When Lebanese and English combine it can only mean one thing (other than one damn cute baby)........a Middle Eastern High Tea Baby Shower. As well as the usual baby shower games, enjoying the "beautiful" weather (pregnancy and 33 degrees do not mix well) and of course catching up with my gorgeous girlfriends, this shower was all about the food. So when Sian very kindly offered to cater my shower, instead of the polite banter which us Brits are very accustomed to -
P: "Oh no, I couldn't ask you to do that."
S: "Please, it would be my pleasure."
P: "Are you sure? I don't want to put you out."
S: "Honestly, I would love to!"
Yes, yes, yes, was my very quick, very blunt, very non apologetic answer.
My favour boxes were filled with pink, blue and white sugared almonds which are a Middle Eastern tradition given at weddings, birthdays, christenings and baby showers. They symbolise health, wealth, happiness, fertility and a long life. Not a bad thing to leave a party with.
I had always loved the idea of combining a classic English high tea with the exotic flavours of the Middle East. I didn't know for what occasion exactly but my baby shower seemed like the perfect excuse. When I pitched the idea to Sian her eyes lit up and I could see her cookery cogs turning as she wrote down the menu in less than 10 minutes. Cue three days straight of prepping, cooking and baking madness.
Now no high tea is complete or can even begin without perfectly cut, crustless finger sandwiches. With four fillings to choose from, salmon, cream cheese and watercress; good old cucumber sarnie with a crushed pistachio crust; smoked ham, cheddar and Branston pickle (a personal favourite of mine) and falafel with garlic sauce and micro herbs. Does it get any more English come Lebanese than that??
SCONES!! All hail the scone. Whether you like em simply simple or filled with dried figs and a bit of spice, we gotcha covered. Jo's got the right idea!
Sian pretty much made and baked everything. OK, not pretty much, she did. I helped by licking all the bowls clean which is really not all that helpful. So I thought maybe it would be a good idea to actually contribute some of my own cooking abilities. Pulling out one of my favourite cake books I made these truely epic earl grey and honey cupcakes from The Caker. I did however put my own little spin on them by adding a chocolate ganache topping (because pregnancy and chocolate mix very well). They were such a hit! So much so I will send the recipe to anyone who asks and I guarantee you will be everybody's new BFF.
Sadly I, nor Sian, can take credit for these beautiful baklavas. Yes we put them on a fancy plate and sprinkled them with rose petals but all kudos goes to Al Sultan Pastry in Rockdale. These really are the most amazing baklava and even though anywhere outside of the Eastern Suburbs seems like another planet I urge you to take the drive and to take an empty stomach with you.
This cake was a personal request by Georges (yes he was at my baby shower. Who do you think took all the lovely photos?!) We had the pleasure of first tasting it at Sian's birthday and decided that once was not enough. This is one of the best cakes I've ever had. Semolina, pistachio and rose water cake soaked in a lemon and rose water syrup finished with crushed pistachios and dried rose petals. In fact, it is so good that Georges, his mum, sister and I attempted to make it for Valentina's christening. And not to blow our own trumpet but we did a bloody good job.
As this is a high tea, with the key word here being tea, we set up a tea station of English Breakfast (obviously), mint tea, earl grey and cinnamon, cardamon and ginger. Sian introduced me to this amazing prop hire place called Major and Tom where we hired a selection of beautiful, vintage teapots and mix and match cups and saucers. The perfect corner to wash down all the sugar!
Ah, the piece de resistance. The mother of all baby shower cakes. The type of cake you want to smoosh your face in. Sian's masterpiece! I mean, she won Bake Off after all, it was bound to be bloody sensational. Sian has such a style when it comes to celebration cakes. Slightly imperfect, asymmetrical, rustic, homemade but the most beautiful thing you ever did see. For some serious food porn check out her instagram @sian_redgrave
Thank you to all these epic babes for making my baby shower the best I could have possibly imagined. Clearly we were having so much fun that little Valentina decided she wasn't going to miss out on all the action and came three weeks early, the day after my shower. And get this.......as soon as she was born she popped out smelling like cake batter! Go figure.