Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Fruit-Themed Vegetarian Dinner Party and Anise Olive Oil Crackers

We recently had a dinner party for a bunch of our friends, because yes I'm crazy and I love doing this shit and you know you do, too, so stop being afraid and just invite some people over and feed them.

dinner party for 8 - because friends are awesome

Nelle, who's completely inspired by the show My Kitchen Rules, set up our "instant restaurant" for the evening. We called it Nelle's Garden, because it was held in our garden, and she set the table, and because I purchased a mega box of seconds produce at the greengrocer earlier that day, so I felt inclined to put fruit in EVERY SINGLE DISH.

Here's our menu (for 8):

Homemade anise crackers with melted cheese and pear
Best pizza ever with green pepper, apple and onion
Quickie chocolate cake with plum chia jam

Ok, sounds terrifying, but it wasn't. I'll walk you through it, you'll be fine.

vegetarian dinner party
PS. This is the only picture because then it got dark. But just imagine every course looking this pretty, and that's how it went.

My all-time favourite cracker recipe, which I've reposted below because it now has appealing photos. Because I'm now able to take better photos on my better camera and because I'm almost 40 and that's something. On a perhaps more-relevant note - the slight licorice-y flavour of the anise seeds complements the cheese and fruit.
(NOTE: I made the dough earlier in the day but rolled out the crackers right before people arrived so they were still a little warm. I cut the rolled dough very haphazardly because no one really cares what crackers look like. The recipe is perfect for this number of people.)

The plum cordial was tasty, but I probably won't make it again. I'm more of a lime-with-my-gin type, I think.
(NOTE: I made the cordial the day before and assembled the drinks when people arrived. The recipe is perfect for 8.)

BUT the bonus of the plum cordial was that I blended up what was left of the plums after straining for the cordial and added chia seeds and lime to it to make jam. How? 2 Tbs chia seeds per 1 cup strained, blended fruit, with lime to taste. It's amazing. I used it in the cake at the end and gifted some and still have some left for toast … all for practically FREE because the cordial recipe told you to throw that bit out. Ha!

I wanted something fresh, and this cold peach-and-tomato soup was tasty but not my favourite. On the bright side, it didn't take much effort just to blend the shit out of everything and pour it into cups. Next time, I want to try a strawberry gazpacho recipe I've spotted in one of my cookbooks.
(NOTE: I made this right before serving. The recipe was too much for 8 - I would halve it.)

OMG I loved the roasted carrot salad with oranges and avo!! I used regular carrots but cut them on angles so more surface area caramelised in the oven. A fantastic combination of flavours and a great way to use up carrots when you buy those giant bags of cheap "juicing" ones like I do. I went with a simpler dressing than called for - just a tiny splash of extra virgin olive oil and a hefty drizzle of rice vinegar. Hell yes, I'm making this again. And again.
(NOTE: I put the carrots in to roast right after I took the crackers out of the oven and assembled the salad right before serving. I didn't really follow the quantities in the recipe, more went by how many carrots I had and how many avocados I could afford*.) *these things are like gold in Queensland at the moment. 

Two things here.

First - the combination of green pepper, apple and onion (with a dash of rosemary and basil) was a mouth bomb I learned from my very talented friend Cristjen, who made a stir fry with those ingredients on his recent visit. I put them fresh on pizza, added mozzarella and a little dressed rocket, and was VERY happy indeed. I love when people change my perception of what flavours go with what!
(NOTE: I shredded the cheese and cut the peppers and onions the night before, and stored them in separate covered containers in the fridge. I also drizzled the cut onions with a little vinegar to take the burn out of them. I used 1 red onion and 1 huge green pepper and a couple small green apples to serve 8. Herbs were from the garden.)

Second - I can never go back to pita pizza knowing how good the homemade stuff can be. I'm fucked. This dough was flavourful, easy to work with, and crispy and chewy in all the right places. Damn you, amazing pizza dough recipe!!
(NOTE: This is "overnight" dough but that doesn't mean you just put it in the fridge and it's done. There are many a gazillion steps but they are very worth it! This served 8 easily, with tragically few leftovers. Next time you people are getting more gazpacho.)

Individual (vegan) cake portions in cute cups? I LOVE it!! I used this recipe, but substituted my homemade plum jam for the peanut butter because a) I had heaps of jam on hand and b) Australians are insane and do not in general like peanut butter and chocolate together. WTF?? And yet I became a citizen. Hmmm.

Anyway, I found the recipe a little challenging to make for 8 people, as the ingredients are listed by the single serving, but I did my best guesswork and everything came out deliciously. If you use super dark chocolate like I did, be sure to serve this with ice cream or fresh cream or sorbet to cut the bitterness. I cooked the batter in tea cups with enough space for dollops of ice cream and it was just right.
(NOTE: I mixed the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients separately before the party and assembled and microwaved while I brewed coffee. I employed child labor on the ice cream.)

Overall, this menu was great for a summery, vegetarian dinner party! I didn't spend too much time in the kitchen while our friends were here, except for the pizzas - but Nelle helped me with those. Next time, though, I think we'll do pizzas on the BBQ instead of in the oven so we can hang out with everyone else while they're cooking. I could hear snippets of interesting conversations out there!

Here's to enjoying your food, family and friends,
Amanda xx

And - as promised - the crackers:

Olive oil crackers with anise seeds 
and prettier pictures*

* and if you don't believe me, just look

1 1/2 c unbleached white flour
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 c warm water
1/3 c olive oil
+ 2 Tbs anise seeds

olive oil cracker dough

What to do
Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the wet ingredients. Mix with a fork until you can't mix it anymore, then use your hands to knead the dough in the bowl and/or on the bench top. 

When the dough looks smooth, stop and put it in a covered dish for 30 minutes or so. Turn on the oven, really hot, like 200C hot, and put some pizza stones or baking sheets in there to warm up. 

Sprinkle flour all over your bench top and use a rolling pin to flatten the dough as though you're making cookies. Thin, but not too thin. Use a knife to cut it into random sections. 

Transfer the cut dough pieces to the hot baking sheets/pizza stones and cook for ~10-12 minutes until golden and crispy. You may have to flip them, depending on how hot the baking sheet is when you start. Super browned is not ideal, but not the end of the world, either. 

Serve immediately! Or when cool enough to touch. You can keep these, but they're best eaten straight away.

anise and olive oil crackers with pear and melted cheese


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Thanks for commenting! Amandaxx

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