Birthday Party Bonanza

  • Recipe(s): Minted peas under oil (page 323) & The best whole-baked carrots (page 312) & A rather pleasing carrot cake with lime mascarpone icing (page 387) & Poached salmon steak (page 220) & Crispy fragrant jumbo shrimp (page 262) & Scotch stovies (page 301)
  • Prep: See below
  • Taste: See below

On April 11, 2014 we hosted a birthday dinner for my partner’s Mom, at which we served 7 dishes from, ‘Cook with Jamie…’. I will cover off 6 of the dishes in this blog as I already did the Tomato Salad as part of another blog, titled, ‘5 Different Salads’.

Minted Peas
This was an extremely easy dish to concoct. All you have to do is put some frozen peas into water with mint and bring them to a boil, easy right? It doesn’t get any easier than this in my books. The finished product was like nothing I’d had before. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best dish. There was so much oil it almost overpowered the rest of the ingredients. It could be that we aren’t used to large amounts of oil in our dishes or that we didn’t use high enough quality olive oil but none of us really enjoyed it. This recipe may work though if you just cut back substantially on the oil. In the end we rated this as an ok dish.

Carrots
Super easy to prep with an excellent taste. People at that dinner have subsequently asked for the recipe…enough said.

Carrot Cake
This was a very good carrot cake. It had some interesting flavours that most of us at dinner had never had in a carrot cake before. For instance, there was a hint of lime flavour, which was very unique. We used the juice of one lime and the recipe called for 2 – the crowd was split on whether a second lime would have enhanced the dish or not. The one nice thing about this version of carrot cake was that the icing didn’t seem too heavy, which was very welcome. Often, with store bought carrot cake the icing is so heavy that it overpowers everything. This one allowed you to taste the rest of the cake. My partner doesn’t normally like carrot cake and she thought this was the best one she had ever tried.

There is a lot to do in the prep so it is definitely moderate. You could cut down on the time requirement by purchasing grated carrot instead of grating it yourself, like we did. However, if you are making a carrot cake you may as well go whole hog on the prep.

Salmon Steak
Poaching has never been my favourite method to cook salmon. I find that the effort required is not justified in the final product. Yes, poaching probably produces the moistest fish but I never really find that the poaching liquor permeates the fish, which is the point. This dish was no different. The salmon tasted like salmon and the vegetables tasted like fish. The salmon was definitely good but, to me, it would have been good bbq’d or whole roasted in the oven as well. The vegetables on the other hand were not so good. Perhaps in the future, if we were to poach a fish again, we wouldn’t eat the vegetables from the poaching liquor?

Jumbo Shrimp
This was an absolutely brilliant dish! I think it actually earned 5 out of 5 stars from everyone who had one, meaning it is ranked as excellent. There is a bit of prep involved, such as; prepping the shrimp (butterflying and de-veining) and putting together the seasoned flour, but it is definitely worth it. I would say the prep is still easy though. I actually used the largest prawns I could find as I couldn’t find shrimp. I think this dish would have worked well with either jumbo shrimp or jumbo prawns. To make the seasoned flour we used a general seafood seasoning, which worked really well. Make sure you bake these long enough to have a nice firm crust around the shrimp but not so long that you over cook the shrimp/prawn on the inside. We cooked them perfectly, leaving a nice crispy outer layer with a soft/semi firm inside. Delicious!

The only think I didn’t like about the dish was the arugula on the plate. While it added a nice visual it didn’t contribute to the taste so in the future I may leave it out.

Scotch Stovies
This dish required quite a bit of prep and didn’t turn out like we hoped. In the end, the final dish was a touch too mushy and lacked a bit of flavour. We think that we could make this again with much less water added. We did use russet potatoes in this version so perhaps we will try and find a, ‘drier,’ potato if we make it again. The dish has potential but we were unable to unlock it on this attempt so it is ranked as good.

Final Verdict
All in all I would say the birthday party bonanza was a success. There were a few dishes that we would definitely make again and some that we would try with a few tweaks to the original recipe.

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