Christmas Party Ideas

It’s about the time of year that everyone begins to think about Christmas: the work party is coming up, you begin to see decorations down the street, and you may even be beginning to think about hosting your own little soiree. If that last one is you then this post is right up your alley.

I’ve collected my top picks for canapés from the archives to help make catering a breeze. There’s a couple of classics like turkey burgers (always a hit) or salmon gravlax (surprisingly easy), as well as a few vegetarian options to make sure everyone has a good time.


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TURKEY BURGERS
W/ BRIE AND CRANBERRY SAUCE

500g turkey mince
500g chicken thighs
4 slices white bread
2 tbsp garlic salt
2 tbsp olive oil
30 half size dinner rolls*
200g brie cheese, at room temperature
275g jar cranberry sauce

  1. Remove crusts from bread and dice into small cubes. Cover with hot water and allow to stand for 2-3 minutes. Drain well, transfer to a clean tea towl and squeeze out excess water.
  2. Place chicken thighs in a food processor and process to a smooth paste.
  3. Combine chicken, turkey mince, bread and garlic salt. Shape into 30 mini patties and set aside.
  4. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan and fry patties in batches until cooked through, about 5-10 minutes. Keep warm.
  5. Spread each dinner roll with a little brie and cranberry. Top with a meat pattie and serve warm.

Makes 30

*Half size dinner rolls or golf ball rolls can be pre-ordered from Bakers Delight or any good bakery.


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CHOUX PASTRIES
W/ ROAST BEEF & HORSERADISH CREAM

150g unsalted butter
1 1/2
tsp salt
200g plain flour
6 eggs + 1 extra
2 tbsp milk 

ROAST BEEF FILLING
15 slices rare roast beef, cut into small pieces
200ml sour cream
2 tbsp horseradish from a jar
100g snow pea sprouts, stems removed

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  2. Combine butter, salt and 375ml water in a large pan (I used a 26cm casserole dish) over medium-high heat. Bring to the boil, then add flour and stir until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan in a ball.
  3. Remove pan from heat. Whisk in 6 eggs, one at a time until beating after each addition, you have a smooth mix.
  4. In batches, drop 50 x 4cm balls of mixture onto lined trays, leaving room to expand. Beat milk with remaining egg and brush a little over each. Bake for 20 minutes until puffed and golden. Place puffs on a rack and cool completely. Keep choux puffs in an airtight container for 1 day or freeze ahead and reheat in oven, allowing to cool before filling.
  5. To serve, split choux puffs through the centre, not all the way through.
  6. Combine the sour cream and horseradish and season to taste. Spread choux with aioli, top with roast beef, and finish with a few snow pea sprouts.

Makes 50


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SALMON GRAVLAX W/ DILL SAUCE

100g caster sugar
1/4 cup salt
1/2 tbsp white pepper
1.3kg-1.5kg salmon fillet, skin on, bones removed*
1 bunch fresh dill
toast to serve

DILL SAUCE
1 cup mayonnaise (I like Kraft Original)
1/2 cup honey wholegrain mustard
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp dry dill

  1. Combine sugar, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Cut salmon fillet equally in half.
  3. In a large, deep dish, place 1/4 of the dill. Place one half of the salmon fillet, skin side down on the dill.
  4. Sprinkle 1/3 of the sugar/salt mix over the salmon. Top with 3/4 of the remaining dill.
  5. Sprinkle 3/4 of the remaining sugar/salt mix over the dill, before placing the second half of the salmon fillet, skin side up, on top.
  6. Top with remining sugar/salt mix and dill.
  7. Cover with aluminium foil, and weigh down with a light weight (I use 4 cans of beans on a tupperware lid). Leave to cure for 2 days, turning every 24 hours. Taste the liquid the salmon seeps out for seasoning (you may want to add more sugar or salt according to taste).
  8. FOR DILL SAUCE: In a large jar, mix together all the ingredients. Store in the fridge, dolloping a little over the gravlax when needed.
  9. To serve, cut thinly on the angle, away from the skin. Serve on toast with the dill sauce.

*Ask your fish monger to cut off the tail end of the fillet, so that it is an equal thickness the whole way through.

Serves 12 as an hors d’oeuvre.


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PEA FELAFEL

500g frozen peas, thawed
1 small Spanish onion, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
3 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 cup fine breadcrumbs
oil for frying

  1. In a food processor, process peas, Spanish onion, garlic, herbs, flour, baking powder, and spices until well combined (you might need to do this in two halves depending how big your processor is). Add breadcrumbs and pulse to combine. Season to taste.
  2. Roll mixture into small balls about 3cm wide.
  3. Heat oil to 180C in a saucepan, or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds. Fry felafel in batches until golden. Remove from oil and drain on absorbent paper before serving warm or cold.

Makes 30 approx.


SILVERBEET ROLLS

1 bunch silverbeet with large leaves
1 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup long-grain rice
1 cup tinned chopped tomatoes
1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper

  1. Wash the silverbeet thoroughly and cut away stalks. Cut leaves into 10cm x 10cm squares, reserving the leftover scraps. Line a deep pan with the leftover pieces. Put silverbeet squares in boiling water until completely softened. Refresh under cold water and leave to drain.
  2. Make the filling by combining the remaining ingredients, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Lay a piece of silverbeet flat, and place 1 tbsp of mixture in the center. Roll up the silverbeet square halfway, fold in the edges, and then roll up completely. Repeat with remaining rolls.
  4. Put the rolls in the lined pan. Pour over enough water to just cover and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until the rice is cook through. Remove from heat and remove rolls from the pan. Allow to cool before serving.

Makes about 20.


SAGANAKI

500g haloumi cheese, sliced into 3mm slices
1 lemon, cut into wedges

  1. Heat a pan over high heat until just beginning to smoke. Fry haloumi for 1-2 minutes either side until well browned. Remove and serve warm with lemon wedges.

Serves 8 as a starter

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Taste of Melbourne back for 2014

Taste of Melbourne Festival
13-16 November 2014
Albert Park
Tickets available

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The Taste of Melbourne Festival is back again, launching with a media launch event tonight and opening to the public Friday-Sunday. The ultimate foodie event of the year, stock up on crowns (the Taste currency) and purchase sample dishes from over 15 restaurant popups or see what some of Australia’s top producers have to offer.

This year is set to be the most diverse and unique yet, with new faces Nieuw Amsterdam and Gazi making an appearance as well as the return of favorites like Burch & Purchese and MoVida. The festival is also set to preview Daniel Wilson’s new lobster roll concept Mr Claw, and Jason Jones’ yet to be named Moroccan establishment. For the first time ever, regional restaurants will also be included in the line-up with popups from Tulip (Geelong West) and Gladioli (Inverleigh).

One of the festival’s hottest new additions is Gazi, owned by local celebrity George Calombaris. Their sample menu come straight from the real Gazi menu and includes Taramosalata with pita bread (6 Crowns); Saganaki Cheese with honey, balsamic and lemon (8 Crowns); and their highly popular Soft Shell Crab Souvlaki with mint, coriander, honey, mayo (12 Crowns).

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Another new addition this year is Saké Restaurant and Bar who will be dolling out plates of Prawn Shumai Dumplings with ponzu dipping sauce, spring onion & chilli (12 Crowns); Flinders Island Wallaby Bun with soy & ginger braised shank in buns with miso (6 Crowns); Tonkatsu Cups with panko-fried pork belly & spring onion bites served in lettuce cups (8 Crowns); and their signiture dish of grilled miso marinated G51 toothfish (18 Crowns).

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Nieuw Amsterdam, one of the hottest restaurant slash bars to open this year, is serving up Pimiento Cheese Fritters with ravigote dressing (6 Crowns); Pork Trotter Nuggets with burnt onion jam (10 Crowns); a Berry Split with white chocolate mousse, jelly and granita (8 Crowns); and their signature dish of Smokey Beef Brisket with kim chi, roasted garlic and nieuw BBQ sauce (18 Crowns).

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The festival is also set to host a number of foodie info sessions and events with Cake Wines and Plumm Glassware teaming up to bring you a number of interactive wine tastings with various themes. Sessions will be hosted by current Wine Director at Vue De Monde Rocco Esposito, and Head Chef of Lee Ho Fook Victor Liong, who will match the wines to his signature style of Contemporary Chinese cuisine.

Learn a new trick or two at Dilmah’s Chef’s Skillery sessions, who will be teaching everything from how to fillet a fish to successfully pairing flavours. Otherwise get up close and personal with some of Australia’s best chef’s including Shaun Presland, Frank Camorra, Matt Wilkinson and Darren Purchese at the Taste Kitchen, as they share the secrets of their favourite dishes and offer tips and advice to home cooks. The Lurpak Cookery School is also offering a series of 30 minute cooking classes to teach how to complement ingredients with quality Danish butter.

A number of bars will also be open at Taste, including for the first time a traditional Munich Brauhaus Beer Hall, serving German beer and traditional cuisine. TimeOut and the team from The Local Taphouse have also teamed up to create the Hop Up Bar, showcasing some of Australia’s best craft breweries. If beer isn’t your thing, treat yourself at the decadent French themed Citroën Garden Bar or sip cider in the sunshine at the Beautifully Swedish Rekorderlig Star Bar and sample their new summer flavour Pomegranate. If you opt for a Platinum ticket, you may also enjoy live music and exclusive tastings in the private Platinum Garden Bar.

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If you haven’t got anything planned for the weekend yet, this is a must. For full schedules, booking details and ticket information, visit the Taste of Melbourne website.

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There’s a new boss in town

Boss Pizzeria
25 Cookson St
Camberwell, VIC 3124
(03) 9813 1894

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As Melbournians’ tastes continue to evolve, the average Pizza Hut pizza no longer cuts it. We incresingly are demanding more ‘authentic’ Italian pizzas – thin crust, wood fired, and made with the best ingredients. So when a place opens in Camberwell declaring itself Boss Pizzeria, it’s a bold statement.

Siblings Julien and Monique Moussi, the same team behind Collective Espresso, 30 Mill, Annoying Brother and My Other Brother opened Boss Pizzeria earlier this year. “We took over the space without really knowing what we wanted to do,” says Julien. “We didn’t want to do a cafe, because Collective is only a few doors down.”And so they decided, with the help of friend  Ricky Giammario (Bimbo Deluxe, Basilico and Blue Train Cafe), to try their hand at pizza making.

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With only 11 seats, the space is tiny, though a generaous sidewalk area out front seats 30 more. Perhaps it is the limited space that dictates the short and succint menu. There’s an antipasto selection, a couple of salads, but the bulk of the menu is pizza, which is why they installed a takeaway window to one side, reducing the amount of foot traffic.

With this in mind, it’s no real surprise that the other dishes feel as though they play second fiddle to the pizzas. The antipasto feels like an afterthought, as though foraged from items used to make the pizzas. This may not be an all out bad thing when you use great ingredients, but it certainly could do with more thought.

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The caprese salad too is nice enough, but doesn’t leave an impression. The mozarella is beautifully fresh, but the tomatoes are unremarkable, and the addition of olives unnecessary.

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But once you skip past the starters you will find what this place is really all about: really good pizza. The menu has all the classics: margerita, napolitana and capriccoiosa, but also has a few of the boss’ own creations: the agnello (slow cooked lamb, tomato, goats cheese, roast capsicum, pistachios and gremolata); the pancetta e gamberi (bacon, prawns, tomatoes, goats cheese and maple syrup); and the zucca (pumpkin, fior di latte, tomatoes, pine nuts, spinach, rocket and basil), the sight of which makes evident why there’s no love left for the starters: it’s all gone into making the pizzas.

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With summer just around the corner, Boss Pizzeria is just the spot to pick up a wood fired pizza and sit in the lingering sunshine. After the recent sale of Firechief and what some consider to be to the decline of it’s menu, it looks like there’s a new pizza boss in town.

Boss Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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Mighty Mighty Boy

Mighty Boy
61 Gertrude St
Fitzroy, VIC 3065
(03) 9419 3686

It’s well known that Melbournians know their brunch, so when a new spot opens up on Gertrude st promising a fresh take on things, it’s time to sit up and take notice. Owned by Mark Peou, (ex-Lucky Coq, Borsch, Vodka & Tears and owner of Tiny cafe in Collingwood) Mighty Boy offers up lunch and brunch fare with an Asian twist.

The fitout may be your typical white walls, clean lines and pale timber, but the menu is anything but. Peou, relying heavily on his Cambodian heritage, has devises a menu that borrows from a range of East-Asian cuisines, creating a unique take on Melbourne’s favourite brunch dishes: smashed avocado and feta served with sriracha hot sauce; baked eggs with tomato, mushrooms, onion and feta served with Thai Sausage; and a haloumi sandwich with bacon, avo and salad leaves smeared with relish.

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The lunch menu has all your favourite Asian classics, from Vietnamese poached chicken salad, to Pad Thai, all for under $14.00. The Rice Paper rolls though are a standout, rolled fresh daily by Peou’s mum from a secret recipe to whom she trusts no one else. Choose from either duck, crispy tofu, or pork & prawn, all served tightly wrapped with bright yellow vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs and veggies ($6 for 2).

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The beauty of the Mighty Boy menu is it’s ability to combine the best of the west with the best of the east, the epitome of which are the roti wraps. Available in pulled lamb shoulder, tofu, fried chicken or pork belly, these babies alone are worth making the trip for (all $10). The fried chicken version comes with fresh vietnamese coleslaw, iceberg and kewpie mayo, wrapped in a roti wrap that’s the exact right balance of doughy and flaky.

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Just incase you didn’t quite feel you were someplace warm and tropical in South East Asia, there’s a selection of juices available, perfect for the upcoming summer months. A refreshing mix of either lychee, pineapple and mint or young coconut, pineapple and lime, it’ll be interesting to see how the list evolves once Mighty Boy recieves it’s impending liquor licence.

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In an area that is fast becomming a foodie hotspot, Mighty Boy is carving out a place for itself. It’s bright and energetic atmosphere makes it an ideal spot to catch up with friends or grab a bite on the run.

While currently only open for breakfast and lunch, pop-up restaurant Kerala is making a brief appearance after hours to deliver a contemporary take on South Indian cuisine, allowing diners to enjoy a cocktail or beer with a selection of curries, dosas and sides. Get in quick though, because this one won’t be around long.

With plans of opening for dinner in the coming new year, there’s talk of Mighty Boy tackling the mighty Pho, so keep an eye on this one.

Mighty Boy Eatery on Urbanspoon

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Ideas for the Spring Racing Carnival

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If you’ve been out in Melbourne lately, you’ve almost definitely seen a brioche bun of some kind on the menu. If you’re a fan, perhaps you should try your hand at making some to take to the upcoming Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.

If you’ve never made bread before don’t worry, these aren’t difficult and are a good place to start. There are no tricky steps, though I would advise you use a stand mixer with a dough hook to make life easier. If you don’t own one, feel free to have a go by hand. These rolls won’t stay fresh for long though, so make the dough the night before and bake them fresh on the day.

Below are two options for fillings: a vegetarian satay tofu option, and a BBQ pork option you may recognize from a post not long ago. The filling recipes are for 12 buns, the number the brioche recipe makes, so if you want to try both you’ll need to double the brioche recipe.

BRIOCHE BUNS
2 tbsp milk
6 gm dried yeast
275 gm bread flour + extra for dusting
30 gm caster sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
175 gm softened butter (not melted)
spray oil
1 egg yolk, whisked with 1 tbsp milk

  1. In a small bowl, microwave milk for about 20 seconds, or until just warm. Add yeast and allow to sit for 5 minutes until small bubbles begin to appear.
  2. In a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, combine plain flour, caster sugar, eggs, and yeast mixture. Knead on a medium speed for 8-10 minutes until smooth and well combined.
  3. With the motor running, add the softened butter a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Once all the butter is added, beat for a further 5 minutes until smooth and glossy.
  4. Pour the sticky batter onto a very lightly floured bench top and form into ball. Transfer to a lightly greased large bowl, cover with a tea towel and set aside in a warm spot for 1 hour until doubled in size.
  5. Once risen, tip the batter onto a very lightly floured bench top and knead a few times by hand. Transfer back to the bowl, cover with a tea towel, and leave for an hour to double in size. Alternatively at this point you can refrigerate the dough overnight. If you do this, take the dough out of the fridge 2 hours ahead of time.
  6. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Taking one portion, roll roughly into a ball. With the ball infront of you, pull the edges of the ball into the center, pressing down firmly, rotating as you go. Then, turn the ball over the cupping the ball between the sides of your hands, rotate the ball in a circular motion to create an even shape. For a good example of how to form the rolls, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRk96GA_GF0
  7. Once you have shaped all 12 balls of dough, place evenly on a baking tray and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.
  8. Once the balls are doubled in size, place in a 200C oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Remove and allow to cool before storing in an airtight container – they won’t last longer than a day.

Makes 12

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TOFU FILLING
1 cup quality aioli
12 small cos lettuce leaves
12 pieces of satay marinated tofu

2 carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 bunch coriander leaves
12 colourful skewers (to serve)
12 brioche buns (recipe above)

  1. Cut rolls in half and spread with aioli.
  2. Top each half with lettuce, a piece of tofu, a little grated carrot and some coriander leaves.

Makes 12

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BBQ PORK BURGERS
1kg pork shoulder, bone removed, rolled
150ml good quality BBQ sauce
1/4 red cabbage
1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise
125g butter

12 colourful skewers (to serve)
12 brioche buns (recipe above)

  1. Preheat oven to 150C.
  2. Place pork on a roasting tray and cook for 4-6 hours or until falling apart when you prick it with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before shredding the meat, discarding the fat and skin.
  3. Once meat is cooled, mix through the BBQ sauce.
  4. Using a food processor with a slicer attachment, slice the cabbage thinly. Alternatively, you can do this with a sharp knife by hand. Toss the cabbage with the mayo and season with a little salt and pepper.
  5. Cut your rolls in half and butter on both sides (this will prevent them going soggy). Place a little pulled pork on each burger and top with a little coleslaw.

Makes 12

Posted in Hors D'Oeuvre, Lunch/Light Meal, Recipes | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments