Monthly Archives: October 2012

Opening night!

Hurrah!  After two very successful and fun preview nights, we felt more than ready for our official Mi Casa-Su Casa Opening Night.  When I announced the date of our Opening Night, the meal booked out in less than 24 hours.  I was overwhelmed and really looking forward to launching this venture with a houseful of brave and adventurous guests.

I’d just received a shipment of colourful and bright napkins from the USA, so I set a happy and vibrant table to match.  Bright yellow flowers and cobalt blue water glasses seemed perfect with the warm Sydney-spring breeze that was blowing in from our balcony.  We were ready!

A bright and colourful table is set for a fun evening!

Aren’t these napkins cool? Straight from America!

Menu planning for Opening Night was so much fun!  I veered away from old-school Southern food a bit to include a few of our personal favourite modern American foods.  And, since it’s football season (American football!  Gridiron!) at home, I got really excited about adding buffalo chicken tenders to the menu.  At this time of year in the States, we’d be rocking up to a different bar every weekend to sip beer, watch football and eat finger-lickin’ buffalo chicken wings.  It’s an all-American autumn tradition, and I was so excited to share that flavour of home with our guests.

Frying up the chicken tenders for the first course.

I brought this Buffalo flavoured Tabasco home with me from the States in August… I think it was too spicy for the guests on Opening Night!

The starter… buffalo chicken tenders with a celery and blue cheese salad.

Our main course was a Southern-style classic of pulled pork shoulder with homemade BBQ sauce.  The pork was cooked for more than 8 hours, until it basically melted into a massive pile of porky strands.  I served the pork with a hash of smoky chipotle black beans and roasted sweet potatoes, a side of tangy and creamy coleslaw with buttermilk dressing and crunchy rounds of skillet cornbread to mop up all the saucy goodness.

Coleslaw with buttermilk dressing.

It’s not the prettiest plate of food, but the pulled pork with homemade BBQ sauce was tasty!

I rounded out the meal with my new favourite dessert… sour cream and blueberry pie with a pecan praline topping.  A perfect mix of creamy and fruity and crunchy, this pie seemed very popular with the guests and even Andy (who is not a dessert lover) gobbled up a piece once we’d served the guests!

Plating up the blueberry and sour cream pie with pecan praline topping for dessert.

After dessert, we poured ourselves a couple of well-deserved glassed of wine and joined the guests at the table for a chat.  Such nice people!  One of the reasons we’ve started this supper club is to meet new people who share our love of good food, and we certainly had a tableful of friendly, funny diners!

As of right now, we’re fully booked until the new year.  But, don’t worry!  I’ll start organising some January and February dinners soon.  If you’re interested, drop me an email at and I’ll add you to a list.  We’d love to have you!

And, if you can’t wait until the new year, here’s the recipe for the coleslaw with buttermilk dressing to keep you going.  It’s picnic season in Sydney and I promise you’ll be very popular if you bring this coleslaw to your next gathering!

Coleslaw with Buttermilk Dressing

1/2 green cabbage, finely chopped into ribbons
1/2 purple cabbage, finely chopped into ribbons
2 carrots, peeled into thin ribbons (use a vegetable peeler or a mandoline)
3 spring onions, finely chopped

For the dressing
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tbs mayo
2 tbs Dijion mustard
salt and pepper

Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing in a clean jar and shake well.  You might need to stir it up with a fork as well in order to incorporate all the sour cream.

Place all the vegetables in a large bowl that leaves you plenty of room to toss the veg with the dressing.

About 30 minutes before serving, toss the dressing with the veg.  Serve cold or at room temp in a pretty bowl.

Show time!

So, after all the prep I did to get ready for the second Mi Casa-Su Casa preview dinner with the group of bloggers… it was game time!  At promptly 6.3opm on Saturday there was a knock on the door!  The bloggers were here!  The bloggers were here!

The table is laid and the bloggers are arriving!

We enjoyed a lovely little half hour of cocktails and chatter and travel stories and the occasional flash from a camera.  Then it was time to eat.

I’ll tell you right now, I’ve never fed a table full of more enthusiastic or complimentary eaters.  It was a pleasure to bring each new course to the table.  To share our inspiration and the history behind each dish.  And to watch as our guests tucked into the food with gusto.  Everyone should derive as much joy from eating as food bloggers do.  The world would be a happier place.

The first course… Jethel’s baked trout with bacon and fennel seed potato salad.

Getting the main course ready was a bit of a drama as it took me far too long to get the vegetable oil properly hot for frying the chicken fried steaks.  I spent a few minutes silently freaking out in the kitchen and tensely whispering to Andy that “This isn’t working.  It’s not working.  WHY won’t it work??” but then… it worked.  And the oil got hot enough.  And the steaks cooked quickly and well.  And not one of our guests could tell that there had even been a slight hiccup.  We just rolled right on.

After a momentary freak out, the chicken fried steaks are frying beautifully!

At about 9.30pm, after the main courses went out, but before we began heating up the components of the dessert, I poured myself my first glass of wine of the evening and took a deep breath.  Andy was right next to me in the kitchen and we were silent.  All I could hear was the laughter and happy voices of our guests, the click of knives and forks on plates and the refilling of wine glasses.  Forgive me for seeming melodramatic, but it was like a symphony to me.  I looked up at Andy and I said, “That’s it.  That sound, the happy sound of well-fed people, that’s why I want to do this.  That’s what this is all about.”  Having people over for dinner is a lot of work and we’re not making money doing this.  For me, it’s all about the rush I get from feeding people.

Plating up the strawberry shortcake. I’m seriously concentrating, huh??

After dinner Andy and I joined our guests at the table and chatted and laughed and told stories for over an hour.  It was the perfect end to our evening.  I think everyone should have a group of food bloggers over for dinner.  It will give you a soaring sense of accomplishment.

I’m really looking forward to meeting lots of new and exciting people through this venture of ours.  And, if you’ve already booked in for one of our meals… I can’t wait to meet YOU!

How to prep for a house full of food bloggers

On Saturday night we hosted our second preview night for Mi Casa-Su Casa, our speak easy supper club.  The guests this go round were a group of funny, smart and adventurous food bloggers… eek!

I admit that I was a little nervous to cook for this group.  They were all invited because they write blogs that I really like and I knew they were all super clever and very very wise in the ways of food.  What if I totally screwed up??  What if the eggs wouldn’t peel, the fish wouldn’t cook evenly, the steaks took too long to fry? (I’ll give you a hint, all of those things actually happened… I just rolled with it.)

I baked the cream cheese pound cakes in advance and then just warmed them up in the oven at meal time. Aren’t they adorable??

The black eyed peas are ready for the fridge!

So, I spent all day Friday and all day Saturday prepping as much of my menu in advance as possible.  I was like a US Marine… Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

Oh, you’d like to know what the menu was?  I don’t blame you.  Here it is!

Nibbles and cocktail on arrival- old fashioned deviled eggs, dill pickled carrots and sweet tea spiked with rum and mint.

Starter- Jethel’s baked trout served on bacon and fennel seed potato salad.

Main- Chicken fried steak with black eyed peas, braised asparagus, biscuits, gravy and chow chow.

Dessert- Strawberry shortcake (cream cheese pound caked with strawberries roasted with black pepper and balsamic and vanilla whipped cream.)

Letting the sweet tea with lemons and mint sit and cool before going in the fridge. I could drink this whole pitcher by myself!

I LOVE this potato salad… it’s tangy and mustardy and the toasted fennel seeds give it an incredible aromatic edge.

Friday morning saw me baking the cakes and brewing the tea.  On Friday afternoon I was storing away the beans, which had been slow cooked with onion and a smoked ham hock.  Friday evening was spent stirring up the gravy, which took me three goes because I kept getting distracted by the frying of bacon and the toasting of fennel seeds for the potato salad and then my gravy would go all thick and gluggy and lumpy.  Note to self… focus on the gravy.

The damn gravy.

On Saturday I filleted and portioned the fish and put it in the fridge to marinate.  I boiled and peeled two batches of hard boiled eggs because the first batch wanted to hang on to their shells like they were made of gold and ended up a holey mess (and, yes.  I did buy the eggs way in advance and let them age so that wouldn’t happen.  But it still happened.  This is why I hate eggs.) I baked the biscuits and prepped the asparagus and the strawberries.

I swear, I try to clean as I go! But our kitchen is small and sometimes the messes are big!

The fridge is packed and we are ready for dinner!

And all this prep work helped me calm down and focus (except for that damn gravy) and remember why we’re hosting these dinners in the first place.  I stopped feeling nervous and started feeling really excited!  Soon our house was going to be full of people who love food!  People who love food just as much as I do and who are willing to be brave and come try this crazy experiment with us!  This wasn’t scary… this was awesome!

And by the time the bloggers rolled in, hungry and chatty and snapping pictures of our still-somewhat-under-decorated-apartment, I was pumped!

I’ll tell you more about how the actual evening went in another post later this week.

If you’re interested in joining us for a Mi Casa-Su Casa dinner, we still have some seats available for 3 November.  Want to join us?  Email me at

Escape to Tasmania

Things were getting a bit full-on around here.  Spring always means a bump in the  number of events on the social calendar, so that was to be expected.  But, we were also dealing with the ramp up in prep for the opening of Mi Casa-Su Casa and the ensuing busyness that has brought into our lives.  We needed a break.

The twilight reflection on the harbour at Strahan, Tasmania.

And we got one.  Have y’all ever been to Tasmania??  If not, go book a flight right now.  Seriously.  I’ll wait.

For all of you Northern Hemisphere folks playing along at home, Tassie is the southern most state in Australia.  Which, since everything down here is reversed and upside down and the toilets flush the other way around (that’s not true, by the way) means that Tassie has a much colder climate than Sydney.  So, we packed up our well-worn fleeces and set out across the Bass Strait.

A calm afternoon in Stanley, Tasmania.

On the north coast of Tasmania.

We hired a little car and drove around little towns.  We hiked a bit, read more and drank lots of local beers.  We met some of the nicest local people in the entire world.  And we ate.  Oh Lord, did we eat.

On the tour of the Boag’s brewery in Launceston.

The old sandstone buildings at the Cascade brewery in Hobart.

Tasmania has some of the best food in all of Australia.  Cape Grim beef is raised there.  Bruny Island oysters are grown there.  There are dozens of wineries and micro-breweries and the cheeses…. be still my heart.  We chowed down on steaks at the Stanley Hotel, on ripe and runny cheeses in Launceston, on fresh oysters by the harbour in Hobart.  We sipped local beers at two separate breweries.  It was quite a culinary tour.

Salamanca markets in the rain in Hobart.

This actually said “Love?” but I stood in front of the question mark because there’s no question that we love Tasmania!

So, it should come as no surprise that after a week in Tasmania, we both arrived home feeling slightly rounder than when we left.  In dire need of salads and grains and more vegetables and less meat.  And that’s where this salad comes in.  Full of the very best vegetables that Spring time has to offer, but still hearty enough to enjoy as a main meal, this bulgar salad helped us kick off a week of better eating… and reminiscing about that one time in Tasmania…

Bulgar and Spring Vegetable Salad with Mustard and Herb Dressing… for when you need to recover from a bit of indulgence.

Bulgar and Spring Vegetable Salad with Mustard and Herb Dressing
serves 2 

For the bulgar salad
1 cup bulgar (if you can’t find bulgar, you could easily use cous cous or brown rice instead)
2 cups chicken stock
1 green chili, finely chopped
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 cup peas (I used fresh peas from the pod, which are in season right now.  You can use frozen peas if you must!)
3 large radishes, finely chopped
1 small avocado, flesh scooped out and chopped into chunks
1/4 cup almond slices
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Place the bulgar and the chopped chili into a small pot with a tight fitting lid over very low heat.  Bring the chicken stock to a boil and pour into the pot with the bulgar.  Stir well and cover.  Stir again after about 5 mins.  If the bulgar is looking too dry or uncooked, add a splash more water.  If it’s looking too wet, leave the top off to let some liquid evaporate.  Fluff with a fork before serving.

Bring another small pot of water to the boil.  Once it’s boiling, add the asparagus pieces.  Cook for about 4 minutes.  Then add the peas to the water and cook for one minute more.  Drain the vegetables and run them under cold water to refresh.

To plate up, place a small mound of bulgar on your plate.  Top with the asparagus and peas.  Sprinkle over the radishes and the avo pieces.  Add the feta.  Don’t add the almonds until right before you eat, as they may start going soft and you want crunch almonds.

Top with mustard and herb dressing and the almond flakes and serve.

For the mustard and herb dressing

1/2 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup mint leaves, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbs Dijion mustard
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs plain yoghurt or sour cream
juice of 1/2 lime
salt and pepper

Place all of the ingredients for the dressing into a jar and shake until combined.  If the dressing is a bit thick, feel free to add some more lime juice or olive oil.