Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Happy Birthday Me!

So like I said, on Saturday night I went out drinking to celebrate my 22nd birthday. However, Sunday was my real birthday, and this was the night of my enormous Nigella-based feast. (How else would you expect me to celebrate?). I went a bit nuts with the food, because I forgot how many people I invited, and kinda just kept telling my friends to “come, come and eat, it’ll be so fun!”. I was a bit paranoid that I wouldn't have enough food, so kept adding more.

The whole menu was…

2 roast chickens, with a mushroom and breadcrumb stuffing
Onion Sauce
Roast Potatoes
Beef sausages
A large rump steak
(what the hell, it was already marinated and in the freezer, so why not)
Proper English Trifle
Hazelnut Cake
Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake

So in addition to the trifle and hazelnut cake, which I’d made in advance, I added the following 3 recipes to my list.

349. English roast chicken with all the trimmings – plus some
350. Onion sauce
351. Chocolate raspberry pudding cake

The first thing I made in the afternoon, was the stuffing for the chickens. Nigella’s recipe include bacon, but a few of my mates don’t eat pork, so I left it out. What you do for the stuffing is cook onion (and bacon, if you’re including it) in oil, then set it aside, and cook finely chopped mushrooms in the same pan. Once everything’s cooked down and fragrant, you mix the onions and the mushrooms with breadcrumbs, parsley and thyme.


2 of my mates, An and Jess, were spending the day with me, so whilst I was making the stuffing, I delegated the task of peeling 2 kilos of potatoes to them. I then parboiled them in readiness for roasting later that night.

Next thing to do was the chocolate raspberry pudding cake. This can’t be made in advance because it needs to be served warm. And although microwaving the finished cake back to warmth it is an option, it’s easy enough to be made on the night of your dinner itself. To start, melt butter, raspberry liqueur, sugar, dark chocolate, and coffee in a pan until smooth and combined. Next, beat this liquid into sifted flour and cocoa, followed by two eggs. A warning: this mixture is extremely tasty, so don’t be too pedantic about scraping it into your cake tin.

choc raspberry pudding cake mixture

Speaking of which, you pour half the mixture into a lined and greased springform cake tin, cover with raspberries (I used cheaper frozen berries to no detrimental effect), and then the rest of the cake mixture.

choc raspberry pudding cake raw, in tin

Then it needs to be baked for 45 minutes. Now, another word of warning – the mixture is extremely runny, and Nigella advises not to panic or to add more flour. But that’s not the problem. The problem, for me, using my Nigella Lawson Living Kitchen 23cm springform cake tin, was that the bugger leaked on me!! Cake mix was dripping through the sides of the tin and onto the floor of my oven. Luckily, crisis was averted when I shoved a baking tray directly underneath to catch all the drips. And after about 10 minutes in the oven, the cake had firmed up enough to stop dripping, so not too much mixture was lost. Phew!

I should add here, that all the time I was cooking, it was my parents who were cleaning up the house and making it presentable for company. Thank-you!

As soon as the cake was done, I shoved the stuffed chickens into the oven.

raw chickens

The trifle needs some finishing touches a couple of hours before you eat it. You cover it with whipped cream, and a caramel made by boiling orange juice with sugar, and some flaked almonds.

And I started on the onion sauce. It’s a b├ęchamel sauce, with the water used to boil some onions added, as well as the chopped boiled onions themselves. It was at about this point that my friends started arriving.

Here’s Bonnie helping out with the sauce.

Bonnie - "I'm cooking"

roasted chickens

Aren’t they gorgeous? I shoved the potatoes in the oven as soon as the chickens came out. I think roast chickens are such a great food for entertaining - they're easy, delicious, and impressive. Every one of my guests commented on the warm and inviting smell of roast chickens as they entered my house.

And while the potatoes were in the oven, I grilled a steak and some sausages.

why not add a steak?

As might have been expected, my dinner was running a bit late - people started arriving at 7, but we only ate at about 8:30. Sorry guys! At least they had Big Brother to keep them entertained.

I delegated the task of chopping the chickens to my mum - she's an expert.

The key to remaining goddess-like

chicken inside

Chicken chopped up Hainanese style

My mum very cleverly chopped up the chickens into small pieces so we all could get some. Only my Malaysian mates realised this though.

Georgina: Hey, it looks like Hainan chicken rice!
Mark: Yeah! Your mum rocks, she chopped the chickens Chinese-style! Where's the rice and the soup and the cucumber?

Here's the spread.

the spread

Onion sauce - it looks like a vast bowl, but trust me, it gets eaten!

Toni: Can I get the recipe for this sauce?



Roast potatoes - not quite as brown as I would have liked, because I pulled them out of the oven slightly early. But we were hungry, dammit!

It's a buffet!

I can't believe it, almost ALL the food got eaten. This hardly ever happens with Nigella-portions. I think we had, like, 3 pieces of chicken, 2 potatoes and half a sausage left at the end of this meat-and-carb orgy. I see now that I forgot to add any vegetables, but no-one seemed to mind. I was pretty stuffed at the end of the meal though.

And here are the desserts. I really loved how they all looked together, similar in shape, yet different in colour, taste, and presentation. In fact, it kinda reminded me of my days working at that buffet restaurant, but without the creepy co-workers.

3 desserts

finished whole choc raspberry pudding cake

hazelnut cake, finished

finished proper English trifle

Inside of choc raspberry pudding cake

The raspberries look fab, glinting red inside the dark cake. But I'd suggest using more raspberries than you think you need - they seemed to become a bit sparser after baking.

This is my dessert plate below, but don't worry, even I wasn't able to finish the whole thing.

one big plate

All the desserts were delicious! We cut the cakes into teensy-weensy pieces so we could all share them and try some of everything. The hazelnut cake was gorgeous, nutty and fragrant, and my dad particularly loved it. He had 3 pieces. The chocolate cake was also beautiful - deep and rich and chocolatey. The trifle went down particularly well, especially amongst my Jewish, challah-loving friends, who were really excited at the prospect of a challah-based dessert. It wasn't too alcoholic, too rich, or too sweet. It was just right, a big bowl of cream-and-berry-swathed deliciousness.


What a lovely way to celebrate my birthday!


domesticgoddess said...

What an amazing spread! Well done on the effort you put into making all of that -especially it being your birthday-, it all looks divine. Those are some lucky, lucky friends!

Happy Birthday to you for Sunday :)

p.s. don't you worry about lack of vegetables; I am eating enough of them for the entire population of Melbourne right now.

Anonymous said...

wow, what a feast!! looking gorgeous..

came in late, Happy Belated Birthday!

Lady M said...

Everything looks delicious and inviting, and you look like one heck of a happy Birthday girl!! Congrats again, and the only bad thing about you making all these lovely dishes is that soon it will come to an end. :(


Anonymous said...

Well done Sarah! Everything looks delicious - your friends are very lucky indeed. :)

Randi said...

Happy Belated. Here are a couple tips I've learned. When making something in a springform, I wrap foil around the outside. Also, I tie the legs and wings back when roasting chickens. I dont know why I do it, I was taught to do it that way and it looks nice.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the night was a huge success! Congratulations and Feliz Cumpleanos!

Niki said...

Oooh - I've been wanting to make the chocolate raspberry cake for ever, but have been stalled at the fact it needs to be served warm. Love the look of the texture; gorgeous!
And a happy birthday, you young one!

plum said...

Happy birthday Sarah. And I am going to go to the shelf and look up the recipe for that chocolate raspberry cake RIGHT NOW!

tytty said...

happy birthday ~ tian

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful feast!! The choc raspberry cake looks wonderful & that trifle (my fave!) must have been amazing. Also, I must say your mom IS amazing! When your HTE project is completed, can you please get me a demo of that chopping action? It looks great...she is clever.
Best wishes for a very happy year ahead, Hermana!

cin said...

Happy Birthday, Sarah! What a feast you've cooked up, butI'm with Niki & Plum - I especially love the look of the choc rasp cake. more raspberries would definitely not go astray.

Anonymous said...

hi sarah
your blog is making my hungry...
yummmmmmm.... you shouldn't be working in ds!!
happy belated birthday! :)