This is my dear friend Mel. A week and a half ago Melly walked down the aisle and became Mrs W. Damn, I can't call her Mrs W, she's younger than me! As I write this, she's enjoying (I hope) her two week honeymoon in Vanuatu.
Young Mel and I have been friends for almost 10 years now. You wouldn't guess where we first met.... Route 57 West Maribyrnong/City Tram! LOL Is this starting to sound like a love story or what? Mel and I used to live down the road from each other, she on the Flemington side of Racecourse Road and me on the Kensington side of Racecourse Road.
St Aloysius (Girl's) College was where Mel went to and where her mum Cathy was educated too; and I joined St Al's (as we call it) in 1997 when I migrated to Melbourne from Malaysia. Route 57 was the tram that we travelled on to school everyday.
Mel's house was located on a street that was between two tram stops and for some reason or other she used to board the tram from the stop before mine and her elder brother Ant would board the tram from tram stop where I would get on the tram. We used to joke that it was: (a) so that his friends wouldn't know that she was his little sister and (b) so that the girls from our school (lots of girls from our school on the same tram) wouldn't know that she was his little sister because all the girls would sneak peeks at him when he'd get on the tram, for you see big Ant was a probably the cutest boy on the tram. (Tall, fair and handsome LOL)
Anyway, Mel would get on the tram from the stop before and stand at the front of the tram behind the driver so when I get on the tram the first person I would see is her. Since we both had the same school uniform on, we'd smile and say hi to each other every morning. Me, being a newbie, would move into the middle of the tram because "that's what the tram conductor says to do" so that people from the following stops could get on the tram easily and proceed to the next stop in time.
One day, the tram arrived late (probably because the previous tram broke down), packed like a sardine can and Mel and I ended up standing next to each other at the front of the tram, behind the tram driver. We said our regular hi's and somehow or rather started chatting and I found out that she was in the same year as I was but in a different home room. We discovered that we both share a passion for netball and sports and that we literally lived 5mins from each other. To cut a long story short, from that day onward we became friends and Mel started catching the tram from 'my' tram stop.
Then one day I told Mel about the cute guy who always catches the tram from our stop but he'd be on the tram before us, she was curious and wanted to see the cute guy too so we arranged to meet up earlier so that we could 'check out' the cute guy that I was talking about. That was when things went downhill...When the cute guy turned up, Mel couldn't stop laughing! (I thought she was going mad) She went over, said "hi" and gave him a peck on the cheeks. I was like totally shocked! There I was trying to comprehend the situation, my brain struggled in that 1 long minute to understand: 1) Why was Mel laughing so hard, 2) she kissed him!!!???!! I was like, OMG this girl's got guts!
It turned out that the cute guy was her brother Anthony who was in the year above us. I was like OMG.. need a place to hide! LOL. We had a good laugh about it though. There I was thinking Mel's got guts and turns out it's her brother. Could've fooled me! and she did!
We both graduated Year 12 in 1998 and sort of went separate ways for a little while as I enrolled in Monash University in Clayton and she went to Victoria University in Footscray, a bit closer to home. It was our passion for sports that brought us back together when she invited me to play basketball with her family friends and later on we played netball together and still did until earlier this year when we both injured ourselves (and her Mum banned us from netball until after the wedding!).
Anyway, Mel is a very dear friend (and like a little sister) to me and I felt very priviledge that she thought the same of me when she asked me to be her Maid of Honour at her wedding (that occured a few weeks ago). ... By now you're probably wondering.. so what does this have to do with food? ;) This is how it's related:
For Mel's hen's party celebrations, we arranged for a weekend away at her parent's holiday house in Ocean Grove, VIC. The party was to start on Friday night with cocktail party, nibbles and lots of Singstar and to finish up with some Mini Golf and Dinner on the Saturday night. In the weeks leading up to the hen's weekend, Mel became very unsettled and stressed (as all brides would/might?) so I decided to make a little change to our Friday plans by ditching the nibbles and arranging an intimate dinner for those of us who started the celebration that day. I had the day off work on the Friday to go up earlier with Cathy so that we could decorate the place and get some food and drinks before Mel and her friends arrived; Mel was to drive down after work (about 1 1/2hrs drive from the city).
I figured, if I was Mel, and I was driving down after work, the last thing I would want to do is sit around eat nibbles and drink cocktails/champagne. So I decided that I would cook the 6 of us a nice 3 course meal and I was sure that we'd all appreciate that more than nibbles after a long day of work. In my books, a good solid meal is always better than lots of nibbles when you're exhausted.
As I know Mel was on a semi restricted diet due to 'have to fit into wedding dress' syndrome* and I was looking out for myself too, having not exercised for months because of the foot injury; I decided to go with something low fat and healthy and made the following:
Kathy's Chicken Meatballs w/ Mango Chutney and Redcurrant Sauce
Baked Fish w/ Herbs, Grape Tomatoes and Parmesan Cheese
sides: Baked potato stack and brocollini
Roasted Strawberries Meringues
Kathy's Chicken Meatballs, so called because I first tasted these meat balls when one of my bosses Kathy made them as part of a farewell maternity leave party we held for one of our colleagues at work. These meatballs are superb! The ingredients are fairly simple and not too fancy yet they pack a great punch served with the mango chutney and red currant sauce. Spicy (because of the spices), sweet, tangy and juicy all together. The capsicum and lettuce was my touch as I wanted to serve them in lettuce cups - Sang Choy Bao style but since we didn't want to waste food unnecesarily^, I decided to just serve the meatballs on a slice of lettuce for a touch of green.
^Cathy (Mel's mum) told me not to get another lettuce because she was already getting some for the bbq lunch the next day.
Kathy's Chicken Meatballs w/ Spicy Sauce
500 – 750 g minced chicken
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 small onion
1 small can water chestnuts
¼ cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons sweet chili sauce
½ teaspoon cumin )
½ teaspoon ground coriander) optional use any spices to your own taste
Salt & Pepper
Oil for frying
Using a food processor or stick blender process onion, water chestnut and coriander until roughly chopped. Put minced chicken, breadcrumbs, onion mixture sauce and spices in a bowl and add beaten egg. Mix for about 3 minutes until mixture comes together then form into small balls. Heat oil in pan then fry balls until golden. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.
½ cup sweet mango chutney
½ cup red currant jelly
Juice of small lemon (use ½ then add to taste)
small red capsicum (or yellow) diced.
In frying pan heat chutney, red currant jelly and lemon juice and mix together. Add in diced capsicum. Place meatballs in sauce over a low heat and shake pan to cover in the sauce. This takes about 5 minutes to heat the meatballs through (may be heated from frozen but allow more time)
This dish, I came up with by combining Tobie Puttock's Roasted Milk Potatoes and a baked fish variation from one of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks. I can't remember which now. At first, I was a bit skeptical about how the parmesan cheese would go with the fish, but surprisingly they go really well together! I think it might have been the sharpness taste in the parmesan cheese that actually gave the fish a bit of more flavour since it was only seasoned with olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. And we all know how well cheese and tomatoes go together :)
Apologies in advance for the sketchy instructions because I kinda just made it up and went with whatever I remembered.
Baked Basa Fillets w/ Grape tomatoes and Parmesan Cheese
Basa fish fillets (or you could use any white fish fillets)
1 punnet Grape tomatoes or Cherry tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
Parmesan cheese (to your taste)
Garlic, finely chopped
Lay fillets in a large baking tray and season with garlic, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. Ensure that the fillets are well coated with seasoning. Slice tomatoes in halves and drizzle a bit of olive oil onto the tomatoes and mix well before scattering them onto the fillets. Bake for about 12-15mins (ensure that the fillet is cooked) and grate parmesan cheese onto the top of each fillet (amount to your preference) and grill under the griller until cheese melts and then serve.
Note: Cooking time may vary depending on the type of fish used and if your fish is not well thawed it might take a bit longer than 10 -1 5mins. My problem is that my fish was still quite frozen and I actually had to cook it for a while longer than 15mins.
Roasted Potatoes with milk
Salt and Pepper
Milk (enough to cover the potatoes)
Wash, peel (optional) and slice potatoes into 0.5cm thin slices. Place potatoes in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and rosemary and toss well to combine. Fill bowl with enough milk to cover all the potatoes and leave aside for about 30mins.
Preheat oven to 180 C. Arrange potato slices onto a baking tray lined with baking paper or an oiled tray (which ever is your preference) and bake until potatoes are crispy. I think it took about 15mins or so.
I decided to stack my potatoes into a small stack and served the fish with some blanch some brocollini, drizzled with the pan juices from baked fish.
Donna Hay lovers would recognise this recipe! It's from the current edition of DH Magazine. Roasted Strawberries meringues. I have never made meringues before and was a bit nervous about it but they looked so pretty in the magazine, I just couldn't resist! I premade the meringues the night before we left of course :)
Roasted Strawberries Meringues served with a dollop of cream and roasted strawberries, drizzled with left over syrup.
150ml egg whites (approx 4 eggs)
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
1 1/4 cup thick (double) cream to serve
Preheat oven to 120 C. Beat egg whites in with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and vinegar and beat until the mixture is thick and glossy. Place spoonfuls of mixture onto baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Make a small dent on the centre of the meringues to creat a nest and bake them for 25minutes or until the meringues are crisp on the outside. Turn off the oven and allow the meringues to cool in the oven for 30mins.
16 strawberries, hulled and halved
1/3 cup caster sugar
Preheat oven to 200 C. Place strawberries in a small baking dish and sprinkle with caster sugar. Roast for approximately 10 - 15mins or until strawberries are soft and syruppy. Remove and set aside.
To serve, simply spoon strawberries into the centre of each meringue and top with cream.
Makes about 30 - 35 meringues.
I kinda played a bit with the left over syrup from the roasted strawberries, somehow got the idea to make these semi circles on the plate. I thought it was pretty cool. :)
So we spent the rest of the night boozing on Midori splices and some funny cocktails that the other girls concocted, the three girls from Mel's work got absolutely smashed and was outta batteries the next day when we went mini-golfing. We had dinner at a restaurant in Ocean Grove called 13 Steps. Nothing to blog about there. I was so disappointed with my order I didn't bother taking photos of it. But we had a fabulous weekend nonetheless.
I was wrecked from the weekend, but nevertheless, nothing gives me pleasure more than cooking for a friend and Mel is more than just a friend.. who deserves a little spoiling every now and then :)