Last week it was my birthday. It's funny how celebrating my own birth begins to seem a bit redundant now that I have the recent birth of a glorious little one to contemplate.
Except in the case of my mother, I imagine. Now that I have actually given birth to a human being, I have a whole new appreciation for how mothers must feel on their own children's birthdays. No wonder some mums go over the top, putting on parties for one-year-old babies that the children won't even remember. I think it's about celebrating the magnitude of that event: "Child, you are REAL. Here you are IN THE WORLD. You are THE SUNSHINE IN MY LIFE. I made you. I grew you. And this day a year ago, IT ALL HAPPENED." I'm totally going OTT for Madeleine when she turns one!
Anyway, I didn't want my birthday to go entirely unmarked, because I've done that in the past and then felt a bit flat later. So I compromised by inviting 10 friends over for a very simple dinner. A very, VERY simple dinner, because I am a new mother with a bub who prefers to be on me like a baby koala, and cries if I so much as lose eye contact with her for too long. I don't have time to make anything fancy.
We planned to have a BBQ in our little courtyard, but the day of the party was one of the coldest and wettest on record for October, so we had to move everything inside, with people perching on the edges of sofas and on cushions on the floor. The animals were locked away in the back of the house, much to their disgust.
So instead of the BBQ, I cooked up a variety of taco fillings and laid everything out for people to just go to town. There was guacamole and corn chips for our guests to nibble on when they arrived, followed by char-grilled corn on the cob, warm soft tortillas, and assorted fillings like baked fish, spicy mince-meat, oven-roasted capsicum, refried beans, fresh tomato salsa, shredded lettuce, cheese, fresh chilli, fresh lime, and a whole lotta sauces on the side.
Madeleine goes to bed at six every night, and it can easily take me an hour to feed and settle her. Our guests were arriving at half past seven, so I basically had to prepare everything way ahead of time. Once I got myself super-organised, it was pretty easy. I strapped Madeleine into the sling during the day, and off we went. I roasted and chopped the capsicum ahead of time then quickly pan-fried it to reheat it for serving. I cooked the corn in the microwave, then just char-grilled it with some butter and olive oil before serving. I precooked the mince and reheated it in yet another pan to serve. That used up all the space on the stove, so...
I seasoned the fish ahead of time and then just baked it for 10 minutes when everyone was ready to eat. I made the guacamole, the salsa and a crema for the fish, and stored them in the 'fridge. All I had to do after putting Madeleine to bed was stir the various bits and pieces on the stove, wait for the fish to cook, chop the lettuce and grate the cheese. That took 15 minutes tops and I could spend the rest of the night with my friends!
The two definite favourites of the night were the fish tacos and guacamole, so here are my recipes in case you want to give them a try. They are both mega-easy.
(Note: I like my guacamole with a bit of a kick. Go easier on the cayenne and lime if you want a milder taste)
4-6 limes (keep adding to taste)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 bunch chopped coriander
1-2 cloves minced garlic
In a large bowl, coat the scooped avocado pulp in the juice of a couple of the limes and lightly toss. Put the avocado and juice into a blender, add the spices, and blend until smooth. Fold in the coriander and garlic. Taste. Now start adding more lime juice and possibly more spices until you get the flavour balance exactly right.
If you plan on storing the guacamole in the 'fridge, seal it well so the avocado doesn't brown. Pull it out an hour early so you can serve it at room temperature.
Baked fish tacos with coriander crema
For the crema, combine the following ingredients in a bowl and store in the 'fridge:
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander
6 tbsp mayonnaise
6 tbsp low fat sour cream
grated rind of 1 lime
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp salt
2 minced garlic cloves
For the tacos, lay out fish fillets on a shallow tray with a little olive oil and a dob of organic butter. My fishmonger recommended allowing about 400 grams of fish for each taco. I used snapper but they didn't have enough, so I grabbed another variety of fish that I can't remember, I just asked that they be flavours that worked together, and about the same size so they would bake at the same rate. It all worked out.
Sprinkle the fish with spices. I used the following:
Four parts ground cumin
Four parts ground coriander seeds
Two parts paprika
One part garlic powder
A sprinkling of ground sea-salt and black pepper
Now just bake them in a very hot oven (about 220 degrees Celsius) for 10-12 minutes. When they're done, break them up with a fork and serve them on the tortillas with shredded lettuce or cabbage, a hefty dollop of the crema, and a squeeze of fresh lime.
I completely forgot to take photos of the night, because I was too busy having a good time with all my friends and NOT being tied to the kitchen. So, instead, I bring you some photos of the brand new pop up patch rooftop garden. Madeleine and I sneaked out to take a look at how it was all progressing yesterday and, after saying "I don't want anything for my birthday," I am thinking I might possibly want one of these, after all.
When you say "the price of a coffee a day" I think this garden is cheap as can be. Then I add up $3.50 a day over the course of a year, and suddenly it becomes a very expensive birthday present indeed. If only I could find someone to share the garden with me (hint hint).