How to “gourmet”

It has been almost a year since Fran and I hosted our housewarming in Collingwood, which involved an epic cook up (see our blog post). For Fran’s birthday this year, she wanted to host a low-key ‘gourmet’ barbecue. I cringed at the word ‘gourmet’ – what is gourmet? Way to keep expectations low, I exclaimed to Fran.

I left Fran to her devices this time around. Having gently reminded her two weeks prior, one week prior and a few days prior, at 22 years old, I told myself she could take the reins. Game plan: Mat would be in charge of barbecuing and I would take care of the sides. The enormity of the task finally dawned on Fran the day before the event, who frantically trucked a trolley full of groceries back from Coles and got to work on the marinades for the barbeque the night before. I on the other hand had bought the ingredients for Fran’s birthday cake days before, knowing that I would be out on the town the night before (TGIF drinks) and would have to undertake a drunken bake off.

The morning of, it was My Kitchen Rules episode 1. As the pressure mounted, Fran found herself stumped at finding the right vessel to soak her skewers and at how to stack her skewers on trays. When it became clear Fran was unable to engage in simple problem solving, I had to become the kitchen Nazi to focus frazzled Fran, all in the name of good TV of course.

On the menu:

  • Barbecue fish skewers in tandoori-like marinade (thank you Jamie Oliver) with potatoes: this tumeric, mint and yogurt-based marinade was super flavorful and accompanied the barramundi and potatoes perfectly. Good tip: par-boil the potatoes first, because the fish cooks really fast on the bbq
  • Barbecue Mediterranean chicken skewers marinated in rosemary, lemon juice and garlic with capsicum, zucchini and red onion (thank you Betty Crocker): the rosemary-lemon marinade bought some freshness to the menu and really cut through the greasiness of a bbq lunch. It’s a wonderful alternative to serve chicken at  a bbq if you don’t want to have messy chicken wings drowsed in a heavy bbq  sauce or honey  soy marinade.
  • Barbecue lamb cutlets marinated in Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, garlic and rosemary: I was a bit worried that the main components of this marinade would be too acidic, but this classic combo of flavors did not disappoint. Tastes best when cooked medium-rare!
  • Garlic and chilli prawns: this simple marinade did a fabulous job in bringing out the freshness and sweetness of the prawns. Hand-peeling a bucket of prawns was a bit of a b*tch but totally worth it!
  • Sausage sizzles (obviously!)
  • Roast potato salad with chives, anchovies and rocket leaves (follow the par boil and roast method) but use the mayonnaise recipe: The par boil and roast method is very rewarding and I highly recommend it. The anchovy mayonnaise was quite disappointing as it was very thick, tight and had a slight bitter taste to it. I would perhaps go with a simpler whole grain mustard dressing next time.
  • Baked macaroni and cheese (I love you Ina Garten!)  This mac & cheese recipe is particularly tasty because it uses my favourite cheese, Gruyere cheese, which itself has a rich, nutty flavour, which we all goes so well with mac & Cheese (most mac & cheese recipes have a dash of nutmeg). But be warned, this cheese will break the bank ($68/kg)! It was one of the favourites of the day.
  • A simple refreshing : I made the mistake of using olive oil instead of a more flavourless oil (e.g. sunflower oil). I would highly recommend using a flavourless oil to allow the lime and salad ingredients sing in all their fresh glory
  • Finally Donna Hay’s salted caramel and honeycomb crunch cake: (plus I added a teaspoon of instant coffee granules) An amazing chocolate cake recipe – it is dense and little on the dry side but piss easy to make and wonderfully chocolaty and rich (I used the best baking dark chocolate and best dutch cocoa powder I could find as a wise baker advised me recently that a good chocolate cake is all about the quality of the chocolate). The dulche de leche buttercream filling is to die for. I made my own dulche de leche using this method ( Thank you serious eats! This was so easy to do. I boiled my can of condensed milk while I prepared & baked the cake (in my drunken state), popped it open the next morning and voila! It was like a magic trick, but instead of a bunny, out came a lusciously, silky, shiny golden brown caramel. I did not make the honeycomb (as I do not have a candy thermometer) but you can easily buy honeycomb coated in chocolate from the supermarket and crush that up (which is what I did). I made a simple dark chocolate ganache for the top spread so that the honeycomb crumbs stuck. Despite my initial thoughts, the honeycomb did not make the dish sickly sweet. Definitely a ‘special occassions’ cake, fit for the birthday gods.

The ‘gourmet’ barbecue was a success. Great division of work playing to each of our strengths (big shout out to Mat for dominating the barbecue) – Fran continues to beg us to go on My Kitchen Rules with her. Be not fooled, these cook ups are quite a feat, which is probably why we only do one every year or so…so….till next year!


P.s. again, we did really badly with the photo-taking, so here are a few photos we put together.


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