Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Revenge Of The Platypus and A Menu

We had another visitor. This time it was a friend of Natalie's, named Sharon. Apparently they met each other on the folk festival scene in Canberra, and got along. Well, okay.

I agreed to cook something a little nifty to help make Natalie's friend feel welcome. Unfortunately, when I went shopping, I had young Genghis with me and in short order, the menu got out of hand.

When Sharon arrived, I'd just finished hacking my way through a chapter on the novel, and I was doing some research on Regency England that was boring me shitless. I decided it was a good time to run the pump, so I took Sharon down to the pond, in the hopes of introducing her to the platypus.

I should point out here that Natalie has never actually seen the platypus. I think it hides from her. Why that would be is open to debate, but the fact is that within two minutes of Sharon and I quietly sauntering up to the pond's edge... there was the platypus. He/she/it swam around on the surface, dived to the bottom, came up again, blew bubbles, floated gently and regarded us, and in general, behaved like a perfect little tourist icon. Meanwhile, hundreds of bees hummed away, gathering water from the edge of the pond, and the spring sun shone down, and really, I must hang out down there more often. Pretty!

But the menu. Ahhh, yes.

I thought I'd try something interesting with prawns. We've been getting some big Carpentaria King prawns lately, and even though they're frozen for delivery, it's worth using them once in a while. I thought that if I grabbed some of that soft rice papery stuff used in Vietnamese type spring rolls, and then made a decent mix of herbs and spices, I could roll up the prawns with the spice mix and deep-fry them into a delicious, crispy treat. It seemed like an interesting idea, anyhow.

But while I was picking up the prawns, young Genghis noticed that there were fresh oysters in. And Genghis absolutely loves him some Oysters Kilpatrick. Oh, yes. So... I got a dozen oysters as well as the prawns.

Once you're on that kind of a roll, it's hard to stop. Next I spotted fresh Bass Strait scallops, and I remembered that I had some dumpling wrappers, and that we've been getting decent avocadoes at the supermarket for a while. Hmmm. Yep. Better get some scallops, too. And what about some smoked salmon, to round it all up?

The menu eventually went like this:

Smoked salmon roulades: thin slices of smoked salmon, spread with a mixture of cream cheese, pickled capers, fresh dill, black pepper and lemon juice. Roll the slices up, then slice them into little rounds. Serve with freshest, crusty bread - and a nice Brook Eden Pinot gris

Chilled Avocado Soup With Scallops: Blend four or five good, ripe avocadoes with two cups of fine, home-made Chinese-style chicken or fish stock. Add a half-cup of dry white wine. Once the mixture is smooth and thick, chill. Meanwhile, sautee a handful of fresh scallops with minced ginger and chili. Serve the soup in ramekin-sized dishes, with a couple of scallops atop each. Garnish with fresh coriander, spring onion slices, and a dollop of sour cream. We matched this with a Clover Hill bubbly. (Yeah, the same one they stuck in front of the Queen last week. I've been saying for years it's one of the best wines in Australia.)

Oysters Kilpatrick: A dozen fresh Tasmanian oysters, liberally sprinkled with diced bacon. Add a teaspoon of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce and just a touch of Tabasco pepper sauce. Grill them quickly under reasonable heat, then serve. The remnants of the Clover Hill went over nicely here, and we also opened a Devil's Corner Sauvignon Blanc.

Steamed Scallop Dumplings: Mince fresh ginger, coriander, and spring onion, and a little salt. Toss your scallops through the mixture. Spoon scallops into simple won-ton wrappers, close, and steam. Serve with a sweet Japanese mayonnaise suitable for sushi, and a touch of Tabasco pepper sauce.

Crispy Prawn Dumplings: Mince chili, spring onion and fresh coriander. Toss your shelled prawns through the mixture. Now soften rice-paper Vietnamese spring-roll wrappers in hot water. Carefully wrap each prawn, ensuring a generous portion of the spices as well. Fry quickly in small batches in very hot vegetable oil, removing when the prawn (visible through the translucent wrapper) turns appropriately pink. Serve with a classic Vietnamese dipping sauce.

Of course, you can't do something like this without dessert. So I made:

Double-cream French Vanilla ice cream: with King Island cream, eggs from our own chickens and vanilla pod and brown sugar. The ice cream got served with home-made blueberry conserve... and finished everybody off nicely, along with a little of the fine Pinot port that Smileyfish left here the other day.

The meal took a long time, and all the portions were small. That was the only rational way to do it. I'm happy to say that nobody had to lie around clutching their bellies and moaning afterwards, and the conversation moved along nicely throughout.

All right, yes. I know. I'm bragging.

Wouldn't you?