Creative Zoom Dinners
While some work-from-home people that spend all day in meetings would recoil at the idea of dinner zooms, for others it can be a creative way of maintaining social connection. The mental focus of zooms do make them exhausting but if you can create a sense of excitement that comes from the planning as well as the zoom dinner itself then it can be rewarding. I always thought a large part of the travelling experience was the research done beforehand, whether it be a meticulously planned itinerary, cultural research or language classes. Over our protracted Melbourne lockdowns I’ve been regularly zooming with family and friends over themed dinners. These have included explorations of the cuisine of Malaysia, Vietnam, Croatia, Peru and Scotland just to name a few. We have also dabbled with master classes in risotto, gnocchi, pizza, dumpling and bread making as well as more artistic themes of cooking with flowers, royal foods and Michelin starred dishes. To keep us well grounded in reality we also worked on producing and costing a family meal for six for under $10. Food in Art was one recent creative zoom dinner theme which intrigued me and lead me to study the still life paintings of the Dutch Golden Age. I settled on the works of Pieter Claesz (1597-1660) who liked to use Römer glass goblets and a pie of some sort in many of his works.
My partner and I decided on a pie with a mix of the sweet and the savoury, much loved of the times; a duck and prune pie with dried mandarin, star anise, cinnamon and black pepper. The week before I practiced the set up for the photo shoot; a darkish room with only natural light from a small window and the requisite drapery and my attempt at the translucence of a peeled lemon. Come the time of the zoom and with the duck pie baked I just had to place it in situ.
Duck and Prune Pie
For four as a main meal.
2 duck Marylands
- 250 ml stock (veal, beef or duck)
- 2 small pieces of mace
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp juniper berries
- 1 star anise
- 1 strip dried mandarin peel
- handful of prunes, roughly chopped
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 1 stick celery, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
- sprig of thyme
- poached and deboned duck meat
- strained poaching stock
- a handful of chestnuts
- 1 tbs cornflour
- black pepper, to taste
Remove skins and poach duck in above ingredients gently until tender. Cool. Strain and retain the stock, prunes and duck. Remove meat from bones.
Saute the mirepoix of onion, carrot, celery and four cloves garlic. Add leaves of a sprig of thyme. Saute with a pinch of salt until soft. Add the duck meat, prunes and strained stock. Add a handful of chestnuts. Dissolve the cornflour in a little water and add to the meat mix. Cook gently until thickened. Adjust seasoning. Cool and refrigerate until ready to assemble pie.
- 320 g plain flour
- 240 g unsalted butter
- 1 whole egg with water to approx. 80 ml
- pinch salt
Roll out pastry for the base and a lid and line a 22 cm diameter pie tin. Refrigerate for 15 minutes and then fill and bake. Bake at 180°C for 25 minutes.
When slightly cooled, dust with icing sugar