If you offer to bring dessert, it means you are catering that course, so behave like a caterer. These 10 great ideas show you how
Get everything you can ready that won’t spoil and do minimal finishing of your dish at the venue if necessary. Think about how it will look, and bring your own serving dish. For once the Kiwi request to bring a plate can be taken literally.
Be imaginative. The worst thing you can say to a Kiwi is “that’s a bit over the top”, but with food that’s where you want to go, especially when it is a special occasion.
Use large platters for family style meals with visual impact, and I mean at least 45cm long here for 6 to 8 people. I buy white ones from hospitality suppliers or Chinese shops. White always makes your food look good but ethnic-themed serving dishes can be good if they are real.
If you transport food regularly (if you’re good, you don’t mind people relying on you), get some different sized chilly bins. I have a small one that looks like it should be transporting donated organs through to one I can use as a small table. The small one means you can take frozen things, and good quality icecream and sorbets are good accessories for easy desserts.
Don’t be mean, no one likes a mean cook. I always over-cater.
10 ideas for labour-unintensive desserts that can travel
1. For a watermelon salad with coconut sorbet you'll need, a large container of chilled peeled, seeded, 3cm chunks of watermelon, sprinkled with 2 very thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves, a large pinch of salt, plenty of finely grated palm sugar and the juice of a couple of large limes. You'll also need a small container of toasted long strand coconut, a bag of rose pashmak (Persian candyfloss available from specialty food shops), a small chilly bin with a tub of coconut sorbet, a large rose (but not one that has been sprayed) and a shallow but large white platter. Mix the watermelon container contents and pile on to the platter, put scoops of sorbet on top — doesn't matter if they start to melt — sprinkle the coconut on top, then the pashmak then destroy the rose and scatter the petals on top of everything and serve immediately.
2. For greek yoghurt and strawberry puree you'll need, a very large tub of thick greek yoghurt, a container containing 2 punnets of strawberries blitzed in the blender until smooth with a tablespoon of orange flower water and icing sugar to sweeten, a container with the seeds from a pomegranate and lots of halved seedless grapes, a container of toasted New Zealand walnut pieces, mint leaves and a large shallow platter. Spread the yoghurt casually on the platter with plenty of waves and troughs. Drizzle the puree over it, sprinkle the pomegranate, grapes, walnuts and mint on top and serve.
3. Cut a large rectangle of Paneton made-with-butter flaky puff pastry, brush the top with beaten egg white and sprinkle well with golden caster sugar and sliced almonds, then bake until very well cooked. Cool and slice in half horizontally and put it in a container so it can travel. Beat a bottle of cream and one of mascarpone together with a splash of brandy and some sugar until whipped and place in a container. Pack a few punnets of raspberries (or any other berries). Add a rectangular platter or clean wooden board. When you get to the venue, make a big sandwich out of the pastry filled with the cream/mascarpone and raspberries. Serve in thick slices. It will slice perfectly if you use a big sharp knife and show no fear.
4. I like platters to pick at for dessert and a fave combo is gingerbread with cheese, so buy (or make) yourself a big loaf of gooey gingerbread, buy a wedge of runny brie, a bunch of muscatels, some fresh dates and a chilled bottle of sticky wine. Bring a large flat basket and a white linen serviette. Put the serviette in the basket and everything else except the bottle of wine on the napkin. Serve with glasses of the chilled sweet wine.
5. Eton mess is a go-to travelling dessert for me. All it is is coarsely crushed meringues, sliced strawberries and whipped cream rippled together and served in stemmed glasses. I like mixing Greek yoghurt and lemon zest with the cream, adding a few amaretti to the meringues and pouring a couple of tablespoons of grappa over the top just before serving to give this very English dessert a bit of a Continental twist.
6. Go down the Thai street-food road by mixing plenty of thick coconut cream with a big pinch of salt and plenty of finely grated palm sugar and pouring this over hot steamed sticky rice, mixing then covering it and leaving to stand until cold. This goes into a container. You need another container of peeled, stoned, sliced mangoes sprinkled with lime juice and more thick coconut cream. Take some squares of banana leaf and serve the rice and mangoes in a shallow plate lined with banana leaf with more coconut cream poured over the top.
7. This brioche and prune trifle will travel ready-made except for the cream on top. Buy some brioche and break it into small bite sized pieces. Spread them on a baking tray and lightly toast until just golden in the oven. Cool and place in a layer in the bottom of a wide dish, glass is good. Sprinkle plenty of pitted prunes over-generously soaked in Spanish sherry on top then pour over plenty of bought custard, (the good stuff, I like the Dollop brand of vanilla bean custard). Chop a large block of milk chocolate and sprinkle half of that over the custard. Cover and transport to the venue with the other half of the chocolate and a bottle of cream. When you get there whip the cream, spread it over the trifle, sprinkle the rest of the chocolate on top and serve.
8. To make a fig and almond cake, soak some sliced dried Turkish figs in a little hot water until softened, drain well and place in a food processor with some brown sugar and roasted almonds. Process to a coarse puree then with sesame oil-oiled hands form into a small cake-shaped disc and place on a piece of edible rice paper or a some baking paper (which of course is not edible). Melt some dark chocolate and pour it over the top of the fig and almond cake, let it harden and serve in wedges with ricotta drizzled with honey. Three containers, the cake, the ricotta, the honey, child's play!
9. For a picky platter with an Istanbul slant, get a brass tray or anything suitably grand and ethnic in a tray shape, some bought pistachio halva, a container of diced prince or rock melon liberally sprinkled with maple syrup and ouzo (yeah I know, not a lot of sugar maples in Istanbul but however, this tastes good) and a container of thick yoghurt. Serve everything separately in bowls with small glasses of Turkish apple tea on the tray and individual bowls and small spoons to eat with.
10. Whip cream cheese, slightly more cream, sugar and lemon and orange zest together until thick. Turn it into a muslin lined bowl or flower pot, or muslin lined individual bowls or cups. Cover and leave for 2 or 3 hours. Pack with a container of mixed raw berries and sweetened poached rhubarb, and a bottle of cream. Serve the fromage a la crème (unmoulded with the muslin peeled off) with the berries with liquid cream.