I hosted my baby shower the other week. I loved every second of it. A whole bunch of my beautiful girlfriends getting together over a tasty lunch, a glass of two of prosecco (not for me though!!), a good giggle and catch up. The day was warm, the sun was out and our new back deck was finished. Simply perfect.
Putting on a nice spread for all these great girls was a symbol of my appreciation for their friendship over the years. I must admit, I also feared that with a baby just a few weeks away, my chances of having the luxury of a whole day and a half to prepare food for friends was somewhere far off in the future.
I am pleased to say that the food was a hit. To give an overview of the menu… There were nibbles to start of a range of cheeses, dips, nuts and crackers. I made three different types of sandwiches: chicken, pine nut and lemon salad; rare roast beef and caramelized onion; and, a traditional egg and lettuce served on a range of breads and wraps. There were colourful salads including fennel and pecorino with blood orange vinaigrette; a green tossed salad with roast pumpkin and toasted seeds; a roast beetroot, feta, walnut and green bean salad; and, a watermelon, medjool date, mint and pistachio salad. Add to the mix mini frittatas and rice paper wraps and it is fair to say that the table was groaning. But that was not all, to finish there was a selection of sweets including a ricotta and strawberry tart, flourless chocolate and sour cherry cake with whipped cream, date and cocoa balls, biscuits, and chocolates! Yum!
I did not do it alone. I had the help of my dynamite mother – shopping, cleaning (and I really mean cleaning!) my house, helping with prep and keeping me calm. Also, a few friends chipped in some very yummy dishes and cooking assistance on the day to help bump up the offerings. I could not have done it without you girls! I must also mention my wonderful hubby who, perhaps breaking with tradition a little, stuck around and kept the girls’ prosecco glasses topped up, served nibbles and made everyone feel welcome – much appreciated.
Back to the food… One of the sandwiches went down particularly well… a poached chicken, lemon and pine nut salad sandwich made on a French baguette and also on a garden green spinach wrap. So too did one of the easiest tarts in the world, a ricotta strawberry tart. Both of these are perfect for summer entertaining. The chicken salad can be prepared ahead, as too can the tart case and filling. Assembly is simply required on the day, perfect for Christmas brunches and lunches.
I promised some of my friends that I’d share these recipes. I’ll start today with the chicken salad recipe with the ingredients list reduced to make 2-3 baguettes rather than a whole platter. Stay tuned for the ricotta and strawberry tart recipe, coming soon!
Thank you to everyone who made the day such a success and for your thoughtful gifts for our baby. xxx
Chicken, lemon and pine nut sandwich
Prep time: Chicken salad: 10-15 minutes; Sandwiches: 5-10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Makes: 2-3 x 4-5 inch baguettes (depending on how much filling you include). To make more simply double or triple all the ingredients except for the peppercorns and bay leaf.
Source: Chicken salad filling inspired by a recipe in Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book 1
1 large chicken breast
Small pinch fennel seeds
1 fresh bay leaf, crushed with hand
Other chicken salad ingredients:
Zest of ½ lemon
2-3 tbsp good quality whole egg mayonnaise
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp capers in vinegar, drained and roughly chopped
1 tsp dried currants, roughly chopped
Small fistful of Italian parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 x 4-5 inch baguettes, or a longer baguette cut into smaller pieces
9 medium cos lettuce leaves
- To poach the chicken breast, bring a saucepan of water with peppercorns, fennel seeds and bay leaf to just below boiling point. The water should be shimmering, not boiling. Add chicken breast and maintain shimmering heat for 12 minutes. Turn off the heat. Check chicken breast for doneness by removing from water and cutting into the deepest part. If it is still pink in the middle, return to the pan of hot water for another 5-10 minutes. If cooked through, drain excess water and allow to cool. You want it to be just cooked, not overdone.
- Whilst the chicken breast is cooling, assemble all the other ingredients.
- Shred cooled chicken using two forks.
- Add all other salad ingredients to shredded chicken, mixing well to ensure even distribution of ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning. The mixture should be just coated with mayonnaise, not drowning in it.
- To construct sandwich, place chicken salad on bottom half of baguette, top with 3 cos lettuce leaves and spread top of baguette with avocado. Serve with top placed on the bottom, either use a toothpick or wrap a small piece of paper around the baguette to secure and prevent them rolling all over the place and falling apart.