The last couple of days have been hot, hot, hot in Melbourne. Which I love but no one else seems too jiggy with it. Having this sudden heat wave in March is, for me, a delicious reprieve from the cooler weather that surely approaches. I don’t do cold.

Yesterday was 42 degrees I believe, so hot by any standard. It was also my In Laws last day in the country before returning to the US. So I had Pa and Ma In Law, Brother in Law, Sister in Law, Niece and my folks over for dinner. All up that’s eight adults and three ankle biters. Even with our air conditioning, that many people was going to heat up the house too much. Serving outside worked perfectly as the Ankle Biters all played happily and a lovely southerly breeze came wandering through the pergola providing some relief to the normal folk who don’t like intense heat.

Cooking was going to heat up the house too much. We’ve done a lot of the chops and vegies thing on the barbecue lately though and I felt like making something a bit more fancy schmancy. Actually I had a few recipes up my sleeve I’d been dying to try so this was a good excuse. I did a little bit of precooking in side. Mostly the day before when it was only 39 degrees. The rest I finished on the barbecue using a paella pan and wok. Our barbecue has a wok burner and it’s the best gosh darned thing ever.

My only other hurdle is my Dad. Bless his cotton socks, he’s a wonderful guy but his taste buds run to bland. He is Mr Meat and Potatoes. Never fear. Nothing a piece of steak on the barbecue, a baked potato and side of the World’s Most Boring Salad didn’t fix. Strange, I’ve always refused to cook different meals to cater to kids taste but I’ll happily do it for my dear old Dad.

So, all hurdles successfully crossed, this is what we ate…

Moqueca De Peixe.

I served this with steamed rice. I ran out of time to make the pirao. To save time and mucking around, I chopped all the sauce ingredients in the thermomix and added the stock earlier in the day. Shortly before I wanted to serve, I heated the sauce in the wok on the barbecue and then added the marinated seafood. Rather than using fish or prawns, I used a kilo of the super fresh, extra-delicious marinara mix from my local fishmonger. This dish is seriously divine. I can see it will become a regular feature around Chez Mad House.

I should mention that I had every intention of taking photos when these dishes were fresh and beautifully presented in my favourite mother of pearl salad dishes. But I forgot and everyone got stuck straight in so you get to see the half eaten remains instead. Nice huh?

Chinese Roast Duck Salad
adapted from Tossed Up by Jane Lawson
1 teaspoon chilli powder
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons muscovado
1 Chinese roast duck, cut into bite size pieces
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
4 tablespoons chopped coriander
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 bunch chopped watercress
1 handful chopped mixed lettuce leaves

Combine dressing in ingredients in a jar, shake and set aside.
Combine all other ingredients and gently toss. Dress immediately before serving.
This was the absolute star of the salads.

Turkey, Fig and Chicken Liver Salad
adapted from the Gourmet Traveller Annual Cookbook 2007
I did the cooking part of this in a paella pan out on the barbecue at the last minute. Everything else was already combined in a serving dish.
2 tablespoons olive oil
100g mild pancetta cut into strips
250g free range chicken livers, trimmed
30ml brandy
30ml red wine vinegar
45ml walnut oil
8 figs, cut into wedges
2 cups spinach leaves
1 cup watercress
1 turkey chop, roasted, cooled and shredded
1 cup walnut pieces
Combine spinach, watercress, turkey and figs in large serving dish.
Heat oil in pan, add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally until golden and crisp. Remove from pan and set aside to drain. Add livers to the pan. Season to taste and cook for a couple of minutes per side until brown and medium rare. Remove from pan.
Deglaze pan with brandy, then add vinegar, then walnut oil. Swirl to combine, season to taste and remove from heat.
Toss pancetta and livers through salad. Scatter walnuts throughout. Dress with liquid from pan. Serve immediately.
Beware, wasps will want to attack the figs despite having a mesh cover over the top.

Finally, for dessert, in honour of the weather. I served Fruity Dream for dessert. Fruity Dream is a divine little number from the Australian Thermomix Cook Book. I made 2 batches, 1 of kiwi fruit and 1 of strawberry and served each person a good sized dollop of each side by side. A perfect finish.

Fruity Dream
300g frozen fruit
60g caster sugar
1 egg white
Chop sugar and fruit together for 10 seconds on speed 8. Insert butterfly and egg white. Blend for 45 seconds on speed 4.

No idea how you would make this conventionally. I suspect you would need a super duper kitchen maid with the big butterfly like attachment and some strong chopping blades. My old food processor and blender certainly would not have done the trick. The end result is light and fluffy and somewhere between ice cream and sorbet.