An Australia Day Dinner Party in London (for 8-10)
My new year’s resolution is to have friends over for a feast at least once a month. I have a couple of healthy resolutions to go with this, but I love my friends and I love food – so why not bring them together?
After a much loved visit to Australia for a month over Christmas, I was determined to bring a little bit of Oz back to Blighty for my Australia Day dinner. Granted my party was held on Saturday 23rd rather than Tuesday 26th as there’s no such luck for a holiday Tuesday over here!
And so the menu.
The quintessential Aussie barbie is a little impractical in the middle of an English winter, so I opted for a roast. I only cook roast about 3 times a year, always with pumpkin [squash], and never with Yorkshire puddings. I hadn’t cooked anything on the menu before (except the roast potatoes) and so most of the recipes are available online (links provided). The menu was inspired by a present from my mum of dried quandong, wattleseed and lemon myrtle. The lemon myrtle I had made into a lemon myrtle cheesecake whip last year (I hadn’t any vegetarian gelatine so omitted and of course it didn’t set, hence the whip! It was served in dainty tea cups for a tea party, so I was forgiven for the lack of cheesecake texture!)
For mains I served Roast beef, roast butternut pumpkin [squash], roast potatoes and green beans with shaved brussel sprouts. Sauce was a quandong sauce, with back up beef gravy. For my vegetarian friends I served instead of the beef, green & gold capsicums [peppers] stuffed with nut loaf. Other than the beef, everything is suitable for vegetarians. Roasting was done with olive oil at 180˚C.
Planning. For one person to accomplish all of this whilst working full time took a little bit of planning. Luckily I could work remotely from home on the Friday before which helped immensely.
Thursday evening – make the nut loaf. Stuff as much as you can in halved and cored green and gold peppers (1/2 to 1 whole pepper per vegetarian). Often you can buy the tri-colour peppers, the recipe has red peppers in it so the green and gold make a fabulous (and incidental) nod to Oz! Bake the rest in a nut loaf tin as per the recipe. It’s important to pack it in to get the weight and texture of the nut loaf, so I spooned in a bit, packed it, spooned in more, packed it, and so on until the pepper was filled to the edge. With 2 vegetarians in attendance I made 2 whole stuffed peppers and one tin. From the tin, I cut 3 healthy sized slices for the freezer and had sufficient left over for my non-veggie friends plus leftovers!
Friday morning – make the cheesecake. Lemon myrtle is one of those amazing delights on earth. It is a dried herb, from the leaves of the Lemon Myrtle, Backhousia citriodora. If you cannot get it, poor you. You could try a combination of lemon zest, lime zest and lemon grass but try to source lemon myrtle, you will not regret it! You can order wattleseed and lemon myrtle online. A good cheesecake needs time to set. So I gave it a good 36 hours in my overstuffed fridge. I pulled the cheesecake together between 7:30 and 9:00am so I was at my desk tapping away like the professional person I am (by 9:00 am)! I used a food process to blitz the crumb, but other than that I have no electrical apparatus. Those with a more fully equipped kitchen will beat my timings!
Adjustments to the recipe
- For the crumb, I only used 75g macadamias as they’re expensive locally. I blitzed these in a processor with plain digestives as my sweet tooth isn’t as sweet as bellyrumbles.com. Next time I’d probably go half on the (dessicated) coconut too, although the party goers liked it.
- For those who need to adjust to vegetarian gelatine. Mix your vegetarian gelatine in as little water as possible to make a smooth paste as I guessed too much water was probably bad for the cheesecake! Add at point 5.
Friday evening. Yes it’s rock’n’roll at my place on Friday before a dinner party! But I love to cook so it really was fun with a little bit of Powderfinger in the background, what else could a woman want?
Wattleseed Pavlova – stubbornly I made this by hand and ( note to self never do this again!). Whisking eggs by hand is time consuming, arm numbingly painful AND I broke the whisk! The neighbours were angels and lent me theirs and so they enjoyed a healthy serve of leftovers! Honestly, I’m glad I did it by hand, but if you can avoid this, please do.
Adjustments to the recipe
- Use coffee instead of wattleseed if you have to but go to the link provided to order online for the full experience.
- Serve with fresh strawberries, blueberries and fresh (or tinned) passionfruit
Quandong sauce – for those of you who get tongue-tied it’s Australian bush peach sauce. Say it too quickly and well, you might have a few eyebrows raised in your direction…Generally, they recommend that quongdong is served with more game meats ( like emu, kangaroo and crocodile). At the taste test, I needed to SOS my Mum back in Aus to make the following adjustments:
Adjustments to the recipe
- I used ruby port, try tawny – beef doesn’t need the sweetness
- On Friday, add a tablespoon of vinegar (to cut through the sweetness of the ruby port), 1-2 cups of veggie stock to taste to balance the flavours (beef if no veggies coming)
- On the night, add ½cup red wine ( make sure you simmer to cook out the alcohol). Red wine made the sauce beef worthy. I think in the last minute rush I forgot the cornflour. It didn’t need it.
Honestly the sauce is delicious with the beef, nut loaf, everything really! I think it would go really well with a duck breast too.
Whilst things are simmering away on the stove on Friday night or first thing Saturday morning:
Cut the pumpkin/ squash in half, prepare the stuffing. Bake the squash, unstuffed in the oven for 1 hour. Once cooled stuff and cover with foil. It can then be placed in the oven when the beef comes out to rest for 15 mins covered and 15 minutes uncovered.
Shave the sprouts, Cook and ice the beans. This is now ready and waiting for the last minute fry up/sauté.
Saturday. (Timings based on 8-8:15pm seating for mains.)
If you’ve done all the prep work on Friday, then you have Saturday morning to shop, get your hair & nails done, catch up for a coffee with friend(s)… BUT be home for 4/4:30pm to take the beef out of the fridge to get it to room temperature, set the table and start the cooking of beef and roast potatoes. Cooking starts at 6 for 7:30/8 meal time. Check timings for rare/medium/well done beef.
Guests arrive at 7:30 – pop the sparkling Australian wine (try Grant Burge or Bird in Hand)
7:30/7:40 get the beef out, cover it with foil, let it rest.
Put the pumpkin and nut loaf in the oven to reheat.
7:45/50 put the quandong sauce on for reheat, add the red wine. Start frying the brussel sprouts and beans.
8:00ish get a guest to do the honours and carve the beef, whilst you slice the pumpkin and make sure everything else is laid out banquet style.
Don’t ask your friends to bring starters – inevitably they bring something which needs heating up and if you don’t have a microwave like me, the beef comes out of the oven the starters go in and the pumpkin [squash] and nut loaf are delayed in their reheating… It can get stressful!
Give yourself credit, you CAN make a pavlova and 2 desserts is not really necessary, but really yummy no-one had just one!. The cheesecake looks spectacular and is a worthy substitute!
It’s January, everyone is doing their new year’s resolutions so a simple alcohol-free drink should be considered, but hey it’s an Australia day celebration, have to have some bubbly and wine!
roast butternut pumpkin by Woolworths
green beans with shaved brussel by Woolworths
quondong sauce by Ninti One
nut loaf by BBC Good Food
wattleseed pavlova by Andrew Fielke
lemon myrtle cheesecake by bellyrumbles
http://spicemountain.co.uk/ wattleseed and lemon myrtle
I’m still looking for a local source of quangdong, however the following ship to the UK: