Royal Gala Dinner Party

The birthday cake

What?! You haven’t been getting my posts since April? Maybe you should check up on your RSS feed reader ;) In all seriousness though, life has been hectic, what can I say? I just hope that you will all find it in your hearts to forgive me – It is my birthday after all!

Pretty Invite

Invite envelope

Well, it was on Monday anyway. I turned the ripe old age of 25 and last weekend I held a purple themed dinner party to celebrate my quarter of a century of life. Why purple? Because it is my favourite colour of course! All my guests (14 of us in total) wore something purple and in true Tara fashion I had to take it that one step further and incorporate the colour purple into as much of the food as possible. I think I did pretty well considering purple isn’t a predominant colour in food and I didn’t want to resort to food colouring too much (it is only in the icing for the cupcakes and a tiny bit in the cocktails) and let’s face it, it isn’t the most appetising of colours. Eggplant and beetroot were my saviours, but I had some unlikely helpers – like lavender! Here is a copy of the menu, click on it to open it larger if you can’t read it properly.

The Menu

Table Setting

Appetisers & Drinks:

Canapes!

Eggplant & Goat’s Cheese Stacks w/ Prosciutto Makes 50

Eggplant & Goat's Cheese Stacks w/ Prosciutto

I based these stacks on these ones that I found on Taste.com.au, but I used eggplant instead because I knew I was making beetroot dip and I didn’t want the beetroot to dominate the appetisers! Just having one layer made them a little easier to handle as finger food and I topped them with prosciutto because it is delicious and pink, which is pretty close to purple. Lebanese eggplant is better to use for these as it is nice and slender and so makes smaller, bite-size rounds.

Cut 5 lebanese eggplants into 1cm slices and marinate in a mixture of 1/4C olive oil & 1/4C balsamic vinegar for 1 hour. In the meantime, mix together 3tsp chopped chives, 2Tbsp milk & 120g goat’s cheese and set aside until needed.

Drain eggplant slices on paper towel and heat 1Tbsp olive oil in a frying pan. Fry eggplant slices for a few minutes each side, until golden. Drain on paper towel. Top with cheese mixture and 4 slices torn prosciutto.

Purple Potato Soup Shots Makes 20 shots (Double to serve 4 normally)

Purple Potato Soup

When I did my first search for purple food, this one came up and I knew I just had to make it. I didn’t want a sit down entree though, so to make it more finger food friendly I served it in shot glasses. I made sure to top them with chopped chives and serve them with cheese twist biscuits though so that people didn’t think they were alcoholic shots and get a strange surprise when they were savoury! Mine didn’t turn out as purple as the photos in the article I got it from, but then I didn’t have professional lighting (and I suspect theirs may have had some food dye in it to bring out the purple more). Despite my brother bagging me all night that my purple soup wasn’t purple, it was a very pretty lavender colour and I was pretty happy with it.

Melt 1/2Tbsp butter with 1/2Tbsp olive oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add 1/4C chopped red onion and saute for 10 minutes, until tender but not brown. Add 115g chopped purple cabbage & 1 diced medium purple potato and cook for 5 minutes, stirring. Add 1/2Tbsp flour and stir for 2 minutes. Mix in 355ml vegetable stock and bring to the boil, stirring frequently. Simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Cool slightly before pureeing. Pour into shot glasses (a funnel or squeeze bottle will make this a lot easier) and top with chopped chives to serve.

Beetroot Dip

Beetroot Dip

I also got this recipe off Taste.com.au. The one change I would make would be to lower the dill a little next time, so this is reflected in the recipe below.

Drain a 425g can beetroot and process along with 1 tsp ground cumin, 1/2Tbsp dill & 1/3C natural yoghurt, until smooth. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until needed.

Fruit Tingle Cocktails

Sorry, no up close photo of this one, they all got downed too quickly! They were absolutely delicious and a real crowd pleaser. I did have a little trouble with getting them suitably purple as the blue curacao overpowered the strawberry liqueur, so I had to add a tiny bit of pink food colouring to make them stay purple. I say stay purple because in the bottle (I premixed it all together to make it easier when people arrived) it looked purple, but when it was poured into the glass it turned blue instead. It might have been because the strawberry liqueur I used wasn’t very red to start with. I used quite small glasses, so I just put 1 large jigger measure (60ml) of the mixture into the bottom of the glasses and topped it with lemonade. In a regular glass you would probably need more like the 90ml total alcohol that is suggested. You could still premix it and just use 3 normal jigger measures to get the right amount.

Mix together equal parts of blue curacao, vodka & strawberry liqueur (some recipes use grenadine or raspberry cordial). If the mixture still looks blue, add a couple of drops of pink/red food colouring until it is purple, if desired. Put a few ice cubes in the bottom of a highball glass and add 90ml of the mixture. Top with lemonade and serve.

Purple Berry Punch

This was a very simple punch, just to add some more colour to the table and give people something to drink after their fruit tingle cocktail. The cocktails used a lot of expensive liqueur, so I just gave everyone one on arrival.

Pour a large bottle of Ribena into a punch bowl and add a bottle of bubbly (I used Passion Pop – classy, I know!). Top with some frozen berries to keep it cool.

Mains:

Main course!

Beetroot Couscous Salad Serves 6

Beetroot Couscous Salad

You might recognise this one from a little while ago. I loved this salad just as much the second time around, and it was perfect for the theme.

Caramelised Onion Potato Salad Serves 10

Caramelised Onion Potato Salad

This is another recipe you may have seen on my blog before. It is my absolute go to recipe for potato salad – the most delicious one ever! This time I used purple skinned potatoes and made sure the red onions weren’t cooked too long so that they kept their purple colour.

Roast Vegetables

Roast vegetables

Not really much of a recipe to share here, I just roasted some red onion, purple sweet potato, eggplant, zucchini & carrot in a bit of olive oil until tender. Just something to go with the roast beef.

Risotto Stuffed Eggplants Makes 8

Risotto Stuffed Eggplants

I cheated a little bit here and got mum to make her risotto. She makes it well and it was one less time consuming thing that I had to do! I used about half of the batch that she made and she uses 2 cups of rice. So you could make a batch for dinner and use the leftovers to stuff eggplants for dinner the next night. Or, if you don’t want leftovers, just make a batch using 1 cup of rice and that should be enough to fill the eggplants.

Make a risotto using 1C of rice, or use leftovers. I used a tomato based risotto, but you could really use any flavour you like. Preheat oven to 200C. Halve 4 small eggplants and scoop out most of the flesh (reserve for use in other meals), leaving a 1cm border inside the skin. This is best done with a knife to score the outline and a spoon to scoop it out. Arrange eggplants in a baking dish. Chop some Edam or Mozzarella (or your favourite cheese) into cubes and place one in each eggplant half. Fill with risotto and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Cook in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.

Poached Chicken w/ Blackberry Cabernet Sauce Serves 6

Poached Chicken with Blackberry Cabernet Sauce

Red wine in a chicken dish? And blackberries!? Yes, it is a strange combination, but it works. Blackberries in a savoury dish was another of my unlikely purple helpers. I got the recipe from What’s Cooking America. One of my best friends, Aleisha, can’t stand sweet things with savoury, but she still gave this a go. What can I say? My friends really have faith in my cooking… suckers!

In a large pot over medium heat, combine the 2C water, 1C dry white wine, 1 bay leaf, 1 sliced onion, 1 diced carrot, 1 chopped celery stalk, 1/2tsp salt & 1/4tsp pepper. Bring to a boil and boil 5 minutes. Add 1kg halved skinless chicken breasts; bring back to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let pot stand, covered, until cool. Lift chicken pieces from cooking stock with a slotted utensil. Slice thinly lengthwise, holding them in their original shape as you work. Arrange the sliced breast on a platter, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Strain the stock and reserve for use in other dishes.

For the sauce, puree and then strain enough blackberries to measure 1 cup pulp (about 2C). In a large frying pan, saute 1 small chopped onion in 3Tbsp extra virgin olive oil approximately 5 minutes or until onions are transparent. Add the blackberry pulp, 3Tbsp sugar & 1C Cabernet Sauvignon. Simmer sauce until reduced to approximately 1/2 the original quantity. Remove from heat and let cool. Refrigerate until ready to use. To serve, fan out chicken slices on individual plates (or a platter) and top with sauce.

Peppered Lavender Beef Serves 6-8

Peppered Lavender Beef

At this point you are probably thinking I have gone completely insane. This is, at most, only partly true. I can’t comment on the taste of this dish personally, as I don’t eat beef (except in mince form), but it was one of the first things to disappear, and it smelt DIVINE! I’ve heard of lavender being used in sweet dishes before – shortbread, honey, etc – but never in a savoury dish. I put the call out on the Taste.com.au forums for help in finding a suitably purple red meat main and this suggestion stuck out at me. The dish itself wasn’t purple, but somehow the novelty of it having a purple ingredient was enough to satisfy me. Funnily enough, it was also from What’s Cooking America, but somehow I didn’t notice it on there when I found the chicken dish above. By the time I went to buy the beef I was already well and truly over my budget, so I just used a regular beef roast instead of the tenderloin, which was about 3 times the price. I had no complaints, so feel free to make this substitution yourselves.

For those of you in Melbourne who want to try this dish (or others using lavender), I got my culinary lavender from Warratina Lavender Farm in the Yarra Valley. I had to drive all the way out there to get it because I found this dish at the last minute, but if you are more organised than I am you can order it online and have it delivered. It was quite reasonably priced too, a 25g packet is plenty (you can barely tell I have opened mine) and is only $5.

Trim the fat and silverskin off a 1.5-2kg tenderloin beef roast. Pat the beef dry with paper towels. Lightly oil outside of roast with 1Tbsp olive oil. In a small spice or coffee grinder, coarsely grind the 1Tbsp black peppercorns, 1Tbsp white peppercorns, 2Tbsp fennel seeds, 1 1/2tsp thyme & 2Tbsp culinary lavender flowers; rub mixture all over the meat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight (preferably).

Preheat oven to 220C. Unwrap roast and place onto a rack in a shallow baking pan, tucking the thin end under to make it as thick as the rest of the roast. Roast for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 160C and continue to roast until the internal temperature reaches desired temperature on a meat thermometer, Rare – 49C, Medium Rare – 52C, Medium – 54C. Remove from oven and transfer onto a cutting board; let stand 15 minutes before carving (meat temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees after it is removed from the oven). Transfer onto a serving platter and serve immediately with any accumulated juices.

Desserts:

Desserts!

Blackberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Blackberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

I really only made this one so that I had a chance to use my new Tupperware Jel Ring. I started selling Tupperware a few months ago, but that is the subject of a whole other post. This one was so easy it barely needs a recipe, but here it is anyway! Use whatever flavour ice cream you like and mix in your favourite flavourings for the swirls – the possibilities are endless.

Soften a 2L tub of vanilla chocolate chip ice cream (I used Cadbury) and spoon into a Tupperware Jel Ring mould.Spoon through a few spoonfuls of blackberry puree (I used leftovers from the chicken dish), swirling it through the ice cream to make nice patterns (you can also spread a little bit on the mould before you add in the ice cream so that it is visible when it is unmoulded). Check for airbubbles and tap the mould on the counter a few times to get rid of them. Freeze for a few hours, until firm. Dip mould in warm water briefly to loosen, remove base seal of mould, invert onto a serving plate and remove top seal. If the ice cream seems stuck, gently run a blunt knife under the rim of the mould, or leave for a few minutes to allow gravity to do the job. Top with more blackberry puree and drizzle with Ice Magic. Serve quickly, before it melts!

Berry Bread & Butter Pudding Serves 4

Berry Bread & Butter Pudding

This was a big hit, despite the fact that I burnt the bottom of it – A few too many glasses of punch by that stage I think! Or maybe it was because I skipped the water bath. I used this recipe, but substituted half of the raspberries for blueberries. Red + Blue = Purple, simple primary school art! I also used real sugar instead of sweetener, because I am a rebellious diabetic and I’m not a fan of sweeteners – except for in my soft drink. I am an odd one, aren’t I? I doubled the recipe for the party, but I’ll post the original size below because I am more likely to make it smaller next time.

Preheat oven to 180C. Whisk 3 eggs, 2Tbsp castor sugar, 1 1/2tsp vanilla essence, 1tsp ground cinnamon & 2C milk together in a bowl. Spread both sides of 6 fruit bread slices with low-fat spread. Cut slices in half diagonally to make triangles. Layer bread, in rows, in a 6cm-deep, 22cm x 13cm (base), 4 cup-capacity ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with 1/2C frozen raspberries & 1/2C frozen blueberries. Pour over egg mixture. Place dish in a large baking dish. Pour boiling water into baking dish until halfway up the side of smaller dish. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden and just set. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with 2Tbsp raw sugar. Serve with cream.

Chocolate Mud Cupcakes w/ Purple Ganache Frosting Makes 12

Me blowing out the candles

I am sitting here eating the final leftover cupcake as I type this – and boy is it delicious! Even a week after they were made, all they need is a zap in the microwave and they are almost as good as before. Originally I was going to put berries inside them for the purple theme, but I decided there was a bit of berry overkill going on elsewhere, so I just tinted a white chocolate ganache to use for the icing to fit in with the purple theme. I wanted to top them with edible silver foil or glitter, but these proved hard to find at the last minute, so I used some sparkly purple thingys (very technical name there!) that I managed to find at the cupcake factory down the road, and of course some silver cachous. This recipe is great as it can be made in the one bowl and doesn’t use a mixer at all.

Preheat oven to 160C and line muffin tin with cupcake pans. For the cupcakes, place 200g butter, 250g chopped dark chocolate & 1/4C hot water in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes, stirring each minute, until smooth. Add 1/4C cocoa powder and stir until smooth. Stir in 1tsp vanilla extract, 1C castor sugar & 3 eggs. Sift in 3/4C self-raising flour and stir gently to combine. Pour into cupcake liners and bake for 20-30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle has moist crumbs clinging. Allow cupcakes to cool completely in tins (I let mine cool in the oven).

For the ganache, melt together 250g good quality white chocolate & 1/3C cream in the microwave in 1 minute bursts, until smooth. Add a few drops of blue and pink food colouring, until desired colour is reached (I tried using red colouring and it wouldn’t go the colour I wanted). Set aside at room temperature until the ganache is thick and spreadable. When cupcakes are cool, ice with ganache and sprinkle with cachous and sparkly purple thingys!

Purple Jelly Shots Makes 60

Purple Jelly Shots!

I followed the same recipe I usually do for these (again, skipping the worms), using 3 different packets of purple coloured jelly – Grape, Port Wine & Cherry. Sooo delicious – I think I ended up having 13 of them!?

Putting on my apron

Check out my apron! Everything just came together so well for this party, I wanted a fancy looking black apron that would look good with my cocktail dress and this one was just waiting for me when I went shopping one day. Even the dress didn’t take too much effort to find and it is absolutely perfect (and was a bargain at only $50 when I was looking up to $200). The menu just came together and there were no major disasters in the cooking process. Even the plates were easy, Thanks to my friend Jess. I mean, who has 14 matching white dinner plates?! I would have had to buy 4 dinner sets if it weren’t for the generosity of Jess! She was a life saver.

I’ll leave you with some photos from the night, if you would like to see more, just click on any of the photos in this post and it will take you to my flickr page. Thanks to everyone who came along, I had a wonderful night. Also, a big thanks to Leish, Leanne, Jon & Jess for all your help. Love you guys! :)

Me & Leanne

Me & Leanne

Jon & Me

Jon & Me

Phil & Leish

Phil & Leish

Leanne & Me

Leanne & Me

Leish, Caitlin & Jess

Leish, Caitlin & Jess

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