My birthday dinner party

I’ve always enjoyed cooking but my recipe repertoire was pretty basic until recently. I’d say Esther going vegetarian was the first step towards more creative cooking. Earlier this year we had an amazing dinner in Seattle thanks to the guys from ChefSteps. That definitely got me curious about new techniques, but it’s not all about that: I’m looking for dishes that both look and taste delicious, and many times you can get there with more traditional methods and ingredients. I’m definitely not buying liquid nitrogen anytime soon.

Just to be clear: I didn’t make these

So, I had thought of throwing a big party for my 30th birthday, but I had spent almost 3 months living in Germany, plus a week in Greece. I moved out right after I got more into cooking and I hadn’t tried many of the recipes I wanted, as I cooked either for myself only, or had to do a vegetarian option. All I wanted was to cook something at home. So I did that.

And after cooking for 1 or 2 people for so long, I took the opportunity a bit too far and ended up with 6 courses in the menu: almost 2 days cooking and another one shopping.


  1. Caramelized Cold Carrot Soup
  2. Lamb Skewers with Mint Yoghurt
  3. Zucchini Tots
  4. Salmon mi-cuit with Garlic Cheese Risotto
  5. Nutella Cheesecakes
  6. Candy Cane Vodka

* All the courses had a vegetarian option, mostly replacing any meat with Tofu 😉

My expectations were all wrong: I thought the Lamb and Salmon would be the favorites, but I think the carrot soup and cheesecakes won by far.

Caramelized Carrot Soup

The soup was delicious, but it takes some time to prepare. I had cooked it once before and burnt most of the carrots. The upside is that I learned then that I had been using my pressure cooker wrong all this time (I used to set it on high heat and just leave it there *facepalm*). But even with a burnt taste it was mostly delicious so I had to try again. And I’m glad I did. If you prepare it, try just the cream without the carrot juice. The flavour is really strong so it might not be for you, mix with carrot juice until you love it.

Zucchini Tots

My friends loved these more than me. After a couple more attempts, the more they liked them the less I did, so I guess I just don’t like Zucchini much.

Cooking lamb sous vide

The lamb was a big fail: it felt undercooked, I seared with a torch instead of a pan and was clearly not enough, and the sauce was too liquid and full of mint chunks. Good thing it wasn’t the only dish on the menu.

Salmon "mi-cuit"

The salmon was delicious although I wouldn’t call that mi-cuit: I really need a better thermometer (stay away from this one) or, even better, a SousVide Supreme. The risotto was nice (a bit too much garlic), but didn’t really pair well with the salmon.

Nutella Cheesecake

The nutella cheesecakes were the highlight that night. It’s relatively easy to make, once you know how to whip cream properly. I’ve done these 4 times now and it just keeps getting better.

Candy Cane Vodka

The Candy Cane Vodka was mostly an excuse to use my new whipping siphon and getting rid of some vodka that nobody ever drinks. Their flavor was very subtle, I’m not sure if they needed more candy cane, pressure, or time, but I’ll keep experimenting.


Overall it was fun, and I managed to keep the kitchen clean and tidy up to the desserts, when it all went to hell. It probably didn’t help that by the time I was plating desserts I probably had had 3-4 glasses of wine already.

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