As predicted, a tremendous storm hit Melbourne early into our party. Undaunted, the musicians played on; the revellers kept revelling; and the little old cat Mima came inside and sprawled flat out in the middle of the area where people were serving themselves dinner from the buffet table. A shame it was really too wet to be outside for much of the evening, but so lovely, in many cases, to see people we hadn't seen for a while. The teenagers went out into the rain, of course, and came in soaked to the skin. The children explored the house (it's a mixture of very old and run-down; and architect-clever ingenious spaces), and carried the cat around a bit. For all her great age, she quite likes a party, ever since Pavlov's Cat let her play with her Christmas earrings when she was a baby. People brought food, wine, and friends; we cooked up a storm; and at one point I went around opening as many windows as I could, to let the cool air in. People drifted over to the sink, and washed or dried a load of dishes. At midnight, we lit sparklers and ate lollies.
Paul's parents were fabulous, as usual: washing dishes, and going around talking to as many people as they could. Our dear friends and neighbours, whose boys were part of the band, stayed on cleaning up and helping us with the preliminary party de-brief, but by 2.30 we were in bed. One of the girls' parents (obviously a younger generation than ours) didn't come to pick her up till after that... Joel had a few other friends stay over.
We woke late — bliss! — and did a bit more cleaning up, before Paul grilled some scallops with bocconcini, haloumi and grilled peppers, which we washed down with a wonderful Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc someone had brought along (thank you!), before we found some enormous creamy oysters in the back of the fridge that also needed to be eaten today. And the tira-mi-su was possibly even better, two days after making. During this late luxurious lunch, Mima appeared: she'd had the longest sleep-in of all of us. After all that, I am going to head out for a big ride on the bike soon...
But in the meantime, as per Meredith's request, Oyster Pies. This is a recipe from Maggie Beer that appeared in the Australian in September 2000. I cut the page out, and periodically lose and find it again. The pastry is wonderful: easy to make; very delicate but good to handle, as you can roll it reasonably thick, and it still becomes very light and buttery to eat.
Leek and Oyster Pies - my annotations in red
12 young leeks, cleaned, cut into 5 mm slices (but I've also used onions)
sea salt & freshly ground butter
125 ml champagne (but who's going to measure that? I've also used a dry white)
100 ml cream & an extra dash of cream
30 large Pacific oysters - this means big fat creamy Tasmanian ones, I reckon, not Sydney rocks oysters.
Sour Cream Pastry
200 g chilled unsalted butter, diced small
250 g plain flour
125 ml sour cream
Pastry: process butter and flour until mix resembles breadcrumbs. Add sour cream and pulse until the dough has just incorporated into a ball. Wrap in plastic film and rest in the fridge for 20 minutes. Roll out dough and line moulds, then cut out lids slightly larger than moulds. Chill for 20 minutes.
I have a tray of 24 little moulds with straight sides, 3-4 cm in diameter? definitely worth the investment: great for mini-muffins, etc.
Sweat leeks in butter until soft, then season. Deglaze the pan with champagne and reduce the liquor. Add 100 ml cream and reduce a little more. Allow to cool. Chop oysters in halves or thirds. Put a spoonful of leek mix into each pie mould, then add oyster and cover with a little leek. Position lids and seal carefully (I use the beaten egg for this, but also pinch the pastry, and make sure the lid doesn't stick to the mould anywhere: otherwise the lids will come off when you take them out). Chill for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 220 degrees C. Beat egg and add the extra cream, then brush over pie lids. Cook pies until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin before turning out and serving. Makes 30.
Excellent with champagne, but I reckon they'd also be good with stout. Fiddly to make, but absolutely delicious. The pastry's very good for other things, too. Happy cooking!