(Update: For VDP No. 4, click here)
With most of us in self-isolation or even total lockdown, a VDP (virtual dinner party) is one way to catch up with friends and to continue to test your cooking skills.
We have now had a few VDPs. Here is the link to the first of those: Virtual Dinner Party No. 1
From there you can link through to subsequent VDPs.
Here is our menu and running sheet for this VDP.
(We are having another this Saturday – same friends, same time, same places, different menu. If you think you might give a VDP a try, at the end we give four useful web links that are worth reviewing.)
The Menu for Virtual Dinner Party No. 3
Our aim is for a menu that is easy to prepare and finish off and for dishes that are not too heavy. This menu is an eclectic mix of dishes suggested by our Adelaide friends. (Some of the links below might not open if there is a pay wall.)
Eggplant and chickpea fetteh – Recipe
Steamed chicken with asparagus and fennel – Recipe
Baked ginger pears – Recipe
On the night we all decided on a Pinot Gris followed by a Pinot Noir.
While it might seem somewhat prescriptive, the aim is to keep things moving and coordinated. The times given below are Adelaide time (half an hour behind Melbourne time). Much of the preparation is done beforehand.
7.00 pm Adelaide time (7.30 pm Melbourne) – Log in via Zoom
7.01 – Raise our glasses. Cheers to us all!
7.10 – Assemble the entree
7.15 – Serve the entree
7.30 – Begin steaming the chicken, followed by the vegetables
7.40 – Prepare the fennel
7.45 – Whiz the sauce
7.50 – Assemble the dessert, oven on
8.00 – Serve main course
8.10 – Dessert into the oven
8.45 – Serve dessert
How it all panned out
Everything went well, except we ran well behind the running sheet. All three courses were of a very high standard. We did make some mistakes, however, and we blame that on being involved in the online conversation while trying to keep an eye on the stove and oven. Here are our photographic results, with the three outstanding finds of the night being the fennel, the spring onion sauce and the ginger syrup – we give brief recipes/methods for those below with the photos. The photos were taken more or less without preparation or time to tizzy up, illustrating both our mistakes and triumphs.
A great surprise was that our Adelaide friends had invited their son and his partner to join the hookup halfway through!
Entree: Eggplant and chickpea fetteh
The only problem was that we did slightly curdle the yoghurt, by tipping the hot eggplant on top; and we could have cooked the pitas less. The photo does not do the taste justice.
Main Course: Steamed chicken with asparagus and fennel
The fennel was lovely by itself, so we will keep that as a mini recipe in its own right: finely shave the fennel crosswise and toss with chopped spring onion, olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper.
Similarly, the sauce is worth keeping as a mini recipe for other dishes and situations. We didn’t use aioli, but used two tbsps of bought mayonnaise, one garlic clove, 3 spring onions, chopped, and 2 tbsps plain yoghurt, salt and pepper, all whizzed with a stick blender.
Dessert: Baked ginger pears
This was the dish of the night and something we would definitely try again. Following is a photo of the pears before adding the extra sauce and baking. We didn’t use candied ginger, but made our own. (See below for our method for ginger in ginger syrup – something that is astoundingly yummy.)
The full dessert recipe, by David Herbert, from the link given above is as follows:
6 ripe pears
2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger (in syrup)
2 tablespoons syrup from the candied ginger
Finely grated zest 1 lime
½ cup brown sugar
30g unsalted butter, diced
Vanilla ice cream, to serve
Preheat oven to 160ºC (fan). Peel pears, then cut in half lengthways and scoop out the cores. Place in a roasting tray, cut-side up, and sprinkle with candied ginger. Combine ginger syrup, lime zest, sugar and 150ml water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil; pour over the pear halves, then dot with butter. Place in the oven and bake, turning and basting occasionally, for about 35-45 minutes, or until pears are tender and golden. If the syrup starts to dry up during cooking, add a little hot water to the tray. Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzled with the pan juices. This dessert is particularly good with a generous spoonful of good quality ice cream. Serves 6
Ginger in syrup
This ginger, with its syrup, is cooked in the microwave. It is quite wonderful – suitable for desserts, cakes and possibly some savoury dishes of a sweet and sour nature. As the syrup can bubble right up and make a real mess, use a microwaveable container that has plenty of volume, or place the container in a bowl to catch any spillover. Make a lot and store it in the fridge as a standby.
Take two or three knobs of ginger, about 10cm in length in total. Try to obtain lovely fresh ginger with a thin skin, rather than ginger that has started to shrivel up.
Peel (using a teaspoon if you wish). Using a sharp knife or mandolin, slice it thinly. Place in a microwaveable container. Add 1/4 cup sugar, stir, add enough water to barely cover, stir again. Microwave as best suits you: several bursts of a minute on high; longer bursts on half power; … Check it from time to time, stir each time, allow to sit for several minutes between bursts if you wish.
The aim is for the ginger slices to be tender with a slight crunch, in a thick syrup that has a glorious fresh ginger flavour. Cook them longer and more slowly to tenderise the ginger further.
Some Useful Links
If you have had your own VDP (virtual dinner party) or virtual foodie or wine experiences, we are happy to hear about them, including the menu, wines, etc (and good quality photos if you have any) and why it turned out so well.