Sunday, 12 June 2011

Upstairs Brunch Event Trial #1 - Success!!

I am happy to announce our first trial run brunch was a huge success! Thanks to our guinea pig pals Aleem, Nureen, Terry, Suze, Santi & Eu-Hui for coming along and giving such great feedback - you guys are awesome! And of course a HUGE thank you to Hubby Chief Taste Tester for not only being on hand for taste testing but also doing all the washing up - you're the best!

For today, I had a chance to use some crockery I found back in Melbourne at Camberwell Market (hands down the best ever carboot in the entire world). These little side plates are hand painted with tiny little cute!

But let's get back to the important stuff - FOOD! I had a great time coming up with the menu for our first trial run. With this menu, I wanted to achieve a few things - challenge myself to try out different recipes from my myriad of cookbooks - All the recipes today were newbies but definitely ones that I will make again (perhaps with a tweak or two) - they were pretty yummy! The second target was to keep a check on portion control (I normally way over cater and we end up having to eat the same thing for a week straight after a party) and finally I wanted to see if I could get as organised as possible to avoid the dreaded stress attack of trying to juggle preparing food plus making sure everybody has a drink in their hands and are also having fun. I had a good mix of hot & cold courses which enabled me to do some of the prep work the night before.

So here's what we had:

Menu: The Healthy Decadent Brunch - it will leave you satisfied & virtuous (well, there is a lot of fruit)!

Freshly squeezed orange juice (thanks Hubby!!) and/or Bloody Mary or Virgin Mary (a la Nigel Slater). I couldn't find celery salt but will definitely keep an eye out for it as I think it would make a nice addition to this drink.

For starters, something healthy: Homemade bircher muesli with fresh berries, yoghurt & honey. I soaked the rolled oats in apple juice overnight. Next time I might try soaking in orange juice to give the muesli more flavor. I served these in big glasses and layered the muesli between the yoghurt, honey and berries.

For mains, we had french toast with whipped maple syrup mascarpone & cinnamon stewed pears. This dish got the big thumbs up from everybody! Not much left over as you can see!

We then had a comfort break with some lively conversation, followed by freshly baked apricot muffins & almond twist pastries - these worked out really well. I was particularly happy with the almond twist as it was the first time I had made a sweet dough totally by hand. The kneading was very theraputic! I also let the dough rise slowly overnight in the fridge which not only enabled me to do some of the preparation the night before, but also gave the pastry more flavor. Hubby liked the apricot muffins - they had a lovely crunchy top and buttery light inside, still warm from the oven....

We had these fresh baked goodies along with a cup of Gryphon tea and...

Nespresso coffee (thanks Aleem & Nureen for bringing over your cool machine & coffee capsules!) - what a special treat. It gave our "underground restaurant" a very professional feel!!

So first trial run over. The dishes are now washed and put away....I am really looking forward to hosting the next event - so back to the cookbooks for me to plan the next menu!

Please drop me a note if you are interested in finding out the dates of my next brunch.

Cheers for now.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Afternoon tea bake off challenge!!

Take one tiny condo kitchen with a temperamental oven & one over-enthusiastic home baker and what do you get?

Answer: The challenge of creating a homemade afternoon tea for 80+ people at my office last week.

It all started with an idea of having an office afternoon tea to celebrate a work initiative. I immediately put my hand up to help arrange all the food. Very exciting!! I started checking out caterers' websites and came up with a recurring thought as I browsed through their offerings - "I can do this better/cheaper/yummier/cooler/more awesome!"

So out came the cookbooks and here is the menu I came up with - all handmade with love over a series of 4 days.

Carrot Cake (not the Asian turnip kind!) with maple cream cheese frosting
Tropical chai pineapple cake
Mocca Swirl loaf with expresso icing
No bake chocolate, macadamia & fig slice
Really lemony gluten free cake
Pecan cheesecake swirl brownie
Mini lemon mascarpone cups with ginger nut cookies
Vanilla cupcakes with Nutella frosting, topped with fresh strawberries
Lemon drizzle coconut cupcakes
Apple, rum & raisin cupcakes topped with a cinnamon icing & orange zest
Two types of finger sandwiches - egg mayo with cucumber & coronation chicken (diced chicken breast mixed with mayo, curry powder, apple and raisins.

For this mammoth task, I created a detailed Excel spreadsheet shopping list - I am renowned for my love of Microsoft Excel! Once I had typed in all the ingredients for each recipe it showed me I needed a diet busting 2.75kg sugar, 1.9kg butter, 50 eggs and host of other yummy ingredients. A major shopping trip (or 4) was required!! I also set up a spreadsheet timetable showing me what I needed to be mixing/baking/frosting/packing at a given point in time leading up to the event. Some may scoff but this spreadsheet enabled military precision baking execution! I kid not.

Two lovely ladies from Gryphon tea (, a fantastic local Singaporean specialist tea purveyor, provide 6 different types of tea to complement the food.  

I must admit I was really happy with the results and thrilled with the amazing comments I received from my fellow work colleagues. (Special thanks to Michael Kane for the great photos!) Whilst a totally exhausting experience, I loved every minute of it & felt extremely proud of my handiwork. I definitely learnt a lot from this as well. Things to note for next time: 1. Not a great idea to try out new recipes when preparing for a big event (stress levels = HIGH!) 2. Gluten free recipes are a disaster waiting to happen (just kidding - but the lemon one I made was pretty weird with a massive air bubble in the middle of it).

The most popular treat turned out to be the carrot cake with maple cream cheese frosting - a real crowd pleaser! It is a brilliant recipe from a cookbook written by Yottam Ottolenghi from the famous cafe/bakery of the same name in London. I made the same cake for Hubby Chief taste tester's & my wedding cake so it always brings back lovely memories when I make it....

By the way, I have my first trial run Brunch & Co "Brunch Event" this coming Sunday - all spaces have been snapped up. I'll be posting up the results early next week. Wish me luck!