Ottolenghi’s tomato carpaccio.

Great Ocean Food: Salad days

January 23, 2020 BY

Like most people at this time of year, we’ve had many family functions to attend. This is no chore for me, as we always enjoy catching up with family.

Prior to Christmas we attended a 25th wedding anniversary celebration near Daylesford. In conversation, I offered to cater for another such occasion after Christmas. Having not done a catering job for some time, I thought it would be a hoot.

Under normal circumstances it would have been, but the forecast temperature for the day was more than 40 degrees. Catering in this severe weather is a nightmare at the best of times, but I forgot just how prepared you have to be. The party was a buffet lunch for about one hundred. We kept the menu deliberately simple. Some chicken sandwiches and oysters to start, a baked ham, chicken and asparagus salad and three other salads followed by cheese, fruit and cakes.

Fortunately the hosts have had many such gatherings and were well prepared and organised. When I arrived with the food and a couple of staff, the dining room was already well set up and the drinks catered for. All I had to do was prepare the ham, salads and make them look pretty for service. Seems easy enough, but I did underestimate how challenging it is to serve one hundred hungry people at the same time.

Fortunately I had wonderful staff and even a “gun dishwasher” to help in the kitchen. As you may know, I have done thousands of catering jobs in my life, so it was like riding a bike.

I didn’t forget how to do the job; I failed to recall just how fast you have to pedal!

The day was a great success and everyone seemed to rave about the food. I always say the most important ingredients for a successful function are, in order, the people, the wine and then the food. Despite the oppressive heat we had great people, nice wine and good food. I did enjoy the experience but won’t be rushing back for my next function.

One of the salads I did was Ottolenghi’s tomato carpaccio, which I thought appropriate for tomatoes about to ripen in our gardens.

Ottolenghi’s tomato carpaccio

3cm piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
Sea salt
3 spring onions, very finely sliced
40ml sunflower oil
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
400g ripe red tomatoes
Half a bunch finely shredded coriander leaves
A quarter green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Put the ginger and a half-teaspoon of salt in a mortar, crush to a fine paste, transfer to a bowl and toss with the spring onions. Heat the sunflower oil in a small pan on a low flame until just warm – you don’t want it too hot – then pour over the spring onion and ginger mix, and stir in a teaspoon of vinegar. Lay the tomato slices on a large platter (about 25cm in diametre); slightly overlapping them, season with a quarter-teaspoon of salt, then drizzle over the remaining vinegar. Spoon the salsa evenly over the top – or use your hands to better effect – scatter over the coriander and chilli, and finish with the olive oil.