Cheer cheer the red and the white. Honour the name by day and by night!

For all you uninitiated, these are the first 2 lines of the Sydney Swans victory song.  Back when the mighty Sydney Swans were alive and kicking in the AFL Finals series, Jo and I decided to plan a red and white-themed 3 course lunch to celebrate them making it to the finals.  Unfortunately the  Swannies were knocked out of the AFL race in the semis, so didn’t come to the party.

Nonetheless, we decided to make it a red and white-themed commiseration lunch.  Either that or change it to a St George Dragons celebration lunch.  However none of us like the Dragons, so commiseration it is!  In hindsight, we could claim that the reason the Dragons won is because of us 😉

So we started preparing a 3 course feast, full of seasonal red and white, invited the lovely Steph and her beau Wynnie and dragged Matt away from his work to enjoy Course 1:

Ciabatta, bruschetta and cheese

Brie and bruschetta as a starter may not sound very adventurous, but it does fulfil the red and white brief. And, in order to up the complication factor, I baked the ciabatta myself. It’s a pretty long and involved process though, so I won’t go into it here, but you can read all about my wrestle with my first high-hydration bread here.

White brie and bread and red(ish) paste

I did try to convince Matt that I had milked the cow and made the brie myself, but he wasn’t fooled, and in fact deducted points for lying! The nerve of him!

The bruschetta, however was all my own work (notice that I took the easy course of entree, leaving the more difficult main to Lyndal?). In order to make it sound more arduous, I have listed the steps below:

Crunchy toasted ciabatta and tomato

  1. Slice bread.
  2. Drizzle with olive oil.
  3. Grill until beautifully browned.
  4. Slice 4 roma tomatoes.
  5. Scoop out soggy seeds.
  6. Chop tomato finely.
  7. Peel 1 garlic clove.
  8. Finely chop garlic.
  9. Tear basil leaves off stem.
  10. Finely chop basil.
  11. Finely chop 1/4 of a red onion.
  12. Put all in a bowl and mix. Try to do this half an hour or so before you eat, to give the onion and garlic a chance to infuse the tomato with flavour.

Wow, 12 steps. That’s impressive. And doesn’t it just look like a lot of work went on, when it’s nicely arranged on a platter – fresh and toasted bread, tomato mixture, balsamic vinegar, brie, Maggie Beer Spicy Pear Paste. Swantastic! (I just made that word up. Any loyal Swans fans will probably beat me for taking their name in vain.)

Red and white entree, plus bevvies

Oh, and don’t forget a glass of Pepper Tree Pinot Gris.

Lift that noble banner high, shake down the thunder from the sky!

Considering that we had 3 courses to get through and it was a lunch, I wanted something simple and not too heavy for our main.  So flicking through this month’s edition of Delicious. magazine, I came across a recipe that fit the bill.  However to suit a certain co-cook who doesn’t eat pork, I came up with:

Baked chicken and potatoes with tomato and feta

Ingredients:
1 brown onion, wedged
10-15 chat (or about 5 larger) potatoes, washed and chopped into uniform size (leave skins on)
1 tbsp olive oil
500g chicken thigh fillets, cut in chunks
4 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped
6-8 sage leaves
1 punnet cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine (I used Sav Blanc)
100g feta, cubed

Tumbled taters crisping up nicely

Tumble olive oil, potatoes and some salt in a baking dish (or a Scanpan!).  Bake in a 200°C oven for about 20min, or until potatoes start to go crispy.

Turn potatoes and add onion.  bake for another 10 min.

Add tomatoes and herbs to the pan and lay chicken on top.  Pour wine over and return to the oven.  Bake for around 15min, or until chicken is cooked through and tomatoes have started to collapse.

Remove from oven and stir feta through straight away.

The finished dish, ready to be served

Serve with a spoonful of pan juices over the top.

I was a little worried this would be too plain, but it turned out quite delicious.  The only problem was there were 5 people dining, and it was a little small.  So I would say this dish would feed around 4.

Whether the odds be great or small. Swans will go in and win overall.

After a Masterchef-esque rating from Matt and Steph (I think consensus was around 8 for the main), we moved on to our pièce de résistance:

Syd’s Strawberry Tarts (adapted from Taste.com.au, with Jamie Oliver’s sweet shortcrust pastry from The Naked Chef)

Pastry:
125g butter
100g icing sugar
250g plain flour
2 egg yolks
2Tbsp cold milk

Cream butter and sugar, then rub in the flour and egg yolks.

Add the cold milk and pat the dough into a ball. Squeeze it into a fat sausage shape.

Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Slice the sausage into rounds and push them into greased small tart tins.  Stab with a fork and bake in a moderate oven until crisp and slightly browned.

Creme patissiere:
1/2 c skim milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp plain flour
2 Tbsp caster sugar
2 Tbsp lite thickened cream

Combine milk and vanilla in a small saucepan and heat over a medium flame. Cook, stirring, for around 5 mins, until the mixture just starts to simmer. Set aside.

Combine egg, flour, sugar and cream in a small bowl, and whisk until well mixed. Pour into the warm milk. Place over medium heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl, cover top with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming, and refrigerate until chilled.

Assembly:
Take creme patissiere out of the fridge and whisk to loosen up. Add a little more cream if it’s still too thick. Fill tart cases with a spoonful of creme patissiere, top with sliced strawberries (we made little pyramids), and dust with icing sugar.

The grand finale - so good!

These little tarts were so delicious!  We served them with Darrel Lea dark chocolate ginger.  Too good!

While her noble sons (and daughters, in this case!) are marching onwards to victory!

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