Happy Spring Day to those in the southern hemisphere! Sorry my northern friends, I don’t mean to rub it in that your warm weather is slowly seeping southwards 😉
But winter isn’t over for us yet – it was absolutely freezing icy cold this morning. When we went to church we joined huddles of hunched-over people wrapped in thick coats and jerseys. Even the heartiest singing didn’t warm us up today!
Thankfully, though, Jozi is usually sunny even when it’s cold, so as I write here this afternoon I have warm bright sunshine flooding my desk… and cheerfully highlighting all the dust I haven’t got around to cleaning… Meh.
Anyway, enough of that. What I’m really here to write about is the delightful Spring Day feast I made for Ninja and my parents today. My folks were originally coming over to meet their new ‘grandrats’, but since that’s been delayed we just turned it into a celebration of the first day of spring.
For the decor I chose mismatched and cheerful colours, using what I had around the house instead of spending extra on new fancy stuff. For example, I had these bright orange paper cups in the cupboard, so I just prettied them up with spring-themed flower stickers.
I used my multicoloured bamboo placemats and colourful serviettes left over from my first special dinner. Ninja had also bought these cool 3D/holographic bookmarks for each of us, so we gave my mom the horsey one and my dad the eagly one (oops, couldn’t resist inventing a word there).
I also snipped a few sprigs off a jasmine bush to use as our centrepiece. I so enjoy the scent of those flowers: it always tells me my favourite season has arrived at last.
And now for the best part: the food 😀 I made us a three-course meal as follows:
In case you can’t see the text on the pic, our starters were those mini pizza mushrooms that I first made for this dinner and then again for this dinner. I also recently hosted my in-laws for lunch and made it for them too. In fact, I could quite easily make that starter for every fancy dinner for as long as I live, and never tire of it. Those ‘shrooms are just so darn delicious!!!
The main course was ham and spring onion clafoutis with roasted cherry tomatoes and avocado with basil pesto mayo. This is where I had the most fun, since I love experimenting with new dishes and flavours. (I’m determined not to lose that interest even though I no longer have as much spare time for experimenting as I had before…).
I’d never made a clafoutis (say: ‘klafootee’) before, but I based my recipe on this one and simply substituted ham and spring onions for the basil and tomatoes. I also used four small ramekins rather than one big dish. It’s such a simple and easy recipe, and my family enjoyed it (though we all added some extra salt, without which it would have tasted far too mild and milky).
The roasted cherry tomatoes are an idea shared with me by my best friend. She first made it for me with pasta and wilted spinach (oh, how well we ate that day!), but the tomatoes work perfectly on their own too. Simply wash them, pop them in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with olive oil and season with whatever herbs and spices you like (I used origanum, pepper, chives and salt). Then bake them for 30 minutes at 180 °C – which was ideal in this case because that’s the same as for the clafoutis, so I baked them together.
As you can see from the pic above, the poor clafoutis had no patience with me fussing with the photography… it started to deflate almost as soon as I took it from the oven 😛 Still delicious though.
The basil pesto mayo was also a hit (with everyone except my plain-eating husband, hehe). Since I enjoy basil but can’t eat the garlic they usually put in commercial pestos, I decided to make my own pesto. As a replacement for the pine nuts used in standard pestos, I added a few spoons of ground almonds. Hmmm. Didn’t do much for me. Then I simply mixed up low-fat mayo and milk, and stirred tiny shreds of fresh basil into the mix. Yum! A perfect complement to the plain avocado, with none of the disadvantages (for me at least) of using garlic.
And the dessert of fresh strawberries and hot marshmallow sauce? That’ll be my next post 🙂