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Posts Tagged ‘pomegranate molasses’

I spent the weekend at a very different work Christmas party, not my own company’s Christmas party, but that of my partner’s, Element78. This year, the MD, Iain, decided that rather than the usual meal and drinks in town he’d invite partners and organise something a little different; an away weekend to Springhead, a beautiful, rural, self-catering centre in Dorset. 

When, in the pub one Friday evening after work, I offered to manage the Christmas dinner cooking for him, I could see the weight falling off his shoulders. And so, the idea came about that each member of the E78 team and their partner would be responsible for organising one element of the weekend to share the load.  Then began a couple of months deliberation, discussion and delegation.

My attention turned to menu planning. Unaware of how good the facilities would be but knowing we were going to be out and about during the day and there’d only be a short time available for cooking, it had to be something which could be turned around in as short a time as possible…no giant turkey then! 

The hardest part, besides calculating how many potatoes to order (after all, there is a rule which states that no matter how many roast potatoes you cook, there just aren’t going to be enough), was finding something suitable for the vegetarians. Whilst I insist on having veggie night once a week at home, I’m not vegetarian and nor could I ever be (I could not come to terms with life without chicken or pork with crackling!), I do like to look at the vegetarian options when we’re out for dinner. I’m often appalled at how unappealing and thoughtless the dishes are compared to the meat or fish dishes, especially on Sunday and Christmas menus. My challenge had to be to come up with a vegetarian option which not only went with all the trimmings but which made my vegetarian diners feel special and that their meal was a star of the show. 

Initial numbers worked out at 14 meat eaters and 3 veggies but as the days before the big weekend passed, messages were being relayed my way about the changing numbers. One day it would increase, the next decrease. It was impossible to know how many I would be feeding on the night. There was only one thing to do; keep calm and carry on!

We arrived back from an afternoon of virtual warfare (one to keep the boys happy!) around 6, dinner was to be served at 8. Time to get cooking. I’m very thankful to Jed and the small team of helpers who took orders to get potatoes peeled, carrots chopped, sprouts shredded, peppers stuffed and utensils washed. Within the hour everything was prepared and anything that needed to be in the oven was – there was plenty of time for G&Ts and to change into party frocks before the final flourish and service. Ramsay’s kitchen nightmares this wasn’t, but I could get used to the shouts of ‘yes chef’!!

Dinner went down incredibly well and people couldn’t have been more complimentary, with pretty much everyone (final headcount was 21) asking for one recipe or another. I achieved my aim with the vegetarian dish and was overwhelmed by the comment of ‘this was the best Christmas dinner I’ve had’. I can’t help but think that I’ve got a job for life at future E78 Christmas party’s but, do you know what, I’d be more than happy with that outcome!

Here it is, the Element 78 Christmas 2010 menu:

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This month’s Cookery Book Supper Club book is Moro: The Cookbook. To kick off proceedings I made charcoal-grilled quail with pomegranate molasses.

OK, so I improvised a little with chicken thighs instead of quail and a domestic grill instead of a barbecue (the book does say that quail is an alternative to chicken and being unable to get hold of any of the wee birds and it being almost winter I felt justified in my substitutions) but I think it still counts as a recipe test in preparation for book club!

It’s a Lebanese recipe in which the bird is marinated in sticky pomegranate molasses and fragrant spices then slowly grilled. It is tangy, succulent and absolutely delicious.

The recipe says to serve the meat with a watercress and pomegranate seed salad and a pomegranate molasses dressing. The salad and dressing were amazing but served with the marinated meat, we really did get a good old slap around the taste buds, even with my own delicate herby couscous to calm things down! I’ll definitely make them again but I think I might hold off on the double whammy next time!

In case you’re up for giving your taste buds a wake up call and are wondering where you can get your hands on pomegranate molasses, try Souk Kitchen on North Street, where they have a small shop area, recipe cards, as well as a wonderful restaurant. For those not local to Bristol or who’d rather buy online you can find it at Maroque. Be warned you may well spend a fortune on ingredients, cookware and bits and pieces for around the home!

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