Virtual Dinner Party No. 10 – With an Elegant Fish Soup from 1973!

Robin BoyleDessert, Dinner, Dinner Party, European, Fish & Seafood, General Interest, Main course, Poultry, Soup, Vegetables

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(Update: For VDP No. 11, click here)

Coronavirus Lockdown

August in Melbourne 2020 and we were back in lock down for six weeks. We are largely confined to our homes. However, that only applies for the state of Victoria; other states have moved back towards a free lifestyle.

We and our two Melbourne friends were keen to have another VDP to have something to look forward to. So mid-August we held VDP No. 10. And we were joined by our friends from Adelaide and our friends from Brisbane. How envious we four Melburnians felt as they described their visits to the gym, attending a footie match, visiting a restaurant or a dinner party with friends.

Here is the link to the first of our VDPs: Virtual Dinner Party No. 1. From there you can link through to subsequent ones.

Rhonda developed the menu for VDP No. 10, based around a series of dishes that did not involve too much pressure to get up and ‘perform’ during the evening. Thus, much of the preparation was done beforehand.

Following is the menu, another interesting mix of dishes. (We also had a running sheet to make sure we were all ‘on the one page’ in terms of timing, cooking and serving.)

(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. 10

Our aim is for a menu that is easy to prepare and finish off and for dishes that are not too heavy or rich (though the dessert failed to meet that requirement). Except for the fish soup with the full recipe, only links or summaries of recipes are given.

(Some of the links below might not open if there is a paywall.)

Cocktail
A sherry or a beer

Entree
Elegant fish soup – From “Soups and Savouries” by Sandra Crosswell (1973) (Recipe below)

Main Course
Roasted Chicken with Jerusalem Artichoke and Lemon – “Jerusalem” by Yotam Ottolenghi – Recipe

Baked Vegetables with Prunes – “The Food of Morocco” by Tess Mallos (one of our favourite cookbooks) – Recipe

Dessert
Chocolate Pear Tart – Guy Grossi – Recipe

Wines

A dry Riesling followed by a Pinot Noir. A fortified Muscat or similar with the chocolate tart.

How it all panned out

With four couples on the link there was plenty to talk about. We Melburnians were lamenting being under lock down, while the others rejoiced in their relative freedom. We ran well overtime, starting at 7.30 pm Melbourne time and logging off at 11.00 pm. Every dish was terrific.

The soup was one we tried many years ago. It is quite simple but really quite elegant.

The chicken dish seemed like a lot of work, but with the marinating done the day before, it was a very simple dish on the night. Here is a photo of the ingredients marinating. The photo above is of the cooked dish.

The baked vegetables with prunes is one of our standby recipes. A terrific combination with the chicken.

The chocolate pear tart was strange to make but it did give a very nice result. The recipe we used – from a newspaper cut out – had half the quantities of the link given above, so there was really not enough pastry to push up the sides of the tart tin. However, we sprayed the sides with edible oil and lined just the base with the pastry. And the tart slipped out easily, without its piped pastry edge. However, while quite yummy, it is not an attractive tart: with the batter enveloping the pears, it is more a recipe for learning a new technique rather than a dish to try again.

In this post we include some photos taken on the night – of the soup and the final chicken and vegetable dishes. Forgive the poor quality of composition and plating as it does become rather hectic trying to keep up with everyone and still take photographs. We don’t always bother to plate the dishes in a fancy way as there is no one else but us to see the results, and it does save on washing up! And because it gets a little hectic, we don’t remember to photograph every dish, or don’t have time.

Elegant fish soup

The soup is better if made using a fresh fish stock, otherwise water is OK. (A fish stock is quick to make – fish carcasses from fresh fish, celery, onion, herbs, water, white wine etc. Simmered for only around 20 minutes so that it does not become bitter.)

The soup can be prepared to the point of adding the stock, then finished later. Ten minutes before serving, add the brandy and cream, and the fish pieces five minutes towards the end.

Ingredients (for four people)

  • 450 g fresh fillets (schnapper, rockling, …) diced and set aside
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped finely
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ tsp fresh thyme, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp Tabasco sauce or similar
  • medium pinch of saffron threads (soaked in a dessert spoon milk)
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups fish stock or water
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • 3 tbsps brandy
  • 300 ml 35% fat (whipping) cream
  • crusty bread for serving

Method

Prepare your fish stock if using.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and thyme, and cook for 2 minutes or so until the onion softens slightly.

Add salt, pepper, Tabasco, saffron and tomato paste and cook for a few minutes.

Add the wine, stock/water and fennel seeds. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for around 15 minutes. Set aside if desired.

When ready to serve, reheat if necessary and stir through the brandy and cream and reheat. Add the fish five minutes before the end. Serve when fish pieces have just barely cooked through.

Serve immediately with lovely crusty bread. Serves four.

Difficulty: 3/5 (Moderately difficult). Take care preparing the fish stock, and not to overcook the fish at the end.

Some Useful Links

Dinner parties go digital during coronavirus outbreak: ‘We lock in every Saturday night’

How To Throw A Virtual Dinner Party

How to have a virtual dinner with friends or loved ones

Here’s How to Have Your Own Virtual Dinner Party During Coronavirus Quarantine

Contributions welcomed!

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.