Tag Archives: crostini

Christmas Canapes

There are only so many bowls of Doritos and dip that you can eat in a month. Don’t get me wrong, I love those processed, cheese-dusted, crunchy beauties (give me Doritos over Kettle Chips any day of the week), but sometimes you just want something a little more refined. That’s not to say fussy, or time-consuming, or expensive. But a little elegance at Christmas is sometimes necessary.

On Saturday I found myself doing canapes for 60 and, with the aid of two super-capable helpers (always a little awkward-making when your sous-chef is more experienced than you), cranked out close to 700 canapes and mince pies with no fuss whatsoever. You could quite happily do a couple of these (along with some mulled cider, perchance), without any stress.

Christmas Koftas


The idea of these was that they look like mini Christmas puds. If you hadn’t spotted that already.

Makes around 30

500g minced lamb

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon harissa

1 tablespoon ras el hanout

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

1 egg

Olive oil

100ml Greek yoghurt

A handful chopped mint

Juice of half a lemon

Coriander

Barberries (available in Persian stores – otherwise pomegranates will work)

Make the kofta mix (can be done ahead) by putting the lamb mince, harissa, spices, onion and egg in a bowl along with a good slug of olive oil and some pepper. Mix thoroughly by hand, and set aside until ready to cook.

The mint yoghurt can also be done ahead. Finely chop the mint and add to the yoghurt with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Refrigerate until needed.

An hour before cooking, soak the barberries in boiling water for 45 minutes, then drain and press out any excess moisture.

Set the grill to 240C (you could fry the koftas but with guests you may not want to have a smoky, smelly kitchen). Form the koftas into small balls, season with salt and pop under the grill for 8 minutes.

Rest for 1 minute then garnish with a drop of mint yoghurt, a sprig of coriander and a couple of barberries.

Chicory with gorgonzola, cranberries, walnuts and truffle oil


Makes 30

2-3 heads of chicory (3 to be safe)

200g Gorgonzola, roughly chopped

A handful of dried cranberries, roughly chopped

A handful of walnuts, roughly chopped

Truffle oil

Wash and dry the chicory, and break apart carefully, saving the larger leaves for a salad (they will probably be too big for canapes). Trim the bottoms of the longer leaves and arrange on a plate. Add a few bits of Gorgonzola, cranberries and chopped walnut. You can do all this ahead, then just drizzle with a little truffle oil before serving.

Chicken liver parfait on crostini with pomegranate

Makes plenty (the parfait will keep and be of much use over Christmas)

1.2kg of chicken livers, washed, trimmed, and roughly chopped

450g unsalted butter

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

100ml brandy

2 teaspoons of fresh thyme, finely chopped

Pomegranate seeds

A French stick style baguette (as thin as possible)

Melt 250g of the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat. When completely melted, add the garlic and thyme leaves and gently poach in the butter until the garlic is starting to colour at the edges. Add the chicken livers, season with salt and pepper, and continue to poach for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn up the heat to high and add the brandy. Carefully set fire to the pan with a match and burn off the alcohol (don’t be alarmed by the longevity of the fire – it will die eventually (just keep tea towels, children and pets away)).

Once the flames have died down blend the livers in a food processor or with a hand blender. Failing these you can make a coarser pate by beating the livers with a wooden spoon.

Transfer to a bowl or posh parfait jar and leave to cool. Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter until the milk solids separate to the bottom. Pour the clarified butter onto the parfait and leave in the fridge to set. Will keep for a week.

When you’re ready to devour this heart-stopping concoction, slice the baguette and pop under the grill for a couple of minutes. Slather on a teaspoon of parfait (or quenelle if feeling poncy) and garnish with pomegranate seeds.

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There’s more to life than potatoes

I love a potato, me. In pretty much any way, shape or form – a mound of mash with sausages and a blob of fiery mustard, a bowl of chips with some aioli in front of the telly on a quiet evening, or a soothing plate of creamy, nutmeggy dauphinoise with roast beef, it is the ultimate accompaniment to a meal, and one I don’t reckon I could do without for more than a week. But it is not the only accompaniment.

My friend Pete was literally horrified – wouldn’t stop going on about it – at the weekend when I didn’t serve potatoes with supper – I mean, really, is this Ireland? Is it still 1912? Darina Allen at Ballymaloe Cookery School once said that the Irish, God bless them, do not consider it a meal without the presence of potatoes in one form or another. But cookery has come such a long way, there are so many equally delicious foods that provide the starch and carb hit we like with our protein. We ate roast lamb (protein) with flageolet bean salad (starch), grilled aubergines and courgettes (vitamins and that) and watercress, rocket and pomegranate salad (er…salad I guess) – were spuds necessary? Am I a culinary dunderhead who does not produce what the average man wants of a Saturday night supper – enough potato to soak up the wine he is glugging? I’ll leave that to you to decide, but in the context of the evening menu – a lot of crostini (see below), the main course described above, cheese, and then for pudding basil ice cream with shortbread and raspberries – I thought that the beans would be less heavy than a mountain of spuds. Neither were as heavy, it turns out, as this friend (a 16 stone Hungarian) sitting on me on the kitchen floor at two in the morning.

This was in fact a punishment for the basil ice cream – ‘why can’t we just have something normal, like vanilla?’ (dear oh dear) – which had got him really riled. In his defence, (and I really shouldn’t be defending such a narrow-minded philistine), he did taste it three times before becoming absolutely convinced he didn’t like it, and I think that’s fine. If you say you don’t like something and refuse to try it you are a moron. If you try it and don’t like it, then you are absolutely entitled to that opinion. There is no right or wrong in cookery. The ice cream went down extremely well with everyone else – it’s a corker, and you can find it in Sarah Raven’s Garden Book which is my book of the month.

Here are the recipes for two of the crostini we had to start. To make the crostini, preheat the oven to 200C, slice up a country-style baguette, rub with a little garlic, drizzle with oil and pop in the oven for a couple of minutes.

Broad bean, mint and pecorino

Makes enough for 20 small crostini I reckon

250g broad beans, podded
6 large mint leaves, roughly chopped
30g grated pecorino or parmesan
1 clove garlic, crushed
Juice of a lemon, plus extra if needed
A good slug of extra virgin olive oil

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the beans and simmer for four minutes. Drain and run under cold water for a couple of seconds. Put in a food processor with the mint, cheese, garlic, lemon juice and salt and pepper and blend, pouring in the oil as you go till required consistency. Taste and adjust for seasoning, perhaps adding a little more lemon juice if you fancy. Spread on the crostini.

Chicken liver and caramelized shallot

Enough for 20

25g butter
5 shallots, peeled and sliced
100 ml marsala or sherry
250g chicken livers, washed and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons capers, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped gherkin
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Melt half the butter in a saute pan over a low heat and add the shallots. Season and gently cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, till soft and slippery. Whack up the heat and add the marsala. Boil for 10 seconds scraping the onion juices from the bottom of the pan and add the liver, breaking it up a little more as you stir. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the capers, gherkin, parsley and the rest of the butter. Stir and simmer for a further minute. Serve hot or cold on crostini.

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