A heavenly match


It doesn’t matter how many times I conduct a class or a function.  It makes no difference if I’m being paid or donating my time.  The essential factor for me is that people are happy.  That they have walked away feeling they have acquired at least one new piece of information or at least, that they have eaten something delicious, original and fresh.


Just before every function, and as organized as I am, I have a panicked moment.  A moment where I hope we are going to have enough food.  Where I worry that everyone will enjoy the flavours as much as I do.  Where I hope that I will impart something that is relevant for eveyone in the room.

Last night was no different.  I had the typical moment of nausea as I left my house to arrange a function for Ronald McDonald House, Auckland.

However, a cocktail and canape matching night could only go wrong if you decided to let it go wrong.  And as we matched our cocktails and canapes, flavour to flavour and region to region, I relaxed and realised we seemed to be on a path to success.

On entry we served a Peach Bellini – straight off the sidewalk of Venice and matched with a delicious crispy toast, topped with slowly braised Venison, pistachio and orange.  Some fresh buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomato and basil was the perfect fit for the vegetarians, and it seemed that launching the cocktail night with a touch of Italy had set a lighthearted tone and we had a room full of contented souls – all with the common purpose of supporting RMH Auckland.

Our second stage took us to the Middle East.  A long refreshing drink of Tea Vodka, lemon, mint and lemonade was matched with cumin spiced lamb and a spicy coriander and mint yoghurt, the additional falafel tied the theme together and guests devoured them all.

The finale had guests enjoying a liquid tiramisu, and lemon kissed brownie buttons – the citrus prominent and cutting through the richness of the creamy cocktail and chocolate treat.

As guests left, asking for the recipes, I promised to create a post and to attach the menu and recipes for the night.  I hope everyone enjoys reproducing our creations at home 🙂

Comments received are always uplifting when they are positive 🙂

  • Awesome job last night- loved it! 
  • Thank you for the great food and cocktails tonight.  As expected, you didn’t disappoint. They were divine!
  • Thank you so much for such a stupendous evening Vanessa – your cocktail and canapé mixes were superb and you have inspired me to have a go at something more exotic when I have folks round.  I particularly loved the venison canapés so will have to persuade my deer farmer friend to give me a bit more of his venison to have a go at them.


Peach Puree (a tin of peaches blended, or the flesh of white peaches cooked with a little sugar and blended, or a pre purchased peach puree)

  • the trick is to taste and ensure that the puree is a little sweet and that it has a lush peach taste

Champagne or Prosecco Sparkling Wine

Pour the puree into the Champagne flutes.  You want around 1/3 of the glass with the puree.  Top the glass very slowly with the sparkling wine.  If you pour too quickly you will have a grotty looking glass as the puree with rise with the bubbles.  So slowly….slowly……

Venison Toasts

Use a cut of venison that can be slow cooked.  Chop the meat into cubes and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.  Very finely dice an onion, 2 stems of celery and 1 carrot and the grated zest of 2-3 oranges.  Heat some oil in a pan and add in the vegetables.  Cook for 10 minutes until soft and fragrant.  Toss in the meat and stir on a high heat to sear on all sides.  Reduce the heat and add in half and half red wine and beef stock and the juice of 1 orange, plus two bay leaves.  Bring to the boil and then transfer the entire pot to the oven and cook for 21/2 hours until the meat falls apart with a fork.  Transfer the meat to a bowl and using two forks, shred the meat.  Place the leftover stock on the stove and bring to the boil, cook until it thickens (add cornflour if needed).  Add spoonfuls of the stock into the meat until it is lovely and moist.  Allow to cool and stir through a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream and a handful of chopped pistachios.

Serve on top of crispy toasts, with a dollop of sour cream, some toasted and crushed pistachios and a sliver of orange zest.


Lemon, Mint, Tea Vodka

Pile some fresh mint leaves into a tall glass.  In a jug, mix together some 1/3 lemon juice and 2/3 tea vodka – add into the bottom of each glass and top with lemonade to serve.  You can choose how strong to make this according to individual taste.


Lamb Meatballs and Cumin Yoghurt

Mix up a kilo of minced lamb with 1/2 finely chopped onion, some fresh mint and coriander chopped, 1 garlic clove, chopped and some ground corainder, salt, cumin, cinnamon and pepper.  Thoroughly mix with your hands to merge the flavours.  Form into balls and place on a baking sheet.  Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for around 15 minutes until they are no longer pink in the middle.

Combine some greek yoghurt with fresh coriander and mint leaves, chopped and some ground cumin and zest of a lemon.


Soak 200g chickpeas and 100g broad beans in separate bowls of plenty of cold water overnight. Drain and tip on to a clean tea towel to dry.

Put all the beans and chickpeas into a food processor and process until smooth. Add the 1tsp ground cumin and coriander, salt, pepper and a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg and 2 crushed garlic cloves and whiz again, until well combined.  Add fresh parsley and pulse until chopped and well combined.  Add 1/2 tsp baking powder and mix in.  Chill the mixture to firm up.

Roll the mixture into small, flattish balls, and bake in the oven for 20 minutes for a healthy option – traditionally these are shallow fried or deep fried.

Liquid Tiramisu

Combine freshly brewed and cooled espresso, kahlua and vodka to taste, top with fresh cream to serve.

Lemon Kissed Brownie Buttons

Use your favourite brownie recipe and pop dollops into mini muffin tins.  Cook at 180C for 12 minutes.  Rest in the tins for 5 and then tip out and cool completely on a wire rack.

Make a lemon butter icing and pipe a rosette onto the top of your mini brownies.

Allow to set firm – at room temperature this will take around 20 minutes.

Make a chocolate glaze by mixing melted chocolate with butter and a little liquid glucose for a glossy appearance.  Spoon on to the top of the lemon icing.  Allow to set in the fridge.

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