Catering: it's an important business and one that sometimes, I think, is taken for granted. The success of events, large or small, is often dependent on the food.
Last week I had the rather stressful job of catering a 'party' at the request of my partner Nic. When he first asked me I wasn't so keen on the idea. His idea of catering was "let's just cook up a big pot of curry and then heat it up in the microwave at the venue", to which I gave my standard response to all of his bad ideas: "that's a great idea, but...no".
It had to be something easy to eat. Finger food, food that would taste great hold or cold.
Now, about the party. I was given some rather cryptic details. It was a Thanksgiving snack for people volunteering on a political campaign. "Ahhh!" I thought: "A political party". They were giving up their holiday time to make calls and canvas the streets. How many of them were there? "Not sure, about fifteen", he replied. There were in fact about 20. Will other people be bringing any food? "Oh yes, it's like a pot luck". Only one other person brought food.
So armed with these details, I came up with a menu. My previous trepidation about catering had vanished because I thought what the hell, it's good experience, other people are bringing food and I'll use the recipes on my websites.
The menu consisted of mini corn cakes topped with horseradish crème fraîche, smoked salmon and spring onions, sweet potato and bocconcini skewers, sumac chicken skewers and vegan cupcakes. The cupcakes might sound a bit out of place but they were amazing. I've included a photo of them and the recipe will follow next week. People are always dumbfounded to learn that they are free of dairy and eggs, yet so rich and delicious.
The big cooking extravaganza began at 9am on Thanksgiving morning in our rather small kitchen. Dinner was being served at the election office at 4pm. We made it there by 4.30. It was a success. People were thrilled and I was relieved.
Nic and I made a good team. He was in charge of frying. He made the pint-sized corn cakes and cooked the chicken to juicy perfection. I roasted the sweet potato, marinated the bocconcini, assembled things and baked. We both overdosed on the vegan chocolate icing and still yet managed to taste-test our creations...several times.
My one-day stint as a caterer gave me a new-found appreciation for the catering business -- especially small ones. It's a hectic affair and your timing and sense of proportion have to be perfect. We ended up making up too much food which was a blessing.
Mini Corn Cakes with Crème Fraîche & Smoked Salmon
1 cup all-purpose flour & 1/4 cup extra
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 cup milk
2 cans of corn kernels
1/2 tsp of sea salt
1 Tbs olive oil
400 grams of smoked salmon (cold smoked or hot smoked)
250 mls of crème fraîche
2-3 Tbs of horseradish
Several spring onions, finely sliced
- Sift flour and bicarb of soda into medium bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flour and gradually mix in combined egg and milk; stirring until smooth.
- Add the corn to the batter and season with salt. Stir well to combine.
- Heat the oil in a small, heavy-based fry-pan over a medium heat. Ladle about 1/8 cup of the corn batter into the fry pan and fry until golden brown. Turn corn cake over to the other side and cook until golden. Repeat with remaining mixture. Keep corn cakes warm in a low oven.
- In a medium bowl, combine the crème fraîche and horseradish. Mix well and then set aside.
- Once you're ready to serve, place the corn cakes on a plate and spoon on a little of the crème fraîche/horseradish cream, a piece of smoked salmon and top with a sliver of spring onion. Serve.
The sweet potato & bocconcini skewers can be found here.