It’s not yet 6 am and I am up and about – getting ready for another day at the ‘hoffice’. That’s my word for my home office. I have two days left before my first visitor arrives and the mountain of work is ready to slide into a sorry mess … what a year this has been! First there was no work and now there is such a load to tackle that I am already looking forward to a long holiday in December 2011!
Needless to say, there will be little time off for me this December. Work and its deadlines aside, I have a friend who will visit for 5 days, starting this Wednesday. When she leaves on the 20th, there will be a 2-day breather before the kids arrive. And then it’s Christmas and Boxing Day and then it’s just a few days before it’s New Year’s day and then when they all leave, it’s back to the salt mines of the ‘hoffice’ for me …
So how do I manage? One word, darlings: platters. Yip, beautiful, huge arrangements of all sorts of food I buy ready-to-eat or almost-ready-to-eat and put on the table with a sigh of relief. I always add something small that I make myself, like spiced or herbed butters. That is to say, if I do not call-to-action everybody in the house at the time to the kitchen to help.
From an early age I thought it was sheer B.S. that the hostess or the women or the mother should do all the cooking (and other domestic) work. I realized at an early age that men and kids all have the same limbs and organs as females and although they may not have the skills or motivation to attempt preparing a meal, those limbs and organs can be put to good use in the kitchen.
From an early age I was at loggerheads with my mother and granny who were determined to (a) prevent the men in our family from doing domestic work and (b) to stoically protect the kitchen as an exclusive female domain. I never won the battle but I did leave home and made my own family. So, when other mothers were taking their sons to an outdoors survival camp, I sent mine on a cookery course. When other mothers spent their savings on building a cute cottage onto their house in which their sons can live after school, I rented mine a small flat far enough from home to not pop in for food and laundry. Then I threw him a kitchen tea so that he can have all the appliances necessary to feed himself and his friends. My personal contribution to the kitchen tea was a toolbox so that he could learn how to fix anything that leaks and stops working in the flat and his future homes.
I took one look at my son in law when my daughter brought him home and said: “You look like you have a passion for food.” And from that day, he has only received kitchen gifts from me: cookery books, Wusthoff knives, baking utensils, pots, pans, whisks and tongs. In fact, he is better stocked than most female cooks!
But back to the platters: believe me, they are time-and-energy savers! Give them themes: fish platters, cheese platters, meat platters, roast veggie platters and even combo platters using everything you have in the fridge or grocery cupboard – including some breads or crackers. Then, to big-up the balance and health issues, add a healthy starter that is easy to prepare in minutes like a chilled gazpacho or cucumber or pea soup and a fresh fruity dessert – the easiest being chilled and sliced melons all sorts: water melon, musk melon, winter melon. There – guilt-free meals and perfect for our lazy, hot summer days.
Even though we may be avid foodies loving every minute of cooking, with the people traffic and goings-on this time of the year in our homes, we also need to take a break and spend time with our loved ones. Or just with ourselves. So darlings, rip off the apron and gooi!
Here are two platters that you can gooi everything together, whip up a few intriguing butters, spreads and toppings (just to ease your guilt) and then gooi the wine or beer!
Meat platter with butters and spreads
Mix together 125 g soft butter and 45 ml mixed chopped fresh herbs like thyme, basil, chives, parsley and rosemary.
Mix together 200 ml French-style mayonnaise and 5 – 15 ml finely chopped garlic and 45 ml finely chopped parsley.
Tomato-chilli cream cheese
Mix together 200 g plain cream cheese, 30 ml tomato paste, 15 ml fruit chutney, 5 – 10 ml chopped red chilli and 30 ml chopped coriander leaves.
Serve in individual bowls alongside shavings of chicken, ham and beef and add some pickles and biscuits.
Cracker Platter with Smoked Salmon Salsa & Wasabi Avo
This platter may not consitute a full-on meal, but it makes one hellova starter or light meal or snack. Which saves you in preapring one hellova large main course!
You will need:
300 g smoked salmon, coarsely chopped
zest of 1 lemon or lime
2 whole spring onions, sliced thinly
milled black pepper
2 ripe avocado pears, mashed
65 ml mayonnaise
45 ml finely chopped parsley or coriander leaves
15 – 30 ml wasabi paste
packets of rice crackers, wasabi flavour
For the salmon salsa, lightly mix together the salmon, lemon rind and spring onions. Season with pepper, spoon into a serving bowl and place on a serving platter.
For the wasabi avo, mix together the avocado, mayonnaise, parsley or coriander and wasabi paste. Season with salt, spoon into a serving bowl and place next to the salmon salsa on the platter.
Arrange the wasabi rice crackers alongside the bowls and serve. Guests spread their own crackers with the avocado mixture and then pile the salmon on top.
Serves 6 – 8
PS: No need to buy expensive smoked salmon slices. Off-cuts will be perfect and much more affordable. Look out for the packets in your supermarket’s fridges. If they don’t stock them, then ask them to.