Warm my house, warm my heart

After a couple of weeks of planning and admittedly a few sleepless nights, our housewarming was finally here. I had been battling a mild cold for the past week and was desperate for a sedentary weekend. But as much as I kept telling people that I only agreed to hold a housewarming after Fran’s incessant begging, I was excited for the housewarming. Not only for our friends to see our new apartment and how we had transformed our concrete dump of a balcony into a fairy light haven, but people gatherings are an opportunity to try new recipes (and somehow always coupled with the cosmic energy surge necessary to execute those recipes!)


On the menu:

– Beef empanadas

– Chicken nuggets with lemon caper sauce

– Bacon and Cheese potato skins (and for my vegetarian friends, mushroom and cheese potato skins)

– Pea and fetta frittata 

– Dahl and pumpkin dip

– Thai-inspired Guacamole 

– Raspberry almond frangipane tarts

– Strawberries dipped in dark chocolate 

Some of my lovely guests also brought along desserts: 

– Chocolate ganache tart with whipped cream and topped with fresh strawberries and orange segments 

– Mandarin sponge cake 

– Nutella brownies (which I selfishly kept to myself)

Grog on offer:

– 2 slabs of beer

– Mulled wine 

I started making the beef empanadas the night before the housewarming. True to my usual form, I vaguely followed the following recipe:


I omitted the currents since I forgot to buy them (and thought it was a bit risky given I hadn’t tasted any empanadas with dried fruit before) and added capers instead of olives (since I forgot to buy olives and I had capers on hand for another dish). I probably added about 4 tablespoons of capers together with all of the liquid from the jar. The capers and liquid add the tangy-ness to cut through the beef. 

If I make the empanadas again, I would definitely add 4-5 boiled eggs instead of 3. I also added about 1 cup of frozen peas at the end.

Folding the empanadas were a little tricky. Unlike dumpling skin, puff pastry is quite sticky. I found keeping the ready made puff pastry refrigerated and only taking one sheet out at a time to work with helped keep the stickiness under some sort of control. I made slightly smaller empanadas, 12cm in diameter. They still had to be in the oven for 25-30 minutes as I baked them the next day straight from the fridge. 


Dahl and pumpkin dip: This was also made the night before and reheated the next day. I vaguely followed this recipe: 


I roasted about 1.5tablespoons of yellow mustard seeds (black would be better but I didn’t have any) before adding vegetable oil, 1 garlic segment (diced finely), fried the pumpkin, added the curry powder and seasoned to taste, then added the lentils and 2.5 cups of water and boiled uncovered until cooked. I omitted the sour cream to ensure it was vegan. Easy peasy.

Strawberries and dark chocolate is always my go-to vegan dessert. Be sure to check the dark chocolate contents list to make sure it is vegan as not all dark chocolate is vegan. Gently melt the dark chocolate over a double boiler (make sure the water is gently simmering and not boiling. Once the chocolate is melted you can turn the heat off to be on the safe side). Use a wooden spoon to drizzle lines of chocolate onto the hulled strawberries. Push a fork through the strawberries so you have maximum surface area exposure. Place the strawberries and chocolate on baking paper or aluminium foil and refrigerate until the chocolate is firm.

Chicken nuggets with lemon caper sauce were made on the morning following this recipe: 


I like this recipe because the nuggets are baked and not fried (and thus healthier). I omitted the cheese because I already had a few cheesy items on the menu. 1 cup of breadcrumbs is sufficient. The oil spray is quite essential for crispiness, I would recommend going this extra mile (even though I didn’t).


Pea and feta frittatas made on the morning. Again super easy, follow this recipe: 


I don’t like mint, so I added parsley instead and omitted the green onions.

I also added 100 g of feta instead of 50g and omitted the hard cheese. (I’m no cheese expert but I added Dodoni feta.) I also added about 1 tsp of ground white pepper (usually available from Asian grocers if not found in your local supermarket), about 10-15 sliced semi dried tomatoes and about half a tsp of soy sauce. I baked the frittata in a baking tray instead of a muffin pan and sliced it up after which is much less work! Just adjust the cooking time. It should be ready when golden on the outside and not wet when you pierce a knife through.


Potato skins:


Warning: This doesn’t yield much at all since you scoop out the potato to add the filling so even though it looks like alot of potato it really isn’t. There was a suggestion to save the filling to make gnocchi – what a brilliant idea (thanks Mat!) I made one recipe of bacon, and one recipe with a vegetarian filling. 

To make the vegetarian filling (inspired by my sister): Fry up about two segments of chopped garlic with half a capsicum (chopped), about three table spoons of corn kernels and 1 tablespoon of kidney beans. Add some dried basil leaves, then blend the fried mixture to make the sauce (season to taste). Fry up some chopped mushrooms separately in a very hot pan (this ensures the end result has minimal liquid) to use as garnish. 


Guacamole: Guacamole is again another very easy, crowd-pleaser dish. I followed this recipe but omitted the chilli and added one whole lime. A quarter of a large red onion is sufficient.


Anyone can make a good guacamole but the trick to an amazing guacamole is obviously the spices. I used the spices my mum roasted and ground herself – nothing like mum’s home made ground spices!!! If you don’t have a mum that does this, I would recommend working really hard to get adopted by a Indian/Sri-Lankan/Pakistani mum (as the chances are they do this all the time!)


Raspberry and almond frangipane tarts were made by Fran but the recipe is from onf of Jaime’s 30 minute Meals. 


For those who don’t like desserts that are too sweet, this is not for you. I would recommend serving the tarts with a dollop of cream to tone down the sweetness. 


Mulled wine: This is essential at any winter house gathering. 


I added about 3/4 the required sugar and realised later it wasn’t sweet enough, so add the full amount. Don’t be stingy with that brown sugar!

All in all the housewarming was an amazing night. We were truly touched by our friends (and neighbours) who came and ate, drank and laughed our house into a home. Our little apartment seemed to be the perfect escape from the cold winter night outside, humming and buzzing with love and warmth and merriment. I am definitely counting my lucky stars 🙂


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