“Congratulations! Fast Ed will be cooking dinner for you and five friends!”
And just like that, another big moment in my little kitchen was born!
Late last year, Random House Australia organised a fundraiser for the Cure for Life Foundation and were lucky enough to have cookbook author and TV chef ‘Fast Ed’ Halmagyi kindly donate his time and skills in the kitchen as the number one raffle prize.
As we sold tickets in the raffle, rattling off the full list of prizes, the prize everyone wanted to win, was dinner with Fast Ed and though I tried remain optimistic, my previous experience with pass the parcels at childhood birthday parties and instant scratchies in Xmas cards from grandparents, didn’t leave me holding out a lot of hope – I’m just not usually lucky when it comes to winning!
But luck was on my side that night and before I knew it, I was emailing Fast Ed to lock in a date for dinner and emailing five very excited girlfriends to invite them along.
Before the big night, Ed and I discussed ideas for the menu (he was full of ideas and I just mmmm’d and agreed…) and I warned him about my tiny kitchen! Then the day rolled around and Ed arrived at my door (esky, plastic tubs and knife briefcase in tow), ready to cook.
So while I set the table for our Spanish fiesta (including the Spanish/English menus Ed had brought along) and chatted about being a foodie (more on that later!), my year of cooking with Jamie and the temperamental nature of my oven, Ed did his thing in the kitchen – finely slicing radicchio, deftly chopping chunks of black sausage, whipping out canapé spoons and adjusting the temperature on the temperamental oven…
And then the girls arrived (excited introductions & comments on the smells wafting up the street) and the canapés were served.
Spicy meatballs with smoked chilli sauce – the first and possibly my favourite dish of the night! They were a perfect mouthful, with a hint of thyme. The chilli sauce had a kick to it, but not blow-your-head-off hot. And we learnt something – thyme and chocolate are a good combo. Who would have thought? Not that there was chocolate in the meatballs, but you know how conversations develop…
White anchovy and peach croutes with salsa verde – after a short debate about whether we could fit them in in one mouthful or not, Ed explained that they were meant to be eaten in one go, as all the different elements and flavours, would stimulate all taste buds. So we shoved them in, in as ladylike a manner as possible, to get the full effect. And they did hit every spot. The bitter radicchio, the salty anchovy, the sweet peach. They were simple and delicious. And they triggered an anchovy discussion – their hairiness is most unfortunate yes?
While we were still talking about hairy fish, Ed was in the kitchen and plating up the entrée, so we headed to the table, poured the wine and toasted to a pretty special night.
Rustic chicken stew with black sausage – I think this one was the overall group favourite. Sure, it tasted good, but it also surprised us. While Ed explained that morcilla was a Spanish blood sausage, made with beef rather than pork blood, there were a few scrunched up noses and shaking heads, but my girls are nothing if not brave & adventurous and they embraced the black sausage with open arms. Well, maybe not quite with open arms, but I think they were pleasantly surprised. I don’t mind blood sausage, even the black pudding you get in B&B’s with your ‘full English’, but this was certainly a sausage a cut above the rest. Served with chick peas and beans, it was rustic goodness.
Between the entrée and main, Ed sat down and had a drink and a chat with us – How long do chick peas really have to be soaked for? Any suggestions for the perfect wedding venue? Yes, I highly recommend Easy Off Bam oven cleaner! Stop it – you did not get an email from a fan with that request?! Can you really tell the temperature of an oven just by waving your hand in there? – just the usual dinner party chit-chat, really…!
Those of you who know me, know that I have had my fair share of issues with my oven – let’s not talk about the rabbit stew incident… I had warned Ed that it was a hot oven, well really, a total shit of an oven, but it turns out that if I just called in Westinghouse and got them to replace the thermostat, it might actually be a perfectly functioning oven. Huh. What do you know?! Just a broken thermostat. Why didn’t I think of that…?
Suffice to say, it probably would have been a lot better if I’d actually admitted that the thermostat was the problem before Fast Ed came to cook for us…
Slow roasted veal breast served with baked pumpkin with nutmeg, red cabbage salad and vinegar-glazed onions – unfortunately the veal wasn’t as tender as Ed would have liked (ahem, apparently he had issues with the oven…), but nonetheless, it was tasty. The veal breast was stuffed & rolled with nuts, pecorino cheese and fresh herbs. Served up with some golden beets and baby turnips, a cheek of lemon and the three vegie sides.
At this point, I think we’d got used to Ed being in the kitchen and it just felt like a normal night with the girls. We relaxed and stopped trying to be so Matt Preston-like in our opinions and just enjoy the food.
Ed had navigated his way around my kitchen so easily all night, that I had stopped asking if he needed anything and it wasn’t until he came and took a candle from the table that we realised he was in need of a flame to light the blow torch. Matches were supplied, sugar was burned, dessert was served.
Saffron and vanilla crème brulee with Pedro Ximenez-spiked cherries – we smashed the crispy top and dove on in. The creamy filling was absolutely divine, though with a somewhat dangerous underbelly. Sure, we knew we were having sherry-spiked cherries, but there was no warning about the rum-soaked raisins on the bottom!
Vanilla halva & walnut praline and a tipple of Pedro Ximenez sherry – when the glasses of sherry came out, if I didn’t know better, I’d say Ed was trying to get us all pissed! By this point we were all so enormously full, the plate of petit fours seemed like a challenge we just weren’t sure we could manage. But life’s full of challenges right? Pour yourself another glass of wine and just get on with it. At least, I think that’s what someone said…
Apart from the fact that it took me most of the night to get over the fact that I was at a dinner party in my own apartment, but didn’t once step into the kitchen (a very strange experience), it was a fabulous night. Ed’s food was sensational and I was able to share it with some of my favourite people. Talk about good fortune!
Huge thanks to Ed for being so generous with his time and culinary expertise – you have six ladies, who loudly sing your praises, but we promise not to send crazy and bizarre fan mail!
PS – at the beginning of the night, when I described myself and the girls as foodies, Ed asked me to define exactly what a “foodie” is. Turns out, I’m not great at definitions and couldn’t come up with anything. But Ed got it spot on. So here is Ed’s definition of a foodie: “someone who only stops talking about food long enough to put more food in their mouth”. Sounds pretty accurate to me…!
PPS – sorry for the lack of photos of main course and dessert. We got a little preoccupied with eating!