I am pretty sure that the pharmacy near Mr NQN's work knows me by now. I am the woman who rings up frantic at around 5pm and asks for 10 bottles of her favourite produce to be put aside to be picked up by her husband after work. One afternoon's request was a little odd.
"Hello, could you please put aside a packet of fake nails and some denture glue for me? My husband will come and pick it up tonight." I say breathlessly.
"Sure what brand of nails and denture glue would you like ma'am?" the polite man at the other end of the phone asks.
"Any kind! I don't know!" I reply flummoxed at the question. I hesitate before answering "they're umm... to make vampire fangs..."
"Ahh I see..." Well the pharmacist does work on Oxford Street so I'm sure people have done this before ;)
I had been planning this True Blood dinner party for months. The timing was of course to coincide with the end of the current season of True Blood, a show that I had become wholly and completely besotted with. Mr NQN was outnumbered that evening by giggling ladies because of course the show has the best looking male cast on television i.e. a family assorted packet of man biscuits with a guy for every taste. Mr NQN of course still refers to it as "that zombie show" but I could not be deterred in my love for it. The idea for the dinner was inspired by season three's dinner party which involved three courses of blood:
First course: Chilled carbonated blood. Cruelty free, all willingly donated. Note the citrusy finish? This one ate only tangerines for weeks.
Second course: Carlo bring me that Thai boy.
Third course: Warm blood bisque infused with rose petals.
Dessert: Blood Gelato
Of course the idea of serving up blood to my dear friends wasn't going to happen. I mean they put up with a lot, the photo taking, the traipsing off to far flung restaurants in the name of a meal but serving blood to them might stretch the friendship so I decided to do a blood themed dinner party instead. Invited were my True Blood loving friends because of course we would be watching episodes of the show afterwards.
Although I do like kitsch I wanted it to be an elegant dinner party because of course vampires have a lot of money as they can glamour people into giving them their worldly goods. We used some stunning Waterford crystal in blood red and a John Rocha black cut centrepiece filled with red fruit and vegetables to carry through the bloody red theme. Just because I thought that Bill as the King of Louisiana might have these in his house.
So there were nibblies in the form of caviar topped blinis, a bloody red spicy tomato soup, a symbolic oxtail and beetroot pie with an equally symbolic black savourine salad. Plus dessert of course, in fact two, with a pre dessert of raspberry sorbet and a molten blood chocolate cake served with raspberry ripple ice cream.
I did have a bit of a True Blood encounter myself, not so much of the vampiric kind but of the Jason Stackhouse kind. Ryan Kwanten is in Sydney shooting his latest film "Not Suitable For Children" written by Australian writer Michael Lucas and one day I found myself within breathing and touching distance of him. I did breathe but I did not touch him (although I wanted to, not in an inappropriate way, well kind of...). Of course I wanted to invite him to this party but I refrained from embarrassing myself and getting a certain rejection and instead chose to admire his divineness from where I was standing. And I was a little too scattered and excited to ask for a photo (silly me!).
So where was I? That's right, denture glue and false nails! The idea came from a reader Neil who left a comment on how to do my own vampire fangs. So to make your very own vampire fangs (and Halloween is coming up-oh joy!) you take a pair of false nails-I found the smallest size was the closest width to my canine teeth. You then file them down using a nail file to a point which was surprisingly easy (although caution: you may ruin your own manicure doing this) and then glue them to your canine teeth using the denture glue!
I was trying to look scary but I think I look like I'm laughing instead...
And I must have a word to the pharmacist because he gave me French tipped false nails whereas just regular old plain ones would have been best and he gave me extra strength denture glue so I am not sure how long they will stay glued! I wonder if they will fall out in time for me to see Alan Ball the creator of True Blood at the Opera House tomorrow night. If not, I will be the girl sporting the vampire fangs (although I suspect I won't be the only one ;)).
So tell me Dear Reader, who would you like to meet most of all in real life and why? And are you a True Blood lover and if so, who is your favourite character?
Nibblies: Black caviar blinis
I love making blinis because they're bite sized but can also be made ahead of time. They're ever so slightly exotic and mysterious too and versatile so they seemed the perfect choice for some vampiric nibblies. I used the same recipe that I did before. Not only did I have a whole packet of buckwheat left but these are great made ahead of time and served them on these fabulous black plates that my chef friend David from Xanthi restaurant gave me.
Makes approximately 12 blinis depending on size (I made these slightly larger)
2/3 cup (100g) plain all purpose flour
1/4 cup (35g) buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup (125ml) milk
1/3 cup (80g) sour cream
1 egg separated
1/2 teaspoon salt
oil for frying
1 jar of lumpfish caviar
100g/3.5 ozs light sour cream
Step 1 - Place the milk and sour cream in a small saucepan over low heat cook, stirring with a whisk until lukewarm and the mixture is smooth. Add the egg yolk and whisk to combine. Meanwhile place the flours and yeast in a bowl and stir to combine. Gradually add the milk mixture to the flour mixture whisking until smooth.
Step 2 - Cover with a clean, damp cloth and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface and the mixture is foamy and thick.
Step 3 - Whisk the egg white until soft peaks form and add this to the mixture and stir well to combine.
Step 4 - Heat a medium or large saucepan on medium heat and add some oil. Using a teaspoon drop a heaped teaspoonful of mixture onto the pan-it is thicker than a pancake mixture so it can be dolloped. Cook for 1-2 minutes until bubbles appear on the surface and then gently turn over and cook until golden.
Step 5 - Spoon a little sour cream and caviar on top (use a non metallic spoon for caviar).
Entree: Tomato Soup
Well nothing quite says blood like tomato soup. I wanted to spice this one up and give it body by adding red lentils. This was a simple dish from delicious magazine by Valli Little. I loved the idea that there was some spice in the soup and quite importantly, it seemed quite simple too. I chose to strain the soup to give it a smoother texture (more like blood) but for an every day meal straining isn't necessary. I used a chilli from our chilli plant, a tiny itty bitty thing and removed the seeds as best I could whilst wearing clumsy fumbling washing up gloves. The soup was a hit because it seemed to have the right amount of chilli and spice to it and I think you could even improve on it by using some great fresh tomatoes cooked down if you had the time.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 small red chilli, seeds removed, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 x 400g cans crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
2 cups (500ml) chicken or vegetable stock
Step 1 - Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until the onion is soft. Add the garlic, chilli, spices and tomato paste, and stir for a further minute. Add tomatoes, lentils and stock, and bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Step 2 - Set aside to cool slightly. Puree the soup in a blender, in batches, until very smooth (add 1/2 cup (125ml) water if soup is too thick). Pass through a sieve to get rid of any lumps (optional-this just makes it smoother). Return to the saucepan and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place over medium heat and stir until warmed through
Main Course: Oxtail and beetroot pie
True Blood fans will know instantly who this pie reminds them of. It's Season 2's villain Maryann Forrester who to my friend The Second Wife seemed more like a misunderstood lady who had great decorating taste. Maryann served Tara and Eggs a pie made out of Daphne's heart (as you do in Bon Temps) which they consumed with gusto. Now I'm not a big fan of eating heart because I find it chewy unless you know what you're doing and I don't so I thought I'd do this pie, a similar one pot one but fill it with Maryann references. It is filled with Oxtail which is really just beef and of course we know that Maryann was killed by Sam in the guise of an ox. I originally found this on Cakelaw's site and it looked and sounded delicious.
It does take a while and the filling is best made the day ahead as it cooks for three hours. I should think that you would have even better success with making this in the pressure cooker not only cutting cooking time but pressure cookers do so well in drawing out the gelatin from the bones in the oxtail to make it even more jellied and thick. I wasn't a fan of the original pastry at all. Whilst it rolled and was pliable the taste and texture was stiff and unappealing like cardboard so I've just suggested a single sheet of puff pastry.
Oxtail is considered offal and should be cheaper and it is only marginally cheaper than a good cut of beef but of course feel free to use beef and perhaps halve the quantity as you won't have bones to discard. You also won't get that jellied effect from the gelatin coming out of the bones but that only really comes to the fore if you are eating this cold. If you want to eat it warm then it's good either with beef or oxtail. And yes there is a whole bottle of blood, ahem I mean red wine in the pie!
Adapted from Cuisine NZ
- 1 sheet of puff pastry
For the filling
4 medium beetroot
1.5kg oxtail pieces (each about 3cm thick), soaked in plenty of well-salted cold water for 2 hours then drained well
flour for dusting
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stick celery, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
zest of 1/2 orange
1 tablespoon toasted coriander seeds, coarsely ground
1 bay leaf
1 bottle (750ml) red wine
250ml beef stock (I used The Stock Merchant)
3 tablespoons cornflour dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon Vegemite (optional for seasoning)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 beaten egg and 1 tablespoon milk for brushing
Method for the filling
Step 1 - Preheat the oven to 190°C. Place the washed but unpeeled beetroot in a roasting dish and roast for 1 hour or until a tender inside and easy to cut. Remove from the oven, cool, peel and dice 3cm. Reserve.
Step 2 - Put the oxtail in a large saucepan and cover with cold water and bring to the boil, skimming regularly. Simmer for 10 minutes then drain, rinse well in cold water, cool and dry. This blanching is necessary to give the finished dish a good colour and flavour. Save the stock if you need a light stock for a soup (it's not a particularly concentrated stock but you could make a soup with the beetroot leaves and stalks which are like spinach). Slice off any excess fat -it will be firm and off yellow coloured, with a sharp knife and dust the oxtail pieces lightly in flour.
Step 3 - Heat the oil in a large frying pan until hot. Add the oxtail and brown all over. Remove and reserve. Then add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, zest, ground coriander seeds and bay leaf to the pan. Fry gently on a lower heat for about 15 minutes until the onion is soft and browned. Then add the oxtail, turn up the heat and add the wine. Let it bubble for 30 seconds then add the chopped beetroot and the stock. Mix well, cover and simmer for 3 hours until the meat comes off the bones easily. Remove from the heat and take the oxtail from the liquid and place on a plate to cool a little. I couldn't wait that long so I donned clean rubber washing up gloves and started to pull the meat off the bones with a fork, and I discarded the bones, gristle and fat while shredding the meat.
Step 4 - Skim the fat off the cooking liquid and discard the bay leaf. Return the shredded meat to the liquid. Bring back to the boil and then take off the heat. Stir in the cornflour mixture and stir until thick then taste and season with the Vegemite, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
Step 5 - Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. Take a pie plate and with your hands or a large spoon break up the cold oxtail mixture, which will have jellied, into small lumps and fill the pastry-lined dish evenly with the oxtail mixture. Whisk the egg with a tablespoon of milk to make an eggwash.
Step 6 - Roll out the pastry, brush the edge of the pie plate with egg and cover the pie. Crimp the edges together. Brush the top with egg and make 4 small slits to let the steam escape. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to rest then bake for 45-60 minutes until well cooked and browned. Remove from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes then serve, or cool, chill, allow to jelly and serve cold.
Black Savourine Goat's Cheese and mixed leaf salad
One of the easiest salads ever this also had a hidden meaning. The goat's cheese is covered in ash and well you know what happens to vampires when they meet the sun...yep remember Russell Edginton's face? I dressed this with a La Barre Blood Plum finishing vinegar (of course) and their matching olive oil too which had a lovely sweetness to counter the almost blue cheese like quality of the Yarra Valley Dairy Black Savourine cheese.
1 Yarra Valley Black Savourine goat's cheese
1 bag of mixed salad leaves, washed and dried
a handful of roasted hazelnuts
2 tablespoons La Barre Blood Plum finishing vinegar
3 tablespoons La Barre Extra Virgin Olive Oil
salt and pepper to taste
Step 1 - Place the goat's cheese in the centre of a salad bowl. In another bowl whisk the vinegar and oil together and then toss the leaves in the dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Scatter dressed leaves around the cheese and then scatter hazelnuts and serve (serve with a knife to slice off some cheese)
Instead of a blood sorbet I took advantage of my recent buy of a 1 kilo bag of frozen raspberries to make a raspberry sorbet. This too was mostly done ahead of time (very important to me, I hate to be stuck in the kitchen cooking during a dinner party while everyone else is having fun and talking) and it needed to be done without an ice cream bowl churner which I have but alas as usual my freezer was in its usual state of burgeoning fullness. It was adapted from Anita's blog.
1 orange, juiced
1/4 cup lime juice
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup water
Step 1 - Puree the raspberries in a food processor, and then pass through a fine sieve into a large bowl, keeping the juice and discarding the seeds. Mix in the orange and lime juice. Place the water and caster sugar in a saucepan and heat on medium/high heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring the sugar water to the boil and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Step 2 - Whisk the syrup into the sieved raspberry puree and cool down in the sink with ice cubes and cold water or on the benchtop. Once cooled, churn in an ice cream maker as per instruction manual and then freeze in a suitable container. If you dont have an ice cream maker, place in a suitable freezer container and freeze for a few hours until set. Then blend until smooth in a food processor to break up the ice crystals.
Dessert: Molten Bleeding Chocolate Cakes
Earlier this week I decided to do some melting Nutella cakes as a practice run for the True Blood dinner party but I knew that for this party the filling had to be raspberry puree and not Nutella. I served this with lashings of the chocolate sauce and a ribbon of the raspberry sauce on top to further complete the bloody experience.
Makes 6 small ramekins
butter or oil spray for greasing
20g almond meal
90g chocolate, 100% bitterness
75 butter, unsalted
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1/3 cup raspberry sauce (see recipe below)
To serve: raspberry ripple or vanilla ice cream
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease 6 x 1/3cup capacity ramekins very well (you dont want these sticking!).
Step 2 - Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pot of simmering water. Stir gently until you get a smooth, shiny mixture. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Step 3 - In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the eggs, vanilla and sugar until the ribbon stage.
I made a half lot of three ramekins and did two with Nutella (top) and one with raspberry sauce (bottom)
Step 4 - Fold in the chocolate/butter mixture until almost homogenised. Add in the almond meal and fold until just combined. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the mixture into each ramekin. Drop 1 heaped teaspoon of raspberry sauce into each cavity and cover with another tablespoon with chocolate mixture. Bake for 15-17 minutes. Remove from oven and run a knife around the edge. I find it easier to turn these out if they've been waiting for about 5 minutes as they continue to cook and are a bit too liquid otherwise. If you're nervous about turning them out you can serve them in the ramekins. Serve with chocolate sauce, more raspberry sauce (see recipes below) and icecream.
60g dark couverture chocolate chips, 55% at least
80g whipping cream
Step 1 - Place the chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream over a gentle flame until small bubbles start to form. Remove from heat immediately and pour half over the chocolate. Stir gently before adding in the rest of the cream. Stir slowly until chocolate is completely melted and a smooth sauce forms. Use immediately or store in the fridge and warm up in the microwave when needed.
125grams raspberries, frozen is fine but it is easier to do this when they are thawed
50g/1.7 ozs icing sugar
1 teaspoon raspberry or balsamic vinegar
Step 1 - Blend the raspberries, sugar and vinegar in a small food processor until smooth. Pass the liquid through a sieve to get rid of the pips. Store the sauce in the fridge until needed.
John Rocha black cut 34cm centrepiece $1,099 and Waterford Clarendon Ruby Hock and Ruby Martini glasses $299.00 a pair