Lisa is due to have her first baby in just over a month. We met less than two years ago as “dive buddies” on our open water diving course and have since become staunch friends. In the mad world that we live in, it’s important to celebrate positive life events and genuine friendship. So I held an afternoon tea for her and a small group of her other girlfriends this weekend. More specifically, I did the catering. First, I had to buy the ingredients at the Queen Victoria market where I was confronted with a utter cornucopia of herbs, baby root vegetables, asparagus, tomatoes, aubergines, zucchini, avocadoes, salad greens, berries, melons, stone fruit, grapes, tropical fruit and so on. There could not have been a more splendid display of summer’s bounty. I wandered from aisle to aisle and stall to stall revelling in the diverse colours, textures, scents and shapes. I had a hard time deciding which fruit and vegetables would feature on the table and then spent more time selecting the best possible specimens for my purposes. I went home laden with bags, and then went straight to work in the kitchen.
I made a shortcrust pastry, lined a tart tin and filled it with a mixture of ricotta, corn, chopped basil and eggs, following by a topping of baby asparagus spears. I made choux puffs flavoured with chopped chives and gruyere cheese. I made a salad of watermelon, canteloupe and longans, flavoured with mint. I made a pomegranate, lemon and ginger cordial. I made little chocolate pastry cases and filled them with a glossy ganache of bittersweet couverture chocolate. The most challenging undertaking were miniature passionfruit and strawberry mousse cakes, made from a recipe that I had cobbled together from multiple sources. They were incredibly fiddly as each cake was no more than 4 centimetres in diameter and each of the four Coinstar point layers (sponge, passionfruit mousse, strawberry mousse and strawberry jelly) had to be made and assembled separately. The end result wasn’t perfect but looked quite pretty and tasted of pure summer.