What? Eleven dishes?! Yeah…I must be nuts! All for the sake of a family housewarming we had recently.
The 4-season Family Tradition
Since the demise of my mother-in-law (MIL) in 2006, we agreed to meet up with my husband’s siblings and families four times a year by taking turns. My husband is the fourth and youngest child, hence the four times = four seasons.
The starting point of our annual family rendezvous rounds up at my eldest sister-in-law’s place for the New Year’s lunch through dinner. We exchange gifts and the younger ones recite the New Years’ messages. More gifts reciprocated with big smiles to boot 😀
A typical lunch plate served by my eldest SIL
New Year’s messages 2010, 2011 and 2012 from my younger son to his Mum and Dad, when he was 9, 10 and 11 years old respectively.
The second sibling – my brother-in-law – transforms his apartment into bunnyland for an entire day! Yep, we meet at his place for Easter lunch up to dinner. A typical main course would be poultry, but this year, he cooked a scrumptious plate of braised rabbit in cherry beer served with good old Belgian fries. Lekker! 😀
The next in turn is my other SIL, where we meet at her place on All Saints’ Day (1st November). The crux of the day is the visit to the graves of my late MIL and FIL as well as other deceased relatives. It is also an evening when we are stuffed with staples of pancakes – buckwheat pancakes and crêpes – served either plain or with crispy bacon, and topped with generous drizzles of all kinds of syrups, molasses, fruit jams, muscovado sugar, brown sugar and icing sugar. Lunch is the usual 4-course meal of starter, soup, main and dessert.
And finally, our ‘contribution’….well, the youngest sibling – my other half – chose the summer theme.
“Let’s rent a holiday cottage in the Ardennes” (south of Belgium, which is the French-speaking part of the country). Yes, BBQ and long walks! We had been doing that since 2006, however, we had to break the chain this year, mainly due to the fact that we moved house. Summer 2012 was completely consumed with the work(s) in and around the house. The family get-together in the Ardennes was expunged, nullified. But then a promise is a promise. We were not going to give up the family tradition of our ‘contribution’, albeit in a different manner this year!
The only obstacle was setting a date, more to my advantage, because I foresaw it would be one hell of a BIG job – cooking for 15 people! Since both my husband and I work full time at weekdays, there’s no other alternative than to sacrifice a day or two of my work weekday 😦
And the nutty me did just that! I took 3 workdays off (Thursday through Monday), planning, shopping and cooking!
Going East through Rocky Mountains!
Okay. I have not been cooking for my in-laws in years, hence, it was time I treated them. Anyway, they helped us a lot during our house move. One of my ways of thanking them, I guess 🙂
I thought the easiest dishes to prepare were what I know best. Asian!
Boy was it the hard way out, but there was NO turning back. I had all the menus in my head, channeling through thick, knobbly veins in my brain.
“Oh, I’m going to make this, this, that and that…”
By the way, I have a pretty ambitious brain, as far as the culinary journey is concerned. The final count of dishes was actually 13 but 11 made it to the table! I had completely forgotten to serve one of the dishes and the other one, had to be ignored at the last minute because there was absolutely no time and space to squeeze in for that dish.
One great thing about Asian food is that you can prepare some dishes in advance. It’s none other than the acar timun (pickled cucumbers). It goes very well with keropok (prawn crackers). Great finger food and ice-breaker!
However, there are foods that have to be served only when the guests arrived. I made popiah. I called this an ‘anti-social’ appetizer for the maker but not for the eaters. LOL! While I was slaving away rolling sheet after sheet of popiahs, my guests were discreetly crying for more. Nonetheless, it was a stunner and everyone’s favourite! Delish!
The soup of the day was Tom Yum Koong (Fragrant hot and sour prawn broth). Another stunner that tickled the palate for more! Tom Yum YUMMY!!
Mini Rijsttafel (= Rice Table)
My mini rijsttafel consisted of fragrant nasi kuning or nasi kunyit. The yellow colour of the rice comes from the amalgamation of the turmeric (powder) with the rice and the fragrance comes from the aromatic pandan leaves, plus lemongrass and a handful of kaffir lime leaves, soaked in some coconut milk and a sprinkle of salt. The results you see in the following photos went through 2 steaming methods –one barely survived – and coupled with loads of panic-stricken moments. I will publish this story in my next post. 😉
The yellow fragrant rice goes well with beef rendang, but I did not make rendang that day. It was beef curry. It was not just an ordinary beef curry, because I blended my own spices 😀
First, I dry roasted the fennel seeds, cumin seeds, black cardamom, white cardamom, black and white peppercorns, fenugreek seeds and coriander seeds. When the spices are dry roasted, they exude an amazing aroma and draw out sublime flavours in a matter of moments. The wet ingredients included shallots, garlic, onions, ginger, galangal, red and green chillies and tomatoes. The whole spices and herbs that went in the pot were lemongrass, cinnamon stick, cloves, 2 knotted pandan leaves and kaffir lime leaves. I did not use a lot of coconut milk but more beef broth. After all, it’s not supposed to be beef rendang! Just before serving, throw in some chopped fresh coriander leaves and stir once or twice before platting the dish up. What can I say? It was simply divine. If only you were in my kitchen that day 😀
The next dish was everyone’s favourite. It was the Ngo Hiang. I grew up eating this on festive occasions – New Year, Chinese New Year, Easter and Christmas. It was one of the star dishes my Mum used to make. We never got tired of eating Mum’s Ngo Hiang, hence, this is a dish that was passed on from Mum to daughter 😉
My in-laws were particularly intrigued by the extraordinary flavours from the Ngo Hiang. “Ngo Hiang” is a teochew word for five spices, but actually is a sausage rolled up in soya beancurd sheet. The ingredients I used were minced meat (mix of kalf and pork), prawns, dried shiitake, chopped carrots, garlic, onion, chopped fresh coriander, spring onions, an egg to bind, salt to taste, a pinch of 5-spice powder, a dash of sesame oil and freshly milled white pepper. Yes, white pepper, please.
An Asian rijsttafel is never complete without a fish dish. I wish I could find a white pomfret, or a whole sea bass or red snapper. Anyway, I ended up with frozen rolled fillets of sole. Instead of steaming the fish, I baked them in the oven. Tasted just as great!
This is a very quick and easy dish. The only time consuming factor is the mise en place (prep work of cutting, slicing and chopping).
As you can see from the photographs, I chopped and sliced quite a lot of shallots, onions, yellow and red peppers, spring onions, ginger, cherry tomatoes, fresh coriander, lime juice, salt and pepper and a good glug of Shaoxing rice wine.
Oh, by the way, we are not completely carnivores. Cold salads make great side dishes to the spicy and flavourful Asian dishes.
My personal favourite is the cool cucumber-tomato-red onion salad. A mouthful to say and I promise you it goes divinely well with curries.
Super easy. Forget the wok. Not a single drop of oil. All you need are cucumbers, tomatoes, shallots (red onions), fresh coriander, lime or lemon juice, salt, sugar and freshly milled pepper.
I thought one salad dish was just not enough. I made another one, with a hint of Middle Eastern flavours. It was the carrot and radish salad. You can find the recipe here.
Next on the list were sandwiches. We had these for high tea/ coffee. I made two types: egg-chives sandwich and Asian flavoured turkey meat sandwich.
Needless to say, the main ingredients in the egg-chives sandwich are hard boiled eggs and chives! Well, of course you need to pep it up with a little squirt of mayonnaise, some salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste.
My Asian version of the turkey meat sandwich included, of course, the cold cooked turkey. To that, I added some light mayonnaise, a bit of tomato ketchup, sweet chilli sauce, fresh coriander, salt and pepper.
Here was the sandwich filling I made, but sadly, I did not get the chance to take a picture of the filled up sandwich. They were all gone before I positioned my camera.
My poor rhubarb chutney was completely forgotten. It did not make its way to the table. I will share with you in a later post some stories about this.
The dessert I thought I could squeeze in on my menu list was withdrawn at the last moment. I had wanted to make tiramisu but seeing that I did not have enough space in my fridge, I had to put the idea aside. Ijsboerke Dame Blanche came to the rescue, instead 🙂
From Noon till Dusk: Guests, gifts, nightfall…
My guests arrived as per schedule on Saturday, 29th September at 12 noon.
We were dressed for the occasion – an informal family get-together. It was great seeing them again since our last rendezvous at my BIL’s place for the Easter gathering.
Perhaps the star locus that illuminates our house is our new extension. Our veranda!! My guests lavished superlatives on it. All we heard were “Wow”, “Cool”, “Stunning”, “Beautiful”… If you have read my posts here, here and here, you will understand why I magnified the case.
The ‘younger’ guests had the honour of sitting in the veranda, while the ‘oldies’ (ahem!) occupied the dining room. Not cool, I know, but our dining table is not big enough to accommodate 15 guests. Alas! 😦
I simply adore the housewarming gift we got from the family. A stone owl that weighs a ton!
Isn’t he cute? I’ll have to think of a name soon 🙂
Time flew in a wink of an eye, and before we knew, night fell upon us. I quickly sneaked outside to the garden and took these pictures.
The Aftermath… a battlefield and solace!
Our guests left at 9pm.
I advanced to my kitchen and reality struck me in the face. YIKES!! Help!
I pinched myself. All I got was a red painful spot on my left wrist. Right before my eyes were not staples of edible pancakes, but staples of reality! The dirty dishes!!!
Thank God for the dishwasher! Whew! #:-s
Two days of cooking and the dishes that went to the table that day were gone in 30 minutes!
Was it worth it?
Well, I can tell you this. I was completely and physically worn out the day after. Boy was I glad there were leftovers. No cooking for the next two days. Mmmm…..what bliss!
In fact there were plenty of leftovers. Just ‘bad’ estimation, I’m afraid 🙂
With the remaining leftovers, I ladled them in plastic containers and labeled them with the date I first handled them and tucked these in the freezer. Perfect for a lazy Sunday lunch 😛
The next morning, I checked on Mister Owl. He’s still there. He’s guarded our veranda well, I see.
Will I do this again? Mmmm……lemme think…
One BIG question mark !
We shall see….
Have a great weekend!
Related Posts –
- Our Veranda Project: A gruesome discovery (Part 1)
- Our Veranda Project: Now you see it, now you don’t (Part 2)
- Our Veranda Project: This Is It! (Final)
- Beef Rendang: by special request
- My Easter Story