Well, so much for my plan to write about the experience as it was happening, because as it played out, I had absolutely no time whatsoever that was unaccounted for as I was going along. Holy shit, the last week as been frenzied, and time to even sit down at all, much less write something coherent about the experience, simply didn’t exist.
Spoiler: Nailed it, but it wasn’t easy.
TL;DR: I was overly ambitious, and made way too much food, which doesn’t surprise me, given my tendency to overdo everything, and my irrational, deep-seated fear of under-catering any dining event which I am hosting. So now I have a bunch of happy, well-fed people who have gone home, and a hell of a lot of leftovers, many of which went straight into the deep freeze, and some of which are going to be repurposed over the next couple of days. Most of the soups I plan on making will go into the freezer as well. And I have many, many eggs left, which will keep for a couple of weeks, in my experience, given that they were very fresh when I bought them, and well, all that cheese, so much jamón, endless chorizo…omelettes and fritatta, dead ahead, is basically what I’m saying.
But to the pretty pictures — taken by Phil, who busted his ass helping me get set up on the day, and heroically walked to Sainsbury’s and found leaf coriander and mild chiles on Boxing Day morning, thus saving the guacamole — which, alas, aren’t complete, mostly because there just was no time at all to get everything photographed individually, and on the table in a reasonable facsimile of on time:
First, I spent the evening of the 23rd and the afternoon of the 24th doing my cookies, candied nuts, and baklava. Oh, the baklava. The baklava that was my pride and joy, and to my utter, though modestly restrained glee, deeply impressed the actual Greeks at our party. So I was able to dump most of the leftovers on them, and get that delicious, gooey evil out of my house. But here’s what it looked like in its pristine state:
I came up with the idea to use slightly reduced maple syrup to soak the pastry, and figured if I could come up with the idea, surely somebody else had before me. Google showed this to be true, so after reading through a few recipes, I hacked together something to my satisfaction. I hauled my ass out to the amazing and wonderful Liverpool 8 Superstore, utterly deserving winner, incidentally, of this year’s BBC Radio4 You and Yours Best Food Retailer Award, to get some hardcore awesome Turkish filo dough, and some lovely Lebanese walnuts, and that trip was worth it (mind you, it always is) because it is so, so, much better than frozen or (most; Theos’ is pretty damn good) mainstream chiller case supermarket stuff.
I think I’ve got the touch, when it comes to filo dough, because I had no trouble whatsoever with it, and the Turkish stuff was amazing to handle. It felt a bit sturdier than I was expecting, and I was very prompt in getting the waxed paper and damp tea towel back on it with every sheet, and in all, so surprisingly pleasant to work with that I decided to go ahead and make spanakopita with the remaining sheets. I had plenty of those, because I bought quite a lot of filo under the assumption that it was highly possible I’d make a cack-handed mess out of it. I didn’t, and now I think of it, my previous filo experiences have generally worked out just fine, so I don’t know why I was so worried.
Anyway, along with the baklava, I baked many batches of cookies. Probably too many, as it turned out, because even though I was handing out huge bags of them, I still have lots stashed in the freezer. We will be having cookies for dessert in March at this rate, when we’re not having cupcakes. The remaining baklava I can slowly take care of myself. Today’s healthy breakfast (and oh god, I need to get back on the clean eating bandwagon like now) consisted of a leftover baklava diamond and a cup of coffee.
There’s the naughty corner of the spread, displaying the cupcakes (red velvet with cream cheese frosting, double chocolate), the cookie tree, and the enormously popular strawberry/rhubarb trifle. As if the trifle weren’t sinful enough, I beat some marscapone into the custard. Other than a couple of leftover scoops stuffed into the empty double cream pots which left with a happy, trifle-loving cousin, that was mercifully devoured on the day, so I haven’t got that sitting around, because holy cow, it was irresistible, and well worth stashing some good rhubarb and strawberries in the deep freezer while they were still to be found in the shops, in anticipation of making this for Boxing Day.
Also to be seen, the bread, and there will be a better view of that in the next post. I baked that on the day, because nothing goes stale faster than homemade bread (it is fleetingly delicious beyond any shop-bought loaf, and fortunately, toast is a thing) and I didn’t want to go to all that effort, only to serve bread at less than its best. I made one loaf of sourdough (the long, vaguely oval one) and one loaf of maple-pecan wholemeal, which is utterly gorgeous with strong cheese.
And there’s most of the baking for you. Next time, the savoury food!