Birthday buffet

It was only a few days before my fathers birthday party last weekend – a “small” one, only about 20 guests – that I had to realise that I was meant not only to help with all the preparations, but that I was supposed to plan and cook the whole buffet, with my sisters support. “Something mediterranean, but not too exotic” were my fathers instructions …  so that is what I made:

For me, the best thing of the whole buffet was my (first) homemade ciabatta, because it really tasted like ciabatta should, both crispy and fluffy. To achieve this, the main thing you need is time.

In addition you will need (for four loafs):

800 g flour (I used 350 g flour type 405 and 450 g flour type 550), 15 g fresh yeast, 5 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teespoons salt, 70 g black olives (optional)

preparations
1. Knead together 350 g flour, 5 g yeast and 200 ml  lukewarm water. Cover your dough and let it rest at room temperature for 12 to 15 hours.
2. Knead your dough togehter with the remaining flour, yeast, olive oil and salt with 350 ml lukewarm water. ( Cut your dough into two half and add the olives to one of them). Cover your dough and let it rest at room temperatur for 1 1/2  hours.
3. Form 4 loafs of bread, each about 15 cm long. This sounds easy, but you will need a bit of flour manage this. Place you loafs on two baking trays, prepared with baking paper and …. yes: let your dough rest for another 45 minutes.
4. Preheat your oven and bake your ciabatta at 225° C for about 20 minutes.

The polenta crackers are really quick to make, compared to the ciabatta.

For two baking trays you only need 300 g polenta, 1,3 l water, salt, about 2 teaspoons of fresh or dried oregano and olive oil.

preparation
Stir all ingredients in a pot and bring them to boil while stiring. Simmer for a few minutes. Prepare your baking trays with baking paper, pour polenta on them and smooth the surface. Let the polenta cool down, coat it with olive oil, cut it into slices (I chose rhombs) and bake it in the preheated oven at 200° C till they are crispy (about 20 minutes).

For the oriental tabouleh salad you will need:

300 g couscous, 1 cucumber, 10 tomatoes, 1 bunch spring onions, 1 bunch parsley, 1/2 bunch mint, juice of 1-2 lemons, 5 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper

preparations
Cook your couscous, following the instructions on the package. Chop vegetable and herbs. ( I usually cave the cucumber to prevent the salad from getting to watery.) Mix everything and season with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

My insalata caprese isn’t magic… I prefer to dice and not slice (caved) tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, mixing it with chopped basil, olive oil, salt and pepper and let it soak the flavour.

For the vegetable cheese börek you will need:

about 30 triangular leafs of yufka/filo pastry, 1 broccoli, 1 zucchini, 1 onion, 1 garlic clove, 200 g ricotta cheese, 100g feta cheese, 50 grated parmesan cheese, 1 egg, zest of 1 organic lemon, 1/2 bunch of parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper (you can optionally – like I did – add a few chopped leaves of mint and celery)

preparations
1. Dice vegtables and stew them in a bit of olive oil for about 5 minutes. Let it cool down for  a few minutes.
2. Add all your cheeses, half of the egg and herbs.
3. Fill your pastry with the vegetable-cheese-mixture: Therefore put two pastry leafs on top of each other, brush sides with egg, place about one tablespoon of filling on the long end of the pastry and roll it up. Pay attention also to fold in the sides of the pastry while rolling. (Easier to do than to describe!)
4. Place your little böreks on a baking tray, brush them with a bit of olive oil and bake at 200° C for about 20 minutes.

For my recipe of hoummus –  the oriental chickpea dip – you will need:

1 big can chickpeas (400 g), juice of 1 lemon, 2-3 garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste), salt and pepper, 4 tablespoons olive oil

The preparation of this dip or spread is most simple: Puree everything with a blender, leave over roughly 1 tablespoon of olive oil and drizzle it over your hoummus just before serving it.

Romesco is the name of a spanish pepper-almond-sauce. For preparing it you will need:

3 red bell peppers, 75 g grounded almonds, 4 slices of toasted bread, 2 garlic cloves, 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes, 50 ml olive oil, salt and pepper

preparation
First of all you have to roast your peppers. Therefore preheat the oven to 250° C. Line peppers on a large baking tray and roast them for about 30 minutes until the are cooked and their skin is getting black. Once they’re fully roasted, put them into a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and let the peppers cool down. When they’re cool enough to handle, remove the skins with a knive or simply your fingers.
Use a blender to puree your peppers with all the other ingredients except the olive oil. Add this gradually to your sauce while pureeing. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

Vitello tonnato, cold veal with tuna mayonnaise,  is one of my favorite italian antipasti and not too difficult in preparation.

You will need:
500 g veal roast, 1/4 l white wine, 1 onion, 2 carrots, a bit of celery, 1 leaf laurel, 2 cloves, 150 g canned tuna (without oil), 2 anchovies, 2 tablespoons of capers, 1 fresh egg yolk, 1 1/2 organic lemon, 100 ml olive oil, salt and pepper

preparation
1. In a large pot bring water with roughly chopped vegetables, spices, wine and 1 teaspoon of salt to boil. Simmer veal in this stock for one hour. Cool down veal and slice as thinly as you can.
2. Set aside 1/2 tablespoons of capers and 1/2 lemon for decoration. Thinly slice lemon.
3. For making the tuna mayonnaise you will again need a blender. First of all puree tuna, anchovies, 1 1/2 tablespoons of caper, juice of 1 lemon. Slowly – this is the critical point in making mayonnaise – add the olive oil while pureeing. Add salt and pepper to your taste. Be careful with salt as the anchovies and capers give the mayonnaise already a good portion of salt.
4. Lay veal slices out on a big plate, coat them with the tuna cream and decorate with lemon slices and capers. Keep it in your frigde until serving it.

Ok, circassian chicken is not exactly a mediterranean recipe, but anyway: I thought it would go well with the rest of the dishes, it tastes good and is surprisingly easy to prepare.

You will need:
about 1 kg chicken (you can take a whole chicken or as I did a mixture of chicken legs and breast), 1 onion, 2 carrots, a bit of celery, 1 leaf laurel, 4 slices of toasted bread, 150 g walnuts, 1/2 bunch parsley, 1 teaspoon paprika, a dash of chili powder

preparation
1. In a large pot bring water with roughly chopped vegetables, laurel and 1 teaspoon of salt to boil. Simmer chicken in your stock for one hour. Put chicken stock aside. Cool down chicken and tear it with your fingers in small pieces.
2. Soak toasted bread in 250 ml of the chicken stock and puree it with the walnuts. I also like to add a bit of the stock vegetables. Mix paprika, chili and chopped parsley with your sauce. At last, fold into the chicken and put it into a bowl for serving.

All the chopping, pureeing, baking and cooking took me and my sister about half a day, but it was worth it. Best indication that the guests liked what we cooked: a lot of recipes that must be copied.

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