I seem to regularly find myself elbow deep in a bowl of some sort of food substance cooking for absolute masses of family for one occasion or another. Most recently I found myself in this sort of frantic reality when the time came to throw a family get-together for my sisters 21st birthday. To say my mother panics and becomes overcome with by preparations is an understatement. She is obsessive and this cannot help but mean that I am pulled, I would like to say willingly but in reality anxiously into the middle of the pandemonium. It always begins with a tentative question to help and make a few things but ultimately results in complete and totally unnecessary excess. Being a typical Irish mother it is an almost sacrilegious thought to even dream of throwing a gathering with any less than outrageous amounts of food that could never be eaten on one occasion no matter how many extended family arrive. So for your pleasure I did some degree during the hours I spent in the kitchen document most of what I solely created, I did have a hand in several other pots but there is no need to bore you with every dish, just with the main and most successful ones. Here we go…..
To begin I sautéed finely chopped red onions, celery and carrots in a little olive oil.
Once these veggies had softened I added some finely chopped garlic and grated ginger. Very briefly I barely added an assortment of other veggies to the mix, bell pepper, asparagus, courgette and cooked ever so slightly. The whole lot was seasoned with salt, pepper and dried chili as well as some whole cumin seeds, some ground coriander and garam masala.
Meanwhile I looked a very large pot of a mix of quinoa and bulgur wheat lightly scented with turmeric and coriander.
Next I roughly chopped some whole almonds and dry toasted them in a pan.
All this colourful, tasty goodness was added into a big bowl.
I added the cooked bulgur wheat and quinoa to the veggies and nuts, stirred well to combine and mingle the flavours and topped with some toasted whole cumin seeds to be stirred through later.
Et voila. At the last minute when the whole dish had gone cold I added a good bunch of chopped fresh coriander to add some real bright fresh final flavour to the dish.
This second salad was really clean and simple. To start I toasted some rich walnuts in a dry pan.
I really, really simply made some totally plain couscous by adding couscous to a big bowl, drizzling with olive and tossing to coat the grains. Then I poured over just boiled kettle water until just above the top level of the couscous. I put a plate on top to trap in the heat and let it sit, soak up the water and do its thing until I was ready for it.
My favourite aspects of this salad are the toasted, buttery walnuts, chopped roughly and lots of fresh, zingy lemon juice.
To put this al together I grated a carrot, chopped up some sugar snap peas, combined everything and finished with fresh flat leaf parsley.
Lots and lots of salad (this wasn’t even all of it. I also made a really easy lettuce salad that was just chopped cucumber, thin sliced red onion, cherry tomatoes and baby balls of mozzarella, drizzled with olive oil, lemon, seasoned well and tossed with rocket and watercress leaves)
This was delicious. A complete experiment but a definite success I was so pleased.
It was a standard sweet shortcrust pastry base. For the filling I combined mascarpone with a little Greek yogurt to cut it and slightly loosen the consistency. I sweetened it with a small drizzle of golden syrup. Grated wonderful white chocolate, combined that into the mix to make one luxurious creamy concoction and as a final flavour finish I added very finally chopped toasted coconut shreds.
Here is the good part, amazing Irish summer strawberries.
I sliced these luscious beauties and arranged them in some manner to make this indulgent and vibrant tart.
Store bought mini pastry shells is how this dessert began.
Similar to the last tart I combined mascarpone with Greek yogurt, this time grated dark chocolate and really good vanilla paste, plus a dash of golden syrup to sweeten.
I topped these tiny tarts with fresh fruit.
With a final flourish sprinkled over some grated chocolate and that was done. Bit sized party winners.
Probably one of the most encouraging perks of cooking for an event is knowing the next day there will be leftovers.
I even managed to get enough for a take to work lunch the following day again. It did help make it all the more worthwhile, not that seeing people happy eat something I prepared and put careful time into isn’t reward enough, because it does truly mean the world to me to in some small way make someone else happy.