Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pre-dinner drinks and entree: Brandy Alexanders and Not Sea Bass and Vanilla Butter (Part 1 of 3)

Now, I can with great joy note I have received the remaining photos from my dinner party – Old Fashioned Lolly Shop. My thanks to Ms J.S. for the excellent photos!.
This makes me happy, since we did have quite the rollicking good time and now I have photographic evidence to that effect.

In the interests of getting on with it, let’s take a look at what happened.

So, many months ago I dreamed (literally) of a dinner party. Inspired by Heston – a Sweet Lolly Shop themed dinner. This dinner party was my attempt to capture that into reality. Unfortunately, without the amazing set design my imagination dreamed up!

Pre-dinner drinks: Miniature Brandy Alexanders

Brandy Alexanders are my hands down favourite cocktail. Creamy, a touch chocolaty with a delightful scent.
Simple to prepare..
  1. Equal parts of brandy, crème de cacao and pouring cream.
  2. Shake over ice in a cocktails shaker.
  3. Serve in shot glasses and dust with grated nutmeg.
Cute, chocolaty and tasty!
(no pic, sorry...)

Entrée: Heston’s vanilla butter and sea bass red fish.

As it turns out, getting sea bass in Australia is pretty much impossible. Impractical at least. So, I dutifully went to the good quality fish place and asked for advice. The nearest thing identified to sea bass was Red fish. Yes, it’s actually called that.

(admission: I don’t cook fish often, and thus know very little about choosing fish. I might have been completely misled, but we work with the information we have.)

This is actually a very simple recipe. Or rather pair of recipes.

Vanilla butter

Having learned a thing or two about Heston’s quantities, I looked up how much butter I would actually need for the 8 serves I was making. Then scaled accordingly. This was an excellent plan, and one I recommend. Unless you can think of using a lot of frozen vanilla butter in your future. Perhaps your freezer is larger than mine, but I just don’t have the space.

Anyway this is dead easy.
Take vanilla pods. Cut them open and scrape out the seeds. Decide that throwing them out is a big waste and stick them in a zip-lock bag for the next time you make ice cream.
Let the butter soften a bit.
Mix the vanilla seeds through the butter.
Shape the butter into a log shape on your wax paper, roll it up and finesse the log shape a bit.
Put the log in the freezer.
When ready to serve, slice into the number of serves you planned. Ta da!

Sea bass Red fish

This bit is really kind of straight forward. Take a hot pan, cover the bottom with oil. Put the fish in it. (I also cooked some asparagus in butter on the side. This is also a Heston recipe, but really. There's not much more to it than that. Oh, and salt and pepper).

When you fish is cooked, put the asparagus on the plate....

Add some fish and a disk of butter...
Get photographed looking dorky serving... (Note my Lolly Shop owner 1950s polka dot dress!)
 Serve and let the melty butter become sauce-like!

Things I learned.

  • I need two pans (and probably a larger stove top) if I am going to cook fish for eight people again.
  • I'm glad I wore my apron, as the hot spitting oil from the fish was a bit ... energetic. I think it may have scared the guests a bit.
  • The 10g of butter per person was just right, don't bother making more vanilla butter than you need.


This was nice. Not.. "amazing, oh-my-god" but tasty and very good bang-for-effort. Makes a good starter. The vanilla was nicely savoury and interesting as your brain tried to figure out if it should be tasting sweet, but wasn't. The red fish was a bit.. average. Not bad, but really I thought it just tasted like white fish. I don't know if sea bass is more flavoursome?? It made a good backdrop to the vanilla butter and was suitably white and soft with nice mouth-feel. Of course, it could be my novice fish-cooking skills (at anything except salmon anyway) that stopped it being amazing.

The asparagus was very nice cooked in butter. I wish I could do it all the time, but wow so unhealthy! But delicious as a special occasion and worked very well with the buttered fish.

Taster opinions

Generally people liked the dish, with positive comments. Most people enjoyed the vanilla butter after the initial surprise. It made a suitable entrée and start to my Lolly Shop theme!
Next time - Mains - Roast venison with chocolate sauce and beetroot puree, glazed carrots and potato rosti


  1. Hi Kita. Jason here, from New River Restaurant. I've made this dish for eight people too using actual Bass. And yes, I used two pans. I agree it's a 'nice' dish. I'm not sure about the Red Fish recommendation, it looks quite chunky. Bass is a small, delicate fish. It fries wonderfully, with a delicious golden fringe. Apparently Barramundi is related to Bass! That's very cheap in Oz isn't it?

  2. I love your dinner parties, Kita! Wish so much I could have been at this one. I can't ever see myself attempting most of what you make, but I *can* see vanilla butter being a useful thing to have hanging around. (Yes, bizarre, but Autumn loves vanilla and it will be interesting to see what we could do with vanilla butter on savoury and non-sweet items).

    Thanks for blogging. I catch up far too rarely but always so enjoy reading and seeing your pics!

    ... And I LOVE your 1950s lolly shop owner dress! :)