod cakes, a generous slice of chocolate cake with cream, a few Lindt Fioretto chocolates, some pieces of Cadbury Roast Almond and a few Italian biscuits. *blush*

And for those of you who are into that sort of thing, here is the food in more detail…

Bolinho de Bacalau

These were very difficult, very fiddly, but ultimately satisfying. I now have at least four versions of the recipe, all with varying ratios of salt cod, mashed potato and flavourings, and was deliberating over them for days. I ended up choosing one from Steven Snow’s South America Feature in the current issue of Vogue Entertaining and Travel, because of the inclusion of cream, parmesan cheese and Japanese panko breadcrumbs.

I’d never worked with salt cod before, and was petrified it would be inedibly salty, so soaked it for the longest stipulated time, with frequent water changes. The result? It tasted great, but I could have handled it being a bit saltier. Hah.

So, to make this Bolinho de Bacalau…

1. Soak salt cod for 24-48 hours
2. Boil and mash some potatoes
3. Grate up some parmesan
4. Poach the salt cod until cooked, then flake the flesh away from the bones

Grated cheese (on board), mashed potato (in pot), and salt cod (in bowl)

5. Saute some onions and garlic, then add the fish, and the potatoes. Stir well.

The mixture was so incredibly thick! It was such a mission stirring the thick, gloopy mixture, and my arm was DYING by the end of it. No wonder Brazilians are so toned! Hehe.

6. Add cream and grated parmesan, and stir to combine.

Dive in!

Oh my god, it was the most heavenly mixture! The salty fish, the warm, doona-like mash, turned glossy and rich from the cream and cheese. I never understood Nigella’s fixation with mashed potato as comfort food… but now I do! I just wanted to heap the mixture onto a plate, retreat to my bed and dive right in. Luckily for our guests, and my self-esteem, I restrained myself.

7. Roll into balls, coat in flour, egg and breadcrumbs.

I then stashed them in the fridge until it was time to fry! I was quite worried about these, so I did a trial one for my brother to test out – he approved. Phew!

8. Fry until golden brown.


Served with Thai sweet chilli sauce and Nando’s extra hot peri peri sauce. I was going to make saffron mayo, but was afraid it’d be too heavy. My bro suggested a sweet sauce, like plum sauce, or hoisin sauce. I think some sort of fruit chutney would be nice. (Even though I can feel Brazilians cursing me as I suggest this…)

This mixture ended up making 67 balls - the perfect amount, which we polished off easily. I have a feeling though, that even if I'd made more, we'd have been able to keep going.

Thai-flavoured Beef Carpaccio

This recipe comes from Jamie Oliver’s Return of the Naked Chef. I made this only at the insistence of my mother. I am SOOOOO over this dish! Yes, it tastes very nice, but we’ve had it a lot, and it’s kind of lost its novelty. So, I wouldn’t make this for a dinner party anymore – just for our own meals.

I used five large rump steaks (from Rendinas Butcher), flavoured and grilled them just as people were arriving, and left them to rest in foil baggies while I got on with frying the balls. This ended up being too many for 11 of us, so we have one steak leftover (hardly a problem, it became my dinner again tonight).

The beef slices are arranged over salad, and sprinkled with chilli, coriander, radish, lime juice, soy sauce and sesame oil.

Thai beef carpaccio, balls in background

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Café Latte Cream

This cake comes from “Dinner Party Cakes” in the “Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame” from Nigella’s Feast, and is one on the list of many of Nigella’s chocolate cakes that I’d been meaning to try (there’s at least 12 on the list).

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Cafe Latte Cream

This went down an absolute treat! Everyone loved it. I discovered too late that Uncle Nick doesn’t like chocolate cake, but he very graciously had an entire slice. I have learnt since is a huge compliment from him, as normally he doesn’t even try chocolate cake at all. I think it was because he liked the accompanying café latte cream (white chocolate, cream and instant espresso powder).

It’s a really, really good cake. Almost flourless, intense in texture and taste, yet not coronary-inducingly dense. The coffee adds a slightly smoky intensity, which offsets the sweetness. I also took the remaining slice to uni today for An, who, despite his claims of "I wanna savour this", gobbled it down with surprising speed (he’s usually a very slow eater).

An: Why didn’t you just make two cakes?

My Slice – yeah man, I’m so committed to my diet…

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  1. Anonymous12:32 AM


    oh btw sarah, nice balls.




My email address is sarahcooks [at] hotmail [dot] com.