Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cooking October

Ferghal the Masterchef

Little Hughie meets the meat

Well, a day ago we faced the most daunting of our Cooking Your Calendar recipes - the suckling pig. Pulling off a whole beast is something that none of us have ever done in our lives and we approached the task with justifiable trepidation. 24 hours on and we can say without hesitation that Locale's head chef Tim Keenan's suckling pig recipe served with spiced apple puree is one of the most delicious dishes on the 2010 De Bortoli calendar. And we can also say with confidence that our BBQ'ed version of this dish would rival any that Tim Keenan has done in the past. Unfortunately, none of the Cooking Your Calendar team can take any credit for last nights' runaway success. Instead we have to throw bouquets to Rachel's brother-in-law Ferghal for taking the reins.

Rachel makes a fist of seasoning the pig

Babe on the barbie

But let's just rewind a bit. This month's Cooking Your Calendar dinner party took place at Rachel's beautiful old family home in the Blue Mountains. We were joined by Rachel's sister Meg, Meg's husband Ferghal and their kids and a collection of close old school friends, most of which made the drive up from the city.

Karen balances the baby and the booze

Daniel shows Meg how much he needs botox

Nervous of the task before us, the day started early. Daniel did a phone interview about the anticipation around the night's dinner party with Melbourne radio station Joy FM on Pete Dillon's foodie segment Cravings. Meanwhile, Rachel went to the butcher to collect our pre-ordered suckling pig. When the butcher hauled the pig out of the coolroom, Rachel, her sister Meg and other fellow shoppers took a collective gasp. Here was a much bigger pig than we'd anticipated. It certainly wasn't Babe. It certainly wasn't pretty. And it most certainly wasn't going to fit in the oven. What had we been thinking? Worrying that we couldn't find Sardinian myrtle was suddenly the least of our problems.

20 year reunion for Campbell and Karen

Finnian's tango in the night

Thank god, once we got the pig home, Ferghal took over. He cranked up the BBQ, put the pig on a spitroast rack and even scored the meat for us. We helped seasoned the skin, but otherwise the suckling pig was Ferg's show.

You wouldn't think Jane just had twins a few weeks ago

Justin shows off one of the twins

Once the pig was on the BBQ, it was time to do the side dishes. And those, at least, we can take some responsibility for. Rachel got started on the apple sauce spiced with cloves, cinnamon and star anise. Drew prepared a mountain of roasted pumpkin, chickpea and cous cous salad. Meg helped out with one of life's favourite comfort foods, a sexed-up version of cauliflower au gratin. Daniel played with the kids.

A crackling success

Rip it to shreds

Get some pork on your fork

By the time our guests had arrived, things had really come together. It was time to enjoy a few glasses of wine, wander around the garden and catch-up on old times. And there was a lot of catching up to do. Jane had recently had twins, Karen and Campbell hadn't seen each other for twenty years and we'd all seen and done a lot since school. But before long conversations had to come to a pause, because it was time to take the pig off the BBQ and serve dinner. All we can say is that it's a pity Jane is vegetarian because the standout was Ferghal's succulent sweet pork. After gorging on our main meal, we still managed to demolish our dessert which was an Armenian spice cake, made by Drew and Daniel's neighbour Jennifer Cufar.

Seconds anyone?

But the night didn't end after coffee and cake. No. We all gathered around Meg's fire and spent the evening drinking more wine and talking until 3.30am in the morning. By that stage, Meg had given Campbell, Drew, Daniel and Don each a facial. Ferghal had sensibly gone to bed by that time. We hadn't planned this at all. We've all woken up feeling a little on the delicate side this morning but at least the guys have radiant complexions.

8 Little Pigs

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Anouncing October

Suckling Miss Piggy fighting against the rotisserie

Well, October is suddenly upon us and, with it, brings our hardest challenge yet: cooking Tim Keenan's suckling pig served with spiced apple puree and De Bortoli's Yarra Valley Reserve Release Chardonnay. We're confident we can manage spiced apple puree (even Daniel could be trusted with that part) but cooking a whole beast? We're nervous. Really nervous. It's a first for all of us, so we're going to need a few glasses of the Chardonnay just for courage alone! The much anticipated "Day of the Piglet" is scheduled for Saturday 16 October, and preparations have already commenced. Rachel has ordered the pig which is coming from a farm in Bathurst. Sourcing the Sardinian myrtle is proving to be harder, so we are now wondering about possible alternatives? Maybe a quick email to Tim Keenan is in order?

For a change of scene, we'll be heading up to Rachel's beautiful family home in the Blue Mountains where we will be joined by Rachel's sister Meg Roberts and her young family, as well as a collection of friends, including Sydney personal trainer extraordinaire Campbell Bannerman, film and ad man Don Cameron, and old school buddy Karen Muir. We're also hoping for a special guest appearance of another of our "nearest and dearests", Jane Renneberg, who has recently just had twin boys. We'd love it if Jane dropped in for a well deserved glass of bubbles so we could all celebrate her new additions! Pity Rachel's dad Gary is away because he's a dab hand at cooking full beasts. Oh well, we're just going to have to wing it. One way or another, being surrounded by family and old friends is bound to be a good thing. If we stuff things up they're more likely to be forgive us!