Sunday, November 20, 2011


The third Serendipity Dinner was the largest and, I think, the tastiest of the three so far. There were nine at the table, but it was actually the least stressful dinner, largely because my timing is better and I wasn't still up to my elbows in flour or chicken gizzards when the first guests arrived.

Entree was an easy pea and pesto soup, originally created by Nigella Lawson. Main course was a classic Beef Bourguignon with creamy mashed potatoes and garlic green beans, based on a recipe gleaned from the internet. Dessert was my own creation: a balsamic pear and raspberry cobbler with homemade honey and almond icecream.

Since the recipe for that last dish is mine, I'm happy to share it with the internet. Most recipes for similar icecreams require pfaffing about with egg yolks, but I said, "To hell with that!" and it still seemed to turn out okay. It's all a ploy of Big Egg.

Honey and Almond Icecream

1/4 cup honey
300ml cream
pinch of salt
500g no-fat greek yoghurt
80g slivered almonds.

Put almonds on a baking tray and toast in the oven until golden brown. Put honey, cream and salt in a saucepan and heat until honey dissolves into cream. Allow to cool. When the mixture is still quite warm but not hot, add the greek yoghurt and stir until well-combined. Pour mix into icecream machine and churn until slushy. Pour into container, stir in almonds then freeze.

Friday, November 11, 2011


The second Serendipity Dinner for 2011 was even more successful than the first. There were eight of us, but there was so much food that we were all groaning with fullness by the end of it.

Entree was a salad of chorizo, broad beans, shaved pecorino and mint served on toasted sourdough. Main course was Greek Chicken: a baked chicken dish in a tomato, red onion, capsicum and garlic sauce, topped with black olives and fresh oregano and scattered with flat leaf parsley and fetta, served with a green salad and crusty bread. Dessert was individual apple puddings with baked apples and caramel sauce, served with butterscotch custard.

Recipes inevitably serve far more than they claim they will - I still have more than half of the Greek Chicken, and there are more than a dozen apple puddings left. I'll be eating nothing but leftovers until the next dinner.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


Most people want to give a certain impression when they decorate the entry halls of their homes. They wish to make a statement of their sophistication, good taste and wealth, with a view to impressing the neighbours and/or passing Jehovah's Witnesses.

Unfortunately this means that their entry halls tend to be a bit boring.

Happily my friend Junior, by contrast, just likes robots.

From left to right: Crush, Kill, Destroy, Hugs

And yes, it's all my fault: I bought them for him in Copenhagen.

Saturday, November 05, 2011


As I've been doing for the last couple of years, I've devoted every Friday night in November to my Serendipity Dinners. It's based on a philosophy of abandoning control freakdom and passing the difficult mechanics of the dinner party into the hands of Fate. I have no control over which people come, or how many of those people, and I challenge myself to new dishes for every course.

And weirdly enough, it generally works.

The first dinner was last night, with a dinner for four - the first Serendipity Dinner is always the smallest. This was actually a plus, because I'd forgotten how much preparation needs to go into these things, and I only arrived home from work an hour before I was expecting the first guest.

We started with cocktails and canapes: gin & tonics and blinis with marscapone and lemon chutney.

Entree was grilled haloumi with lemon, garlic and chilli. I made the faux pas of taking a bite and blurting, "Man, this is fantastic!", which is pretty much the equivalent of calling out your own name during sex. But everyone else seemed to like it too.

Main course was a roast poussin recipe that I adapted for ease of preparation: chicken breasts slit into envelopes and stuffed with pistachios, cranberries and sour cherries, dusted with finely sliced chillis, ground coriander seeds and allspice, then roasted, and served with a green salad.

Dessert was "mangomisu", a mango-based reinterpretation of the classic tiramisu: layers of sponge fingers soaked in orange juice and vodka, slices of mango, and a whipped blend of cream, egg, sugar and marscapone. True to the paradigm of happy accidents that is fundamental to the Serendipity Dinners, the recipe produced far too much for a single mangomisu, so I am able to take a second one to lunch tomorrow and wow a completely new batch of people with my culinary brilliance.