An Oriental themed high tea, who doesn't like the sound of that? For our third and final DESSERTed Dinner Party for 2013 last November, this is the theme we decided to do. As it was a high tea, we changed it from a later 'dinner' time start to a lunchtime/early afternoon start.
I kept the decorations simple this time around, a few pretty paper lanterns from the discount store and some pretty parasols.
And of course I had to make a special trip to the flower markets early on my day off to grab a few bunches of my favourite flowers. I love love love peonies and they were perfect for the theme, I was so glad they were in season.
The other half of our dream team, Jess and Celine also helped with the decorations, redoing our chests and giving them an oriental spin with some pretty paper they had bought from Japan. They made signs with different Asian translations for 'feedback' and 'donations'.
I was going to just grab some red envelopes but ran out of time to go buy them so sent one of our mates out to buy some for me. He returned with a couple of packets of red pockets from the local Asian grocers - such a smart cookie!
Some more hanging paper lanterns and Ryan's dad also excitedly contributed with the hanging red things that he had in storage when he heard that we were holding an Asian themed party.
We were worried that it was going to rain that weekend but luckily for us the weather turned out perfect. Even though everything is undercover the weather can have an impact on the ambiance.
Individual place settings. Celine made some gorgeous name cards for our guests, I was very impressed at all the effort that was put in :) It doesn't show here but she even wrote out each person's name in Japanese characters too.
And what's an oriental themed party without some origami? Some beautiful paper cranes (also made by Celine) to decorate the tables. It was a little breezy so we hid a few of the smaller cranes under the tea cups as a little surprise for our guests.
Box of paper cranes and name cards that Celine and Jessica beautifully hand crafted for our high tea.
I bought some mini bamboo steamers and filled them with fortune cookies and lychee jellies. There were meant to be some kopiko (coffee) candy too but I forgot to pack them.
Ryan and I did a lot of brainstorming for this menu. We felt that the last menu for our Winter Warmers dessert party fell a little short of our expectations (mainly due to technicalities), so we made sure that this menu would be a winner not only with the way it read but also that it would be items that we would be able to pre-prepare in mass. We had to have to have everything ready to be served when the guests arrived (and an earlier start time), compared to the last two dessert parties where everything was served up by course (and a later start time).
The menu was made up of flavours and things that we liked to eat so it was quite a personal composition. I wanted an Asian flavoured tea to go with the food and chose the T2 blend of China Jasmine which is one of my absolute favourite teas to drink. It's a very mild green tea base which has been infused with the delicate flavour of Jasmine. An homage to the Jasmine tea that you would get when you have Yum Cha. I also decided to make an iced tea blend as it was a warm spring day. Ryan suggested that I make my famous Honey Lemon Earl Grey iced tea but as I wanted to keep with the Oriental theme I decided to replace the Earl Grey with an Oolong tea instead.
Lychee and Rose Cake.
Lychee butter cake with rose buttercream. I first made this cake for food blogger Jenius' wedding, it was such a hit and these are such great flavours for an oriental themed party that I had to recreate the cake.
Mum's Cassava Cake.
I am addicted to this cake that my mum makes and I thought it was only fitting that I asked her to make it for our high tea. It is so heavily fragrant from the coconut cream and mung bean and cassava that she uses, I always find it hard to stop at one piece.
Leche Flan and Miso Caramel Macarons.
Ryan raves about my Leche Flan (Filipino Creme Caramel) and his mum even said that my version is 'almost' as good as the Filipino one so I suppose I should take that as a compliment. I felt a bit disappointed with this time though because I was baking them for the first time in these Chinese tea cups so was a little off with the baking time resulting in quite a firm custard. Also too much sugar syrup at the bottom because I misjudged the depth of the cups. Most people didn't seem to mind though which is a good thing I suppose.
The Miso Caramel Macarons were made by Jessica this time. I had taught Jessica how to make them and was confident enough to ask her to contribute an item to the high tea :) She was nervous on how they would turn out but I thought they were pretty perfect. They tasted pretty awesome and the miso caramel was a great balance of sweet and salty. And look at how perfect they look.
These were a MUST HAVE item on our menu. Our waffle maker had died a few years ago and I only had a Belgian waffle press so had to go out and buy a waffle maker especially for this high tea. It had to be the heart one as it's the signature look of the pandan waffles that most of us South East Asians grew up eating (or you may have eaten these on the streets of Cabramatta). You can find my recipe here.
Scones with jam and cream are an integral part of any high tea/afternoon tea in my books so I wanted to give them an Asian spin to fit with the theme. I decided to make matcha flavoured scones but these could have done with a bit more matcha (green tea) powder in them. I had to put some green colouring in as they were looking a bit grey green which wasn't very appealing. I also reduced the sugar a bit but that may have been a bit of a mistake combined with the weak matcha powder it meant the scones were a bit on the bland side.
Azuki Bean 'Jam' and Coconut Cream.
A winning flavour combination is matcha (green tea) and azuki bean (red bean). I made a red bean paste and whipped up some coconut cream to go with the matcha scones. First time ever to try whipping coconut cream and the result was amazingly light and fluffy. To make it you just pop an unopened can of coconut cream in the fridge over night, shake it before opening and then pop it in a mixer with some icing sugar and use the beater attachment to whip it up. A great diary free alternative to whipped cream.
Serving suggestion for the scones. Together with the 'jam and cream' the scones were pretty awesome.
Crispy Pork Belly Mini Banh Mi.
Ryan is the brain behind our savoury items. Well, I'd like to say we make a great team in the kitchen because we're always bouncing ideas off each other and the best results are usually when we collaborate which is how our savoury items for the high tea came about. Ryan makes a kick ass roasted pork belly and I knew that we had to make a 'Banh Mi' to go on the menu as it is quintessentially only THE BEST Vietnamese sandwich to grace the tier of our Oriental high tea spread. We did under estimate how far the pork would stretch though even with making mini rolls, managing to make just enough for one mini banh mi for everyone with a few extras for lucky seconds. Next time we'll make double the amount of pork.
We had a bit of a fusion (or confusion) theme with these mini Banh Mi. We made sure that we made the pickled carrot and white raddish (Ryan made this under mum's watchful eye), but we didn't have enough time to make the pate so Ryan suggested using 'Mang Tomas', a Filipino pork liver sauce (very popular and especially used for pork) in place of the pate. Combined with Kewpie (Japanese) mayo (because I ran out of time to make the mayo and who doesn't love Kewpie mayo) and the Sriracha hot sauce, it was a winning trifecta of sauces for our Banh Mi. Mind you, we hadn't tasted this combo together before so we were crossing our fingers and toes that it would work and boy was it a hit with Ryan's awesome crispy crackly roast pork. We dubbed it our 'Confused Banh Mi'.
Satay Chicken Spring Rolls (served with Satay/Peanut dipping sauce).
Ryan is a sucker for Satay, he'd put satay sauce on everything if he could. Satay pizza on the menu? You'll know what he'll be ordering. I didn't want to just make your regular satay chicken or beef on a stick. Ryan suggested we make little fried wonton cups and fill them with a satay meat mix. I thought the wonton cups would be a little bit too fiddly and time consuming to make and came up with the idea of the spring rolls. I've got to admit that was pretty genius. And I LOVE my spring rolls. Instead of using minced meat I very finely hand diced some chicken thigh meat and marinated it in a satay mix and Ryan made a satay/peanut sauce to go with them.
Yaki Onigiri (Grilled Japanese Rice Balls).
These are Ryan's babies. I said that we needed a third savoury item on the menu ( because three always sounds better than two) so Ryan wanted to make these Japanese Rice Balls, inspired by Adam Liaw's Destination Flavour - Japan. Ryan has travelled to Japan before and is a bit obsessed with most things Japanese. These little balls of grilled rice brushed with a miso butter soy sauce were so simple yet so delicious. Ryan put his own little spin on it but you can find Adam's original recipe here.
Before we had even planned this high tea I had stumbled across these Maxwell and Williams 'Kimono' design cake stands on sale and went and bought four of them for personal use. Jessica happened to have one in the same design but in pink but it worked out well that they were all matching and worked into the Oriental high tea theme.
Filled cake stand on the table.
There wasn't enough room on the cake stands so we've used these bamboo boards for the overflow.
We really did try to stretch all the pork out to offer our guests seconds (seriously, who else offers seconds at high tea?). We ran out of coriander sprigs though.
Our guests enjoying themselves and our Japanese waitresses serving tea.
The one thing we enjoyed about the high tea was that because everything was already made, we were able to spend some time mingling with our guests who were all our friends, or friends of our friends and be proper hosts rather than being cooped up in the kitchen pumping the dishes out. Hence why we rely on our two girls to make sure everything is running smoothly in the 'dining room' while we are busy in the kitchen.
And because I am always the hostess with the mostess, rarely letting my guests leave a party empty handed, I made some rose marshmallows for them to take home. They were originally meant to be jasmine flavoured but the jasmine tea I tried steeping for the sugar syrup was just not strong enough so I had to go to plan b. I don't think many of them actually even made it home with the guests. I should have given these to them as they were walking out not while they were still sitting down.
Our DESSERTed Dinner Party dream team, Celine, Ryan, me and Jessica. The girls wanted to wear their Kimonos which they had purchased from Japan which was very cute. Thank you team for all your hard work resulting in another successful event. Can't wait to do another one soon!
We usually ask our guests for donations to help us cover the costs of running these dessert parties (we don't pay ourselves for our time and labour) and this time we all agreed that we would donate most of that money to charity to help the Typhoon Haiyan victims in the Phillipines. (In case you didn't know, Ryan, Celine and Jessica are Filipino (or Filipina) and I thought that this was a worthy cause that was close to home for them). We chose the Caritas Typhoon Haiyan emergency relief appeal, one of the world’s largest humanitarian agencies, The Catholic Agency for Aid and Development. Thank you Ryan, Celine and Jessica and also to all our friends and guests for your generous donations towards this cause.
I usually don't let people in to our work space because a) the kitchen is very cramped with the two of us frantically working and b) I can't work with people watching over my shoulder and constantly talking to us and distracting us. This time though I let one lucky person into the kitchen with his camera. The following few photos (including this one) are from our talented food blogger friend/photographer Simon (from The Heart of Food). I absolutely love this photo as I really enjoy watching Ryan when he cooks and is in his element. And the food that he plates up at the end of it - I really do miss it since he's been so busy with work to cook for us. I guess we're both lucky to still be living at home though we've been eating out a lot lately.
What started out to be a bit of an experiment for me to play with desserts and serving them to a wider audience has turned out to be a very successful and in demand event amongst our friends. Ryan and I are keen to run at least one or two more dessert parties this year, possibly reverting back to the original format where we serve 3 courses of desserts with savoury 'palate cleansers' in between to break up the sweetness. We're on a bit of a break at the moment as my parents kitchen where I do all my prep work for the dessert parties during the week has been ripped out for extensions to the house and a brand new kitchen will be built. Once that is done, we can start planning the next dessert party. I usually post up the details on facebook but I recommend you subscribe to our email list as the high tea got booked out within 24 hours all via email.
Until next time friends, remember - 'Life is short, east dessert first'.