birthday dinner

In the beginning, my idea was to host a big birthday party, fill a plastic swimming pool with Belgian ales and just in general have a good time with all the people that are close to me now. But then I started thinking... it doesn't really suit me to celebrate my 25th birthday like that. I decided to host a dinner party and invite a smaller group.

Did I actually understand what I was in for? Not really, no.

So many questions, decisions, dilemmas. First of all, I wanted to create a menu that was delicious and slightly different. Secondly it shouldn't be too expensive (that meant a lot of ingredients of the table right away). Thirdly I should be able to plate the dishes in a limited amount of time, warm.
But still...

Italian or French?

Meat or fish?

Buffet-style or everything on a plate?

Is Asian maybe a more refreshing choice?

Have I got enough pots & pans?

It was a bit of a struggle, but I got there.

We started with my friend's homemade bread. Seriously delicious, with olives and herbs, served with salty butter and a glass of Prosecco: for all the guests that came straight from work and were getting a bit agitated because of the hunger.

For starters we had three crostinis, each with a different topping. Simple, with just a little rub of garlic on the grilled ciabatta slices.

Grilled peppers in three colours with the flavoursome olive taggiasca. A bit of an autumnal themed one with a button & porcini mushroom pesto with truffle oil, parmesan and walnut. And finally the proven combo of prosciutto, dried fig and mint. Wine-wise, we drank an Argentinian Chardonnay from the Tulum valley, I wouldn't call it the most deliberately chosen wine-food pairing. But it worked: the wine had lots of fruit, a little bit of nut, and all in all enough character to keep up with the quite intensely flavoured crostinis.

A not too fussy and good way to start the menu.

The main was a hearty pasta dish made from several components, not really an authentic Italian pasta. I simply called it ratatouille, but it was a lot more than that.
Homemade tomato sauce with lots of white wine, fennel seeds and other green herbs, ratatouille-rolls; a little chunk of grilled pepper wrapped in grilled aubergine and then wrapped in grilled courgette, kofta (Jamie Oliver-inspired) spiced with garam masala and rolled in honey and pistachios aaaand fresh (okay store-bought fresh) spaghetti covered in a basil and mint salsa verde or pesto. Pile of rocket on top, et voila! The main course.

A lot of flavour: mint, basil, parsley, garlic, garam masala...but it truly worked out nicely.
The main was paired with a strong flavoured Syrah from the Languedoc; lot of red fruit and spice finished with some peppery goodness.

And finally dessert,  we named it meringcons, it was kind of a failed attempt at macarons. The dessert was a bit of a last minute decision,  I should probably have chosen a more fool proof dish. But you know..it was tasty! Two meringcons with whipped cream, lime zest, raspberry coulis, blueberry coulis and a glass of limoncello to finish of all the strong herby flavours of the main course.

It was a great night! Maybe not the different menu I had hoped for,  and definitely not as cheap as I had planned, but worth everything because I love it so much to cook for people and  pick out the wine and have a good time with the people I care about. Can't wait to host another dinner party and use the food processor my friends got me :).


london, again!

Once upon a sunny Tuesday morning I was feeling slightly heavy-headed. 
It was the morning after my 25th birthday. 
Besides the meh-feeling I was extremely excited to hop on the bus to London once again. 
[Really, I have the intention to go other places, but haven't come around to that yet, and me and London are not nearly done]. 

This London-trip was going to be a little family reunion, my sister just moved there last month so I was really eager to see her again and see how things are going down here [yeah from where I live London is downwards]. 

The first night me and my sister spent at her cute and tiny studio, chatting, sipping beer and dipping bread in warm camembert. The days flew by, spent mostly on walking around town, seeing some pictures at the National Gallery, eating bitterballen [on request of my sister's bf, he was craving them already after one whole month in London, poor guy], a delicious lunch at York & Albany, a solo-visit to the Secret Comedy Club, two solo-visits to two wine bars [I was alone on a Friday night, and I couldn't think of a better way to spend it] and obviously lots of talks about why London is such a great city.