It’s been a big few weeks of Food, Wine & Travel, with a long trip north to re-connect with family in Queensland, involving plenty of cups of tea and home-baked goodies enjoyed around the kitchen table.
Before we hit the road, we had Ben’s 18th birthday to celebrate. He wanted a family celebration at home, and knowing that he likes burgers, my daughter Alise came up with the theme: Ben’s Burger Bar.
With all of the excitement surrounding Ben’s birthday, it’s been a busy few weeks in my Canberra kitchen and, inspired by Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, I’m going to share some of the fun with you. Celia hosts a monthly segment titled In My Kitchen, in which cooks invite readers into their kitchen to share the goss on what they’ve been cooking, eating and reading.
To tell you the truth, I didn’t have to do much of the cooking for Ben’s party. As anyone who has been to one of Alise’s parties knows, she is Miss Party Planner Extraordinaire. Not only does she come up with wonderfully creative concepts, she executes them with such aplomb, I am both proud and envious.
Star of the show were these amazing cupcakes made to look like burgers. After baking the cupcakes, she sliced them in half and filled them with icing that she coloured red and yellow to look like tomato sauce and mustard. How cool are they? I have to say that the chocolate birthday cake I made at Ben’s request, definitely paled in comparison.
For the lunch, she made a huge batch of beef patties, along with some chickpea patties for our vegetarian friends. These were cooked on the barbecue while the table groaned under the weight of all sorts of delicious goodies including caramelised onion, tomato chutney, fresh pineapple slices, beetroot chutney, pear, blue cheese, brie and bacon.
Alise provided a list of suggested combinations and everyone made up their own burgers to taste. We opened a few bottles of 1994 wine that I had been cellaring especially for this occasion, including a Seppeltsfield Show Sparkling Shiraz and Mount Pleasant Old Paddock and Old Hill Shiraz, both still in great shape. A real treat.
Ben’s party was proof, I reckon, that things can be done simply and still be a great hit. Sometimes the simplest dishes are the best. One of the best meals we had before the weather turned cool was a simple garden salad with a huge bowl of cooked Australian prawns.
I made a quick seafood sauce by mixing a good dollop of tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce with some store-bought aioli that I had leftover in the fridge. The result was sensational, if I do say so myself, and in future we’ll be making our seafood sauce deliberately to the same recipe. Don’t you just love it when you throw a few ingredients together and it all works out beautifully?
Seafood is always high on my list of favourite foods but it’s on my radar even more so this month because I recently had the privilege of interviewing Rick Stein for a feature that will be appearing shortly in Capital magazine.
I spent a delightful few hours with Rick and his wife, Sarah, at their beach house at Mollymook on the New South Wales South Coast, before dining that night at his restaurant, Rick Stein @ Bannisters.
I’m still raving about the seafood pie I enjoyed there, and was thrilled when Rick presented me with an autographed menu and a copy of his latest book, Rick Stein’s Spain. It’s a beautiful addition to my cookbook collection.
Recently in the kitchen I’ve been playing around with finger limes, a native Australian fruit that looks a bit like caviar with its little balls of lime that spill out of what looks like a pea pod. They have a sharp tangy flavour that makes them a perfect partner for seafood. And they look oh so pretty. I bought them from the Geranda Produce stall at the Capital Region Farmers Market where we love doing our weekly shop.
The produce we buy from the market is supplemented with vegetables and herbs from our own garden. We’ve just about said goodbye to the last of the basil and the lettuce that we’ve been using in our salads, and I’m about to deal with a bumper crop of chillies that we have in pots at the kitchen door.