At the end of August in Melbourne 2020 we were still in lock down, with some weeks still to go. We were – and still are – largely confined to our homes. However, the same does not apply in other states, which have moved back towards a more normal lifestyle.
For a long time, we and two other Melbourne couples always catch up for each other’s birthdays. Normally the six of us have an elaborate Sunday lunch at one of our homes, or maybe at a restaurant. But now all of us are living under constrained conditions. Thus this time the only option was to catch up via Zoom, so we organised a menu as we had for earlier VDPs.
Here is the link to the first of our VDPs: Virtual Dinner Party No. 1. From there you can link through to subsequent ones.
We developed a menu that was going to be easy to prepare and not too heavy, given it was a midday meal. None of us wanted too much pressure to get up and ‘perform’ on the day and everyone was pleased that much of the preparation was able to be done beforehand.
Following is the menu. (We didn’t think a running sheet was necessary for this one.)
(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. 11
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, as has been often the case, the dessert failed to meet that requirement – but it was delicious).
Welcoming drink and during the lunch
Smoked salmon with apple – From Olive’s Kitchen – Recipe
Lazy Chicken Rice – Recipe via a family member – Recipe below
Chocolate Mousse – Recipe via a family member – Recipe below
How it all panned out
With three Melbourne couples on the link, it was not surprising that much of the conversation was about being under lock down. However, we still managed to share how to cope anecdotes, our online wine finds and the great recipes we had discovered or re-discovered in pandemic-time. We started at 12.30 pm Melbourne time and logged off three hours later. We all agreed that the menu was a great one for a lazy lunch.
The salmon recipe – photo above – is one we posted some time ago, but thought it was perfect for a sunny spring-like day. The chicken dish is a standby favourite of Rhonda’s sister, while the mousse is from her brother-in-law, a trained French chef and former restaurateur. The salad was tossed in lovely olive oil and cider vinegar.
In this post we include some photos taken on the day.
Lazy Chicken Rice
This very easy, pop-in-the-oven-and-forget dish comes from a family member via a magazine (unknown). When finished, you should have crispy skinned chicken sitting on a bed of spicy moist rice. The quantity of uncooked rice will seem very little, but it swells enormously during cooking. (The recipe is quite robust, and it seems the original author said the flavourings can be easily altered and that it works well with other meats such as lean lamb chops or non-fatty sausages, so long as the proportions of rice and liquid are adhered to.) It is worth using the best chicken you can get. Don’t forget totally, and check once or twice for burning, and adjust the temperature if needed.
Ingredients (for four people)
- 8 portions of chicken pieces (about 1.5kg or from a whole chook), skin on
- salt and pepper
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 250g mushrooms, sliced
- 250g basmati or other long-grain rice, rinsed and drained
- 850ml hot chicken or other stock (or some water and/or white wine)
- 4 tbsps lime juice (or lemon juice)
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 level tsp dried)
- 1 heaped tsp chilli powder (or more to taste)
- for serving, a green salad or a green vegetable such as steamed beans
Preheat the oven to 180oC (fan forced).
Remove any excess fat from the chicken. Season the chicken pieces with pepper and salt. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the chicken pieces over a low/medium heat for about 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. (Work in manageable batches if your pan is small.)
Meanwhile, grease a shallow oven-proof dish and scatter the chopped onion, the sliced mushrooms and rice over the bottom. On top of this, arrange the chicken pieces in 1 layer, skin side up.
In a jug or bowl combine the remaining ingredients, and pour over the chicken and vegetables. Place in the oven, uncovered and leave to cook, undisturbed for about 1 hour or until the chicken is cooked and the stock has been absorbed by the rice.
Serve with a green vegetable like beans, or with a simple salad.
Difficulty: 2/5 (Not difficult).
Old-Style Chocolate Mousse
One of the great forgotten dishes, this chocolate mousse recipe dates from the 1960s.
Make a few hours beforehand, or the day before. Serve in small dishes or in one large bowl. Serve by itself or with fruit such as poached apricots, peaches or strawberries marinated in sugar (and liqueur) or raspberries.
With this recipe, the egg whites and yolks are not separated. The recipe calls for whipping cream (35% fat), but for a richer result you can use 45% (or higher) fat cream which is not too thick and which will whip up a bit. Make sure the cream is not over-whipped: take it to a similar consistency as the whisked eggs. It is best to have a stand-alone mixer so the eggs can be left unattended: be patient with the eggs, they will eventually double/triple in size and become whitish and thick/fluffy. It takes up to 10 minutes or more to reach that level, but if you don’t have time the mousse will still be delicious, albeit a little less airy.
Use good quality cooking chocolate for best results. Place chocolate in a ceramic bowl and melt over medium power in the microwave or place it in a double boiler. Stir often, and take to a temperature just high enough to melt all the chocolate, but not too hot. When folding in the ingredients at the end, don’t over-fold or over-whisk, as the mixture will lose some of its volume. Though, it can be hard to get rid of white creamy streaks.
Ingredients (for six people)
- 300 ml whipping cream
- 1/3 cup caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 200 g chocolate in small bits
- 25 ml rum or equivalent (optional)
Whip the 3 eggs with half the sugar until fluffy and almost stiff. (If they don’t fluff up, don’t worry – the result will still be fine, but denser.)
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whip the cream with the rest of the sugar till just stiff.
Melt chocolate and allow to cool: still runny, but not solidifying nor too hot.
Combine whipped eggs and cream and gently fold in. Gently fold in the chocolate and then the rum.
Pour into a large bowl or into individual serving dishes. Refrigerate until needed.
Difficulty: 2/5 (Not difficult).
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.