I walk around the table I've just laid and take a minute to appreciate my handiwork. I've been at it for two whole days, finalising the menu, matching cutlery to the theme of my party and finding the perfect table linen.
Summer's here and and I cannot help but throw a brunch with summery goodies for my friends. Which means plenty of fresh vegetables, light and easy entrees and a couple of breath-taking desserts.
My eyes scan the table. Smack in the middle is a beautiful bunch of gerberas in pink and yellow to offset the white table linen. I've just written the tags for everything I've made, I catch myself checking for spelling errors.
My friends begin to arrive and I offer them a glass of litchi and ginger lemonade that have been topped with a handful of mint and some chia seeds. As beads of condensation trickle down the transparent Vision jug I've just removed, I'm careful to pour out this cloudy drink into a high ball glass. The smell is intoxicating. Fresh green mint rush out to meet the black chia seeds while circles of lemon begin to peek out of the glass. I really want to take a long sip, but instead I be the gracious host and serve it around.
As chatter spreads across the room, my eyes linger on the salad I made sitting pretty in the fluted dish. Beautiful red chunks of watermelon that had been dotted with fresh feta cheese and slices of black olive. A drizzle of olive oil over it as ensured a lovely gleam that's been offset by fresh leaves of mint. It's my summertime favourite - watermelon and feta salad. I love how the sweetness of the watermelon balances out the tanginess of the olives and the feta while the mint just cuts through and adds a certain freshness to it all.
Then there's the cold green bean salad with peanuts on the pizza plate. The crisp beans against the crunchy peanuts in a dressing of coconut and peanut can put the whole table to shame with its flavours. Balanced out beautifully with some crisp onions and garlic, this has to one of the easiest salads in the world.
I've laid out the canapes too. Two kinds of bruschetta - tomato and basil and pesto and mushroom. The garlicky crostini ensures that my canapes stay crisp for atleast a couple of hours, but the heroes are really the toppings. The diced tomatoes are marinated in some tart balsamic vinegar only to be offset by a bit of salt and sugar while the basil just elevates the dish. But it's the aroma from the pesto that drives you to come closer and closer to the table. The basil in here smells almost as if the earth has been perfumed. Balanced out with a bit of garlic and parmesan cheese, it's almost hard to say no to this canape. Wild mushrooms sauteed in a spot of butter top this gorgeous morsel.
I take requests for the main course now - chicken or fish, I ask my friends. The numbers are nearly equal, so I proceed to the kitchen to bring out the meat. I've made the fish in paper bags. They've marinated in a bit os soy, thai bird's eye chilli and some sugar and salt. And just before popping them in the oven, I cut slices of lemon and lemon grass and fresh herbs, so that when the packets open, the aroma from the lemongrass will just envelope the eater.
The chicken is simple. Marinated in some coconut milk and salt and pepper, it's crumb coated in a mixture of bread crumbs and desiccated coconut and then pan fried. It's served with a nice dollop of mango pomegranate salsa. The coconut adds a nuttiness to the chicken which makes it almost morish. But it's the salsa that's really the star. Fresh seasonal mango offset by ruby red pomegranate seeds with a bit of cilantro and green chillis and a squeeze of lime, it's like a party in my mouth.
I gear up for dessert. I've already baked the mini meringues that are just waiting to be topped with from chilled whipped cream and fresh strawberries. The mini lemon tarts are already out,. both of which sit on the variety platter but the piece de resistance, is my mango sorbet that I've handchurned.
The meringues are crisp on the outside and light as air on the inside. The chilled cream cuts through the sweetness of the meringue as do the fresh strawberries. The lemon tarts, a childhood favourite, have enough tang to wake up the neighbourhood while the glass bowls of mango sorbet are licked clean. What's the secret I'm asked, why, lovely luscious mangoes ofcourse I reply!
If there's one thing I love more than cooking, it's feeding people. I love how their eyes light up when I bring out their favourites from the kitchen. I love how they savour that first mouthful and look at me in wonder. And most of all I love that I can give them a piece of me through my cooking.
But to me, that's not enough. Not only does what I cook taste great, I think it has to look great as well.
This blog post is an entry in the Indiblogger My Beautiful Food contest in association with Borosil